Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Krugman was out with Don Cherry and Blue the Dog

I like Paul Krugman.  I think he is a force for good in the world.  While I have to admit that he's very predictable with his politics, and covers the same ground again and again, I still read his blog pretty religiously.  His views on macroeconomic issues have influenced me a lot over the past 6 years, mainly because he's tested a simple model that produces specific and non-obvious forecasts against real world data, in real time, over and over again, and been basically right.

However, he screwed the pooch with this anti-Amazon column.  

First, the column has no data, unless you count the one anecdotal conspiracy theory about how Amazon, a company that, mind you, just made an entire television series with a transgender star (try finding that shit on NBC), is secretly favoring Republican books.  

Second, the column makes one of the dumbest analogies of all time -- Standard Oil was a big powerful company, Amazon is a big powerful company, ergo, Amazon must be just like Standard Oil.  We can argue about the breakup of Standard Oil when we know a bit more about the company, but for now, just read the wikipedia description of their business on the eve of the breakup.  Aside from being big, it has essentially no commonality with Amazon and is just there to scare you.  He might as well be saying "big companies are evil".  That's clearly the feeling these days (unless the company named after a fruit), and maybe it's even correct in many ways, but it hardly constitutes an argument.  Trying convincing me that big companies are evil because ... rather than just asserting that big is bad and suggesting that we should ...

Third ... well ... actually, what the fuck should we do about Amazon's evilness?  The absolute worst part of this column is that it doesn't even have the glimmer of a suggestion for a remedy.  Should we just pay publishers more and maybe set a minimum book price?  Should we break Amazon up into 34 companies?  

There are all kinds of interesting questions that come up when you think about the winner-take-al economics of zero-marginal cost products.  Questions about business practices, macroeconomics, politics, etc ... This column doesn't deal with any of them in any substantive way.  At all.  

Bonus:  Don Cherry skit that inspired the title