Amazon routinely uses its monopoly power to rig markets and stifle dissent. Whether it’s crushing locally owned businesses, stealing intellectual property with impunity, censoring conservative voices, or another of its nefarious business practices, Amazon maintains a stranglehold on the marketplace.
Over a century ago, Republicans championed the creation of antitrust laws in order to give small businesses a fair shot, and President Trump, notably, helped reinvigorate antitrust efforts by bringing historic suits against Amazon’s fellow Big Tech monopolists like Facebook and Google.
Now, after years of anticipation, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched a long-overdue antitrust suit against Amazon alongside a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general. Republicans should welcome the suit as an opportunity to reinvigorate the free market and promote American entrepreneurship.
The FTC’s lawsuit is the culmination of an investigation started under former chairman Joseph Simons, who led the agency during the Trump years. The suit accuses Amazon of illegally favoring its own products over competitors and sellers alike on the company’s platforms, a practice known as self-preferencing. The suit highlights that, by punishing sellers for offering lower prices on other platforms, Amazon is leveraging its monopoly power to stifle competition and raise prices on consumers. Ambitious in size and scope, it also highlights how Amazon effectively forces sellers to use Amazon’s fulfillment centers in order to sell on Prime — without access to Prime, third-party vendors aren’t algorithmically favored in searches, and their products become less accessible to consumers due to more expensive and slower shipping.
Conservatives understand the dangers posed by big government’s distortion of the free market and suppression of conservative viewpoints. But Big Tech giants like Amazon are so powerful they often act as governments of their own — and hostile ones at that. Companies like Amazon have their own internal policies, appeals systems, and decision-making protocols that are used to effectively deplatform and destroy businesses and others with no accountability.
Using antitrust enforcement against an entity like Amazon, which hinders competition and censors conservatives, shouldn’t be mistaken as “anti-capitalist.” On the contrary, it’s the only option to preserve free markets and free speech. This is why Amazon’s obviously anti-competitive practices have run afoul of conservatives like Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who understand how the company undermines the free market.
It’s worth noting that, at its core, the suit against Amazon is a classic, consumer welfare-centered antitrust suit focused on how the company unfairly raises prices for consumers. While conservatives are right to be wary of efforts on the left to weaponize antitrust — be it to promote “anti-racist” ideology or to attack American enterprise in general — this suit does exactly what antitrust is designed to do. By reining in Amazon’s monopolistic behavior, the suit also stands to prevent the company from further wielding its dominance to harm conservatives.
It should go without saying that if Amazon feels empowered to rig search results in its own favor against competitors, the company is more than happy to do the same against conservative voices. But as long as Amazon gets a free pass for abusing its market power, the company will feel comfortable suppressing conservative content. Strong antitrust enforcement is just as crucial to combating the tyranny of Big Tech as other overdue policy changes, like reforming Section 230.
Indeed, while censorship by other tech giants may receive more attention, one could argue that Amazon’s crackdown on conservatives is more severe than that of Facebook or Google. Take the case of social media platform Parler, which was scapegoated for the Capitol demonstrations in January 2021. While both Google and Apple censored Parler on their app stores, Amazon went as far as revoking Parler’s access to Amazon’s cloud services. By preventing the site from having access to Amazon Web Services, Amazon effectively crushed the emerging social network in a single move.
No one doubts that the Biden administration, which only came to power with the help of Big Tech intervention, has aided and abetted Big Tech’s war on conservatives every step of the way. From the dystopian “disinformation board” to stocking his administration with Big Tech alumni, the White House’s feigned support for taking on tech is little more than theater.
Nevertheless, it would be absurd for conservatives to oppose the lawsuit solely because it was launched under a Democratic administration. While FTC chair Lina Khan is a left-wing Democrat, she is one of the only members of her party to put the need for strong law enforcement above personal bias. As noted by Ziven Havens in Newsmax, Khan has emerged in office as an “accidental ally to law-and-order traditionalists and proverbial strange bedfellows to free enterprise advocates.”
In the article, Havens highlights how Khan has built a track record of opposing Big Tech monopolies and ESG extremists allied with her party. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that the logic behind the FTC’s lawsuit is in line with criticisms of Amazon’s anti-competitive behavior from conservatives like Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. The changing view on antitrust isn’t solely limited to Republican members of Congress — it’s prevalent throughout Republican leadership, as seen during the Trump years. Havens notes:
The Trump administration made the first serious attempt [at trust busting] when its top competition officials … brought landmark cases aimed at reigniting innovation and reinvigorating market competition. And though the Biden administration has reflexively moved to reverse Trump policies across the board, Khan has distinguished herself with a commitment to continuing what her predecessors began and to rehabilitating antitrust enforcement in digital markets.
More instructive, perhaps, is taking a close look at the political interest groups opposed to the Amazon antitrust suit. Big Tech front group NetChoice (of which Amazon is a member), fresh off fighting Texas’ efforts to stop social media censorship, immediately cried foul about the lawsuit. The Chamber of Progress, a left-wing front group for the tech industry that also counts Amazon as a member, reacted with similar outrage. Given that Amazon has consistently worked to advance China’s rigorous censorship agenda to the detriment of American consumers, it would be fair to assume that Beijing isn’t too pleased by the suit either.
In the age of woke capitalism, it’s no secret that conservative leaders are rethinking the relationship between government and business. Republicans like Ron DeSantis acknowledge that Big Tech giants, a “handful of private power centers that really, really dominate our society,” have achieved levels of influence unthinkable a century ago. This becomes undeniable when considering how Amazon’s monopoly was subsidized with government money and supported by a revolving door of government officials.
Main Street businesses have formed the bedrock of American society since our nation’s founding. But in the face of red tape, high taxes, and predatory monopolies, innovators and entrepreneurs across the country face an unfair playing field. By taking Amazon’s anti-competitive behavior head-on, the FTC has an opportunity to level the playing field and give small businesses a fighting chance.