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United States vs. Google (stratechery.com)
404 points by headalgorithm 37 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 335 comments



I think Google is the best search engine. I don't have a problem with that.

I do have a problem with them being the best search engine, top online ad platform and a developer of the top mobile OS, top video streaming service, top internet browser, top mapping/navigation service, among other things, at the SAME time.

Their assets give them undue and unsupervised influence over a very big chunk of what's happening online. This gives them ability to control big part of collective human consciousness, across languages and borders.

This kind of power for a good reason has been historically reserved for elected governments, made accountable to the people. At least in theory (a man can dream).


I sort of agree, but part of me also thinks that if a company builds the world's best mobile OS and search engine and ad platform and video streaming service and internet browser and mapping service... well, good for them! They built the best products and it seems like it would ultimately be anti-consumer to do anything about it.

It's different if a company like Google establishes its dominance via one great product (search) and then wields that power to artificially protect its other lines of business through e.g. contracts, the same way Microsoft did with OEMs.

Sure, nothing "illegal" about it, but ultimately, it fits the de facto understanding of antitrust being about "consumer welfare." A company leveraging its dominance in one business to exert control over others =/= a company having success because it built the best products.


Except they purchased their way into many of these.

Their advertising business was built on a number of acquisitions (DoubleClick, AdMob) - strategic acquisitions, surely, and they improved on them since - but it is not as if they bult the business from the ground up. The same goes for video streaming (YouTube - after attempting to create their own), and mobile OS (Android).

With Android in particular it can be argued that it would not be what it is today without them, but they also heavily leveraged their other services to promote and maintain control over Android.


> Except they purchased their way into many of these.

They did. But youtube.com wasn't that big when they bought it. In fact by definition most of the things they bought (like maps.google.com) weren't big. The obvious corollary is Google is very good buy scaling something up while keeping it rock solid.

And, they are. Examples of original things that did come out of Google are Kubernetes, the Site Reliability Engineering Handbook, and pulling off something I thought was impossible: Spanner, a global distributed ACID database. From what I can tell they have constructed the fastest, most reliable distributed computing platform on the planet.

They are the Toyota's of the computing landscape: nothing particularly outstanding in any particular model of car, the secret sauce is the infrastructure and processes they've developed to manufacture those cars that ensures they are both cheap and reliable. And so it is with Google. They aren't particularly good at coming up with new products. In fact they often buy them. But then those products get moved onto best computing infrastructure on the planet. If the products are any good, they seemingly grow without effort to become a dominant player.


> youtube.com wasn't that big when they bought it

YouTube then wasn't then anything like it is now, but it was by far the largest video website of its type. I felt like they bought it because Google Video failed to compete with it.


I see this oft repeated comment about Google acquiring YouTube, DoubleClick and Android. Yes they did. But the companies they acquired were tiny upstarts, which might have even died on their own. Google built them into what they are today, and deserve 90% of the credit for their current significance.

The same applies to FB and Instagram as well, fwiw. Though imo, not as much for WhatsApp, which already had 400MM users and would have organically reached 1B+ users on its own.


YouTube was delivering an average of 100 million video views per day in July 2006, months before the Google acquisition for $1,650,000,000 that same year. It's inaccurate to characterize them as a "tiny startup."


Likewise doubleclick was HUGE in the ad space I remember seeing all the doubleclick.com urls in slow page loads


How many views per day does YouTube now deliver per day?


>It's inaccurate to characterize them as a "tiny startup."

YouTube had 65 employees when they were acquired.

I do agree that they were not a startup. This word should only be used for companies that are starting up; getting their legal structure together, hiring, and initial R&D. Once you are offering widgets (ad space), you are no longer a startup. Profitability is immaterial to startup status.


Why does the number of employees matter? If anything that's a testament to how valuable they were, to be able to do so much with so little.


It doesn't. My comment was about the word tiny" and 65 is tiny especially when compared to Google.


And Instagram had like what... 8?

Not every company that's successful and has millions of users needs to have a bloated org


WhatsApp had 55 employees before FB acquisition


I'm sorry are you joking? You do realize DoubleClick had it's IPO 10 years before Google bought them?


YouTube saw the writing on the wall early - Google's capital allowed them to scale without paywalling or drowning viewers in advertisements like they are now.

The Android acquisition is a redherring - manufacturers started adopting Android en mass because it was royalty free(ish) and they had to compete against Apple's new app store mostly with feature phone OSes entirely unfit for the job.

Neither Youtube nor Google's selfless "donation" to the consumer electronics industry would have been possible without the ad business. IANAL but that looks like textbook predatory pricing (and in Android's case, can't be defended by pointing at Apple, since they don't participate in the smartphone OS market).


The power that Google used to build those other lines of business was not artificial, but it was very effective. The existence of that power is anti-consumer because no one else can afford to build anything better, because Google makes more money than your hypothetical new world's best product ever by charging absolutely nothing for their competing product.

Step 1, in 1997, was to build the world's best search engine.

Step 2, was that running the world's best search engine allowed them to create an ad network that most accurately knew what the largest number of viewers were looking for, best ad platform and massive revenue. All others follow from that.

Steps 3 and on were to start an email service (what are people talking about), create an image search tool (shows what pictures people are looking for), acquire/develop a mapping application (where are people and where are they going), acquire a video hosting platform (what are people watching), create a mobile OS (get more people on the Internet and especially on their parts of it), create a web browser (get more people on the internet and especially on their parts of it), etc. etc. etc. Those other properties only work because they're financed by and create value for Google's ad network.


It sounds like you want to punish them for being successful. I still haven't seen the harm to the consumers. They build search and ad networks and email and android. I use them all the time. I now have access to youtube and infinite amount of information on it on my fingertips.


> I still haven't seen the harm to the consumers.

IMO the main problem is the existence of an institution that is (arguably) more powerful than any government in the world.

That's not necessarily a problem on its own.

It becomes a problem when those same institutions have a very small number of people with specially concocted classes of shares that give people like Zuckerberg majority control of the company despite owning < 30% of actual shares.

I don't want to live in a world where 1 person can have such immense and unchecked power. Especially when that 1 person is immune from, for example, being removed as CEO.

I'm not sure if it's still the case today, but I believe Sergy / Larry had 51%+ control of the company despite only owning ~10% of shares.


> IMO the main problem is the existence of an institution that is (arguably) more powerful than any government in the world.

Which is why the US government has been collecting all the data they can from google. It's a perfect means to perform mass surveillance on everyone and google has no power to refuse to hand that data over or even to tell anyone about it.


if we allow that this combination of market power (search + ads + channels of distribution like youtube, android) wld lead to mass surveillance, what prevents other companies from arising and abusing this power? Other countries would hv to go along. I don't think trading Google dominance outside the US for Baidu solves anything.


I guess if google went full evil they'd have enough blackmail material to take down just about anybody at this point including politicians. The backlash if they were caught would be huge, but honestly what would we do about it? Switch to Bing who is just hoping to get enough data on us to do the same (and leveraging data collected from our own PCs to do it)?

They only way I can think of to solve this would be to limit the amount of data that companies are allowed to collect, but can we expect the government to vote for that until google does start to abuse what they have on us? Right now they can take that data and benefit from it as well.


> It sounds like you want to punish them for being successful.

People are worried by their power.

Too much power is dangerous.

Google works at global scale, if even the US want to stop them from becoming even more powerful there must mean something.

If you think about it the NBA draft was invented to avoid that the best team chose the best players year after year

It's what you call "punish their success"

I cal it "enable competition"


Facebook came after google, and managed to compete in ad business, got orkut and google+ discarded pretty quickly. Playing devil's advocate here, but doesnt that prove that no matter how big/powerful you are, some random kid could still take you down. Look at Big 3 and Tesla...etc


Facebook ad business have become a thing after an enormous amount of money have been poured into the company

Google is king of the keywords (products and services), Facebook is king of targeting (brand awareness)

But they are not really competing against each other on the contrary the gap is widening

Google made 61 billions more than FB in 2018 and 65 more in 2019

That's why FB is moving towards a marketplace based on their own cryptocurrency


People who produce content for YouTube and have had content - or entire channels - removed for no good reason might disagree.

Also, there's the issue of public trust. We have no choice but to trust Google not to skew its search results. It's not obvious this trust is justified.

Google can literally make individuals, companies, and events disappear from the Internet. You can put up your site or your business and if Google removes you from search you might as well not exist.

A moment's thought will suggest that this is exactly the same as the YouTube problem, but on a larger scale. And that's an unhealthy amount of power for a corporation that isn't subject to any oversight or accountability.


> charging absolutely nothing for their competing product.

Most people prefer this. What you're suggesting is to subsidize the rich by removing free products thus making everyone share the costs for the premium services.

I.e., this is not a local maximum preventing the global utopia of premium services for the rich. The current design serves the world better than that exclusionary, elitist dream. (Though the market is actually open for such elite products as well, when the rich actually want to pay their own fees; Hey.com is a thing.)


In no way am I suggesting that we "subsidize the rich". I'm suggesting that we do the opposite, that we restrict and regulate the richest monopolies (Google) to preserve freedoms for the poor.

We're very much at risk of being a world in which people either have to be rich or not participate in society to avoid privacy invasion by companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. If you're poor, you can have a free email address, but that comes at a cost of allowing Google to read your email (and pass it to their ad customers) so they can serve you ads. The answer to this hegemony is not "Well, Google provides free email addresses, better let them keep doing what they're doing so we don't discriminate against the poor", it's to regulate them so they're not allowed to read your emails, or otherwise provide some alternative service that can provide email addresses for cost plus a small profit margin.

And yes, I know that in this particular example there are other free or inexpensive email providers, but they're not world-dominating products; the market is distorted because the few willing to pay are signalling something pretty strong by rejecting the free, high-quality option offered by Google.


> If you're poor, you can have a free email address, but that comes at a cost of allowing Google to read your email (and pass it to their ad customers) so they can serve you ads.

Google doesn't show ads based on email contents.

"When you open Gmail, you'll see ads that were selected to show you the most useful and relevant ads. The process of selecting and showing personalized ads in Gmail is fully automated. These ads are shown to you based on your online activity while you're signed into Google. We will not scan or read your Gmail messages to show you ads."

https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6603?hl=en


This is a relatively recently change.


Why would Google continue to provide free emails if this has no benefits for it? Even if it continues because it has already paid most of the cost and the small marketing benefit will be worth the maintenance, it will not develop the product further. This also sends a signal to all the economy that success will be punished, creating distorted incentives and huge deadweights. The reality that you advocate is very much giving the elites what they want, with little innovation and choice power for ordinary people.

> otherwise provide some alternative service that can provide email addresses for cost plus a small profit margin.

As I said, for email specifically, because we already have the necessary interop, there are solutions such as hey.com. What more do you want?

PS: It's much more efficient for your government to just subsidize open-source solutions based on their usage levels.


> part of me also thinks that if a company builds the world's best mobile OS and search engine and ad platform and video streaming service and internet browser and mapping service... well, good for them!

We don't know if they make the best services. Perhaps there would be much better mobile OS or search engines made by others, if it were not for Google's dominant position discouraging new entrants or crushing them in their infancy.


I dont think one can cal Android worlds best mobile OS - one that had most money dumped on it to make the abomination usable, sure. Most pushed by a cartel (Open Hedste Aliance) mobile OS - definitely. But definitely not the best.


They became world dictator fair and square!


^ this guy gets it! IBM PC dominance didn't mean much when OS became the thing. And Windows PC OS dominance didn't mean much when web became the thing. Search dominance (which is one way of interacting with the web) didn't mean much when social/eCommerce (other ways) became a thing. FB missed messaging (is messenger a thing?). What are we doing here? can we just focus on figuring out digital privacy and call it a day?


> They built the best products and it seems like it would ultimately be anti-consumer to do anything about it.

No it's not. The best XXX run by a single company, is super-effective! Allowing it, we know from all of human history, is anti-consumer.


Except Google didn't build those things except search.

They bought Android in 2005, Youtube in 2004? and all of their other, non-search successes.


People say this as if the entire (or majority) of Android's success rests with what they initially purchased. In my opinion it has very little to do with that and a lot more to do with the billions of dollars invested into developing, extending the platform, creating and supporting APIs, establishing contracts with OEMs, developing apps, etc etc. Android wasn't some magic thing that anyone that purchased it would have been sure to be successful. Just look at how well MS did with Nokia's purchase.

So yes, Google did purchase Android but Google didn't purchase their mobile success story by purchasing Android.


The whole way that Google handled Windows Mobile was anti competitive imho.

They prevented Windows Phone users from being able to access Google Maps by checking User Agents.

They didn't release a native Youtube app for Windows phone, and when Microsoft wanted to make one themselves they restricted them to HTML5 and non-native access. This penalized battery life on Windows Phone platforms for 2 very large and important services.

Google got success with Android by frankly bullying every other viable competitor out of the market (Amazon Fire, Windows Phone) by again bullying in regards to play store services.


You realize that Amazon Fire is Android, right?


Didn't GMail start as a 20% project?


I don't know about Gmail, but Google Maps was originally one.


Was it? There is a lot of Keyhole in there too. And remember maps.* and local.* both existed for a long time.


[flagged]


You can't break the site guidelines like this. We've had to warn you more than once before. Would you please re-read them and stick to the rules?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

As for "the bias on HN"—when it comes to $BigCo arguments, it's very much in the eye of the beholder. The people with opposite views to yours (for example, who like G and dislike A) complain of exactly the opposite "bias".

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=notice%20dislike%20by:dang&dat...


But you're not cornered in. You might think they have a large influence over what is happening online (and they do), but you as an individual have a choice if you want to use the services they provide.

Also this large influence is additionally strengthened by the fact that no other company can offer services (above mentioned) that match the quality of the product Google is giving.


I can't speak to all of the points but when it comes to video hosting - no you don't. Content creators can't move off of youtube since it's more of a discovery service than a hosting service and it has locked viewers into its platform - it doesn't offer any way for dailymotion, vimeo, nebula, acorn, amazon, netflix, twitch or dlive to promote videos on their home page and due to their enormous market share content creators can't survive on any of the other platforms.

And, again with respect to video hosting there are plenty of very valid competitors technologically - with respect to search if you secretly rebranded google to bing I doubt anyone except the most techie would notice a difference - they win in search because everyone "googles it" - they used to win because alta vista, ask jeeves, lycos and yahoo were all trash, but now there is legitimate competition.


In regards to video hosting; Should they? When you go to Mcdonalds, should they provide (or be force to) the option for you to buy a Whopper, if not, why should YouTube be forced to? Nothing is forcing users or content creators to use the platform, they simple do because they know that is where the customer base is, and user know that is where content is.

And I agree that most "common" users could use Bing and not know the difference, but then again that destroys the U.S's whole case of a "monopoly" market.


Twitch, however, seems to be doing great without being able to advertise their videos on Youtube.

This is more of a discussion of walled gardens than typical monopoly abuse.


I'm pretty sure Youtube will overtake Twitch as a streaming platform within a year now. They have implemented the features they lacked a couple of years ago like premium subscriptions for channels. And since they advertise streams in your watch next recommendations in youtube you will get a lot of spontaneous people watching them easily, while you only go to Twitch if you specifically want to watch a stream.

Some video game streamers on youtube reach 50k+ viewers regularly and donations of $10+ just keeps raining in with that audience. That isn't any less than top Twitch streamers, and the Youtube will only grow since it is so much easier for people to discover Youtube streaming than Twitch streaming.

So really I don't see Twitch being a major player in a few years. There is no reason for content creators to stay with Twitch once youtube gives them a bigger audience and more money.


I think you make a very good point. I would add that in the short to mid-term, Twitch could also grow thanks to the pie getting bigger. Video streaming, I believe, is far from having peaked.


I agree - I think twitch is really failing to support the pre-baked video content though and that's a good way to hook new viewers.

If you're interested in some tips on a game and search for it (maybe "In game X I'm having trouble on this level") chances are you'll get some hits from youtube of people running the level as a walk-through - twitch highlights don't tend to be as indexed or as accessible since the metadata about what's actually in the video is a lot weaker by default.

Those hits on folks looking for a walk-through will end up with some conversions to stream subscribers and I think that's why Twitch is really destined to struggle.


From what I've heard from most streamers - Twitch is not competitive. The account banning rules are a lot less clear and the monetization isn't up to the level streamers can usually pull in from YT super chats. Additionally I think there's a bit of an issue in the fact that a lot of creators (streamers as well) will end up posting highlight videos or stand-alone video content to supplement their channel (i.e. someone playing fortnite might put together a guide on how to scavenge efficiently for newbies) and that video can end up driving traffic to their regular steams - but it'll only do that if the streams and the video are on the same platform (so a stream highlight on twitch will get twitch stream viewers while a video on youtube will get youtube stream viewers) - with the discoverability of regular videos being much higher on youtube it puts youtube in a stronger position.


Twitch is a streaming service, not a video hosting service. The amount of views the vast majority of vods get on Twitch is abysmal, and by default those vods are only kept for a minimal amount of time.

Youtube is attempting to move into Twitch’s space with live-streaming, but Twitch is certainly not competing with youtube as a video hosting product. Vimeo is the primary competitor there, and I have no idea how good a job they’re doing really.


Exactly I didn't always use Google I switched to their products because it was better than the competition; I used to use Yahoo mail but it sucked, so I switched to Gmail. I used to use Ask.com but it gave inferior results to Google Search. I have tried Bing and it was inferior so I continue to use Google Search. I use Android because its more open then the competition iOS.

When Google is not the best I don't use it. I use Audible and Kindle not Google Play Books. I use a opensource pod catcher I like rather than what ever the google android podcast app is. I use Open/LibreOffice rather than Google Docs. I have Chrome installed, but can't remember the last time I opened it as I much prefer Firefox as my daily driver because its superior in the measures I care about extensions, customization, and privacy.

Google only has me a as a customer as long as they offer me better service, if they don't I go elsewhere easily.


> you as an individual have a choice if you want to use the services they provide.

How would the common folk avoid Analytics or Ads?

Google benefits from me even when I visit completely unrelated websites.


Ad blocking software is very easy to install. Also the EU more or less already gave this to us for free with GDPR.


Use duckduckgo


They are the definition of a monopoly -- quality of service in the search space depends on the number of users who use your service (search trend data and tuning for page rank information) and your ability to crawl the web (which directly correlates with your financial resources). Once someone is on top of that space, only gross hilarious mismanagement could result in them going below 50% market share.


I don't buy this argument. You, as someone up-to-date on technology, have a choice. But if you think that the average middle-to-later aged individual has the knowledge to make this choice and avoid their influence, than I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.


But why is that Google fault? Short answer, it's not.


> strengthened by the fact that no other company can offer services (above mentioned) that match the quality of the product Google is giving.

This is somewhat similar to TikTok's situation. There's currently no other company that can offer services that match the quality of the product TikTok is giving. The US government's solution? Force ByteDance to divest unless it wants to get banned. This is Big Tech protectionism, perfected.

In the same vein, the US is going to force Google to break itself into fragments. This can also be seen as a Big Tech protectionist measure, because Google has no incentive to improve its monopolistic byproducts. In fact, it routinely kills them. Spinoff companies of Google will compete with each other and undoubtedly yield much better (and pro-consumer) products, no matter which way you look at it.


1) best search engine

2) top online ad platform

3) top mobile OS

4) top video streaming service

5) top internet browser

6) top mapping/navigation service

Okay, you listed 6. What should the law say is the new limit for how many they should be able to have?


Reminds me of "Life of Brian"

REG: Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!

XERXES: The aqueduct?

REG: What?

XERXES: The aqueduct.

REG: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.

COMMANDO #3: And the sanitation.

LORETTA: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?

REG: Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.

MATTHIAS: And the roads.

REG: Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--

COMMANDO: Irrigation.

XERXES: Medicine.

COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh...

COMMANDO #2: Education.

COMMANDOS: Ohh...

REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

COMMANDO #1: And the wine.

COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah...

FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

COMMANDO: Public baths.

LORETTA: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.

COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.

REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

XERXES: Brought peace.

REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!


It's not the number that OP is arguing, its this:

> Their assets give them undue and unsupervised influence over a very big chunk of what's happening online. This gives them ability to control big part of collective human consciousness, across languages and borders.


Agreed, that’s an overly reductionist way of seeking a resolution.

I say focus on worker capture.

The only “market” Adam Smith mentioned is a free labor market, which is free by its ability to move between offers fluidly.

We have that to an extent in tech but not really and it’s hardly pervasive.

If the problem is the billions to influence culture, IMO its employee culture spend that’s the biggest downside to monoliths.

Wealth-caring becomes the corporate mantra. Or Jesus in the old days. It’s clear there is a biological addiction to privatized monoliths boxing in agency to fetishizing the monolith, by tickling our limbic brain just right and repeating “New trend we’re selling!” all day.

Let’s not let them do that, but let people work.


Actually, they said,

"I do have a problem with them being the best [six things], at the SAME time."

It's reasonable to read that as the OP thinks the number should be less then 6.

Yes, they also said other things, but I think I'm giving them a fair read of that sentence.


It's not in the number of the products, it's in the scale of each of those products and the influence that they give them.


What should the law say is the new limit for the scale and influence they should be able to have?


Well if you look at the Sherman antitrust act I imagine the answer is whenever the scale and influence starts to touch on things that act says is a no go.

Obviously that's a bit over simplistic but probably a good place to start.


Are there any anti-competitive behaviors they have engaged in w/r/t #3, #4, #5, and #6 or would this just be punishment for punishment sake?

I remember browsers before Chrome and Firefox. They were terrible. I'd love to see why Google should be punished for making a good product. I'm open to a good explanation.

Same for Youtube. I cut my cable because we now get all our entertainment from Netflix and Youtube. We dont get locked into 2yr cable agreements, dont get magical regulatory recovery fees, $100 of charges, and stations that disappear (e.g., Disney on Fios). I'd hate to lose it just because the product is too good


Also for youtube, how many people are now able to make a living producing content which they fully own and have control over the means of distribution?


I love the fact that the Youtube ideal has let independent creators make so much good content for the world. And after some haggling, Youtube has let the creators retain full ownership.

But the various de-monetization and search algorithm changes show that Youtube retains full control over distribution (and ability to make said living). The creators are totally at the mercy of Youtube and their advertising.

Imagine if there were Utube, Vtube, and Wtube, and a creator could shop around for the best placement and ad deal. It would not be better for the viewer (more like which network now has my favorite show, and do I have to subscribe to all 3), but it would be better for the creators.

Come to think of it, I'm surprised Netflix hasn't gone after some of the big YouTube channels or that Patreon hasn't expanded into curated video hosting. Imagine if Netflix Community had 100's of what we now call Youtube channels--all the respectable ones and none of the dreck.


>> Imagine if there were Utube, Vtube, and Wtube, and a creator could shop around for the best placement and ad deal.

Except there is already a Utube, Vtube, and Wtube and they have been around for 50 years. They are called ABC, NBC, CBS, and there are also like 50 others.

You can "shop around" your product to them, but you have to:

1. Have to gone to the right schools to meet decision makers

2. Have the right connections

3. Not be a minority (there is literally almost no diversity in the industry amongst decision makers.)

I publish on YouTube. There is no way I could publish on ABC, NBC, CBS, Disney, or almost any other broadcast service. Even though I meet criteria 1 (ivy league degree), I dont have the connections and "dont have the look"

Before we burn down YouTube, can we step back and consider how much YouTube has enabled people? Can we also see the very obvious ulterior motive the MSM has to dislike YouTube?


Clearly, I was mimicking the TV network model in my proposal, but the "Utube" naming was meant to imply they all follow the YouTube model (free video hosting website) not become broadcast media with all the elitism that entails. There would be 3 choices when you create your own videos, each offering different ad/placement deals (as opposed to accepting YouTube's or perish).

As the sibling comment states, Twitch is an alternative, but I think that however big the gaming and live video market is, it doesn't generalize to most YouTube content. I'm not sure if Vimeo has ever reached the same level, every time someone on HN mentions them, a creator has said they tried and got no traction/views on Vimeo.

Patreon is odd, they host some exclusive content, but it seems nearly all creators retain their YouTube channel for discovery and Patreon is mostly for processing the donations. I guess in a way, they have siphoned off some YouTube functionality, taking the cream off the top (paying subscribers), and letting YouTube do the expensive part of hosting the content.

I suppose that short of the feds swinging the anti-trust hammer and breaking YouTube into 3 equal companies that compete in the same market, the YouTube monolith is here to stay by market forces alone.


But a creator can? There's Vimeo, Twitch, and Patreon to name the big ones that come to mind.

Youtube has real issues with de-monetization and search algorithms that should be addressed in some way, but I don't see how it's anti-competitive that they have built a platform that attracts tons of viewers, nor that they've found a way to monetize those viewers.


I do like to point out that whatever shenanigans YouTube is doing with their discoverability and promotion features, they still provide unlimited lifetime 8K video hosting for free. And that's a pretty good deal.


Not only that, they allow anyone to become a publisher. You can be poor, you can live overseas, you can be a minority, you can have no connections -- and you still get to publish on YouTube -- and if you are good, they even send you traffic.

Now show me another major media network that allows that.


Yes, it’s called dumping, and it’s illegal to do this to expand a monopoly.


Dumping is only bad if it is temporary. Otherwise, it's called a natural monopoly.


Good question.

These are questions we possibly should have asked in the 60s or 70s with the Automakers.

Heck, let's think about THAT for a moment. When we look back at history we see that the big 3 took a number of anticompetitive actions over the years while managing to usually avoid government action through careful planning. (GM at times would hold back products in those decades, knowing if they went over a magic number of market share it was bad news.)

But look at the RESULT. Look at 2008. Look at the future of self driving cars and the future of the trucking industry.

By letting large monopolies run unchecked, they embed their ways of dependence into society such that impacts can be felt for generations.

Maybe its not about the number but what the damage is.

Edit: hit reply early, sorry.

The big 3 managed to get taken down by the factors of the oil embargo and the growing Asian auto industry, but we still felt the effects I listed above.

And, to that end, its worth restating that GM specifically tried to 'avoid' fitting the government definition.


So put a tax on bigness equal and opposite to its negative externality. Put the tax revenue in a rainy-day fund for whole-economy stimulus after market crashes.


Think about it like this: what are the chances any other competitor will be able to challenge those products and succeed?

If some other innovative company “started in a garage” or whatever does challenge one of those, Google has the power to kill it before it becomes a threat, cripple it while they copy the technology or poach the development team, acquire the company with a truckload of money, etc.

So in the end, Google will always come out on top, and consumers will always be stuck with them. The only remedy to that situation is government intervention.


This is often repeated, but historical evidence does not support it.

Today, Google shares the majority of it's presence in online ads market with Facebook.

Did Google try to "kill" facebook? Yes, they tried super hard in 2011 with the launch of Google+. And that completely flopped and now Facebook is a major rival for Google.

If we look at Facebook - facebook probably tried to kill snapchat and tiktok, major rivals to Instagram, and look how well those services are doing.

Microsoft couldn't stop iOS or Android.

The list goes on...


I think a competitor could rise by doing the same thing tech giants do. Start small in a unrelated niche than with the success in that niche enter other sectors until you can compete with Google.


One is plenty. Especially if "OS" is in the list. Microsoft in the 90s, and Apple and Google today have all used their OS supremacy to quash competition... quite often in extremely questionable ways.


Assigning an arbitrary number in a law like this is ridiculous. So 1 under you're good, and 1 over that you're suddenly a law breaker?

Furthermore, as other point out, how do you even objectively count these categorized "things" correctly?

Even once you do have a number of "things" specified in a law, and this is somehow "objective", remember that objective reality cannot be perceived outside of the lens of the subjective.

Therefore, your honor, your laws on blood alcohol level when driving are asinine and I rest my case.


They all feed off each other and that's a problem. When iOS was taking off, Google was legit worried about their search dominance being threatened. That's why they paid Apple top dollars to replace Bing as the default search engine on iOS. Same reason why they bought Android to make sure Apple doesn't get to dictate terms. Also the reason why they built Chrome. All of this made sure they have the most eyeballs and the data to train their search models better and better and better. If you look at history of Standard Oil, you'll see a similar pattern. Antitrust regulations were invented when people saw how this perfectly logical combination of actions could accumulate so much power.


I sure hope anti-trust law makes a distinction between good business decisions (that build moats around your business and allow you to not become obsolete and be outcompeted) and anti-competitive decisions. Or are we going to say now that pretty much any good business decision is anti-competitive if it's about trying to not lose market dominance?


The same antitrust law that dictated breaking up AT&T and Standard Oil (among others): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_antitrust_law#Mo...


I don't think breaking up AT&T was a success story. Instead of a national monopoly, you got regional ones and a long-distance provider. It was all still very over-pried and silly. The situation didn't improve for consumers until cell phone plans got close to the price of landlines.


It's not like they are content dominating just those verticals. Agriculture anyone?

https://x.company/projects/mineral/


It's not about the number, it's about how much influence other society one company should have.

If we're not careful we may simply lose democracy to corporations. Some argue that it might already be too late.


I read this with "best" implying a product they choose to use and "top" implying more like "inescapable".


isn't all six combined into one giant Monster? each one of these six also feed off each other. that's scary. isn't it?


Lets say 1.


The divisions are arbitrary.

A search engine is a number of components - e.g. a crawler, an index, and a user interface.

Why should one company be able to own all three of these? Why not just one? Perhaps crawling should only be able to be sold as a wholesale commodity.


What is the exact point that a crawler needs to be decoupled (at the corporate level) from it's front end? Is it measured by MAUs? Pages scraped? Or is it going by "it can be decoupled, so it should".

The extreme version of your argument would have companies own the IP to a particular for loop's iterator variable name.


Indeed.

“My” argument is a generalization of the argument people are making that Google should only be allowed to operate “one” service.


So the ad business, which generates all the revenue is split off from everything else. All the various services including search die b/c they can't self sustain and all that's left is an ad platform akin to the former double click scenario. Now what?


Bing becomes the number one search engine.


one seems about right


Then government shouldn't have allowed them to buy YouTube back then. So Google might ask -- why it was legal to acquire YouTube back then, but now it's illegal.

We need to seriously reconsider SEC rules for approving acquisitions.


Law’s official motto is also “In God We Trust”, can you define God?


I happen to think it should not be the motto of the United States. In part because I don't think the Government should be trying to define what God is or is not.


"I think Google is the best search engine."

The OP is arguing that this case is about default settings, similar to the Microsoft case.

In practice, someone else is deciding what is the "best" search engine for the vast majority of users, as these users never change default settings.

It is arguable Google is paying millions of dollars to remove choice, and the question of what is the "best" search engine. If there were no "search from the address bar" or other "built-in search" with Google set as the default, what would happen. Would users choose Google. We cannot know because Google's distribution agreements have foreclosed the issue. Even if we all agree users would choose Google anyway, because it is unquestionably "the best", this does not explain why Google, with its monopoly on search, pays millions to become the default.

Because the use of a search engine has been made a matter of "settings", e.g., address bar as search box, and not a conscious choice, e.g., typing the address of a search engine, Google's distribution agreements have removed user choice. The choice of search engine has already been made for them.

It is like crapware that comes pre-installed on computers. One can argue users make a "choice" whether to use these programs or not, but the choice of whether to install them in the first instance has been removed, in exchange for payments. Sometimes the distributors make it difficult or near impossible to remove these programs, assuming a user even knows how to remove programs.

Thanks to Google's negotiations with distributors, in order to "not use Google search", users have to change "settings". Generally, relatively few people ever modify settings. Hence there is a certain permanence to "settings". Companies pay millions to become the "default". There is nothing inherently "illegal" in making such agreements. However when the company paying millions to become the default already has a monopoly, then we have to question what is the true purpose of these distribution agreements.


Scope and scale don't transition into being a problem until they begin to behave with a political (or religious, or...) bias and work to influence their customers in ways outside of providing value. Your phone company, auto manufacturer or favorite restaurant chain should want to provide value regardless of their customers' politics.

It's definitely crossing a line for them to covertly influence the political leanings of their customers.


Any decision they make can be classified as "influencing political leanings". If they just serve you content that you agree with, that's influencing your political leaning by reinforcing your beliefs (IMO this is what Youtube already does). If they serve you any other content, unless it's random and therefore useless, then anyone can claim they are influencing political leanings. In fact, any company whose business model includes providing information can be claimed to "influence political leanings" since that's as well-defined as saying "adds information". So a library also falls under this, as does Netflix, and Spotify, etc.


I agree, which is why I specifically said 'covertly'. Netflix and Spotify suggest movies and music they think you'll like, and they tell you they are doing so. Their recommendation engines add value.

When I search Google, there is no disclaimer that they are slanting the results to match their political leanings in order to influence me away from mine.


> This kind of power for a good reason has been historically reserved for elected governments, made accountable to the people.

I actually think that if the current government administration (or any administration really) had power over search, news and YouTube, it would be more abused than under Google.


It is my firm belief that companies will be larger and have more influence than (all) countries (combined).

It’s also possible that the groundwork has been laid already with Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with other non-tech companies).

IMHO every dollar you spend is more of a vote than the political votes.


> This kind of power for a good reason has been historically reserved for elected governments, made accountable to the people.

IMO, not even governments should have this kind of power. The same way we desperately needs to break big companies, we also need to stop big governments.


I think all of those things are fine, in isolation, but it's pushing them all into the big draw, which is the search engine.

Putting their own hotel/rental metasearch above the fold on mobile when searching for a hotel.

Buying ITA and freezing out other users.


If they had the kind of control over the human consciousness that you're suggesting they probably wouldn't be in the position of being sued by the federal government in the first place.


So what's the solution?

Impose laws that don't allow Google to share information between their services/products?


Break out Google into independent companies.

The antitrust law already exist.


Most interesting part IMO is at the end (emphasis mine):

> That, though, is why it is a mistake to read the report as some sort of technocratic document... it is exceptionally difficult to make the case that any of these companies are causing consumer harm, which is the de facto standard for antitrust in the United States. Indeed, what makes Google’s contention that “The competition is only a click away” so infuriating is the fact it is true.

> What matters more is the context laid out by Letwin: there is a strain of political thought in America, independent of political party (although traditionally associated with Democrats), that is inherently allergic to concentrated power — monopoly in the populist sense, if not the legal one.

> Hatred of monopoly is one of the oldest American political habits and like most profound traditions, it consisted of an essentially permanent idea expressed differently at different times. “Monopoly”, as the word was used in America, meant at first a special legal privilege granted by the state; later it came more often to mean exclusive control that a few persons achieved by their own efforts; but it always meant some sort of unjustified power, especially one that raised obstacles to equality of opportunity.

> In other words, this subcommittee report is simply a new expression of an old idea; the details matter less than the fact it exists.

I think this reflects a lot of discourse I've seen on HN -- one commenter condemning Google/Apple/etc. for being a monopoly, and a second commenter observing the company doesn't meet the legal standard of a monopoly, but it's like both sides are talking past each other.

It's because most people don't actually care about the meaningful technical definition of a monopoly -- they just don't like it when companies get too big, period. At the end of the day, it's like there's something inherently satisfying when the big guy gets knocked down, the idea that being big is bad in and of itself.

I think that's a really valuable observation that Stratechery makes.


In the HN context in particular, it's important to observe that the underlying legal philosophy of monopoly differs in European and US law.

It's not just that the laws are different; it's the goals of the laws. The European laws (in general) attempt to stave off competitor harm. They're historically sourced to guild protections and seek to create a situation in which companies can compete. Small players in the market are seen as inherently a good thing, regardless of whether that actually makes a better market for consumers (which it is not guaranteed to; laws protecting the existence of small book stores keep prices of books artificially high in a world of extremely inexpensive data copying and book fabrication. French book buyers are essentially paying a hidden tax to have corner book shops exist, whether or not they care if corner book shops exist).

The US lacked a similar guild history and, instead, historically experienced the threat of government overreach privileging the existence of incumbent companies over new players. The US therefore has laws crafted to protect against the major threat the US historically experienced: one company making life miserable for consumers (i.e. the Rockefeller threat, or going back further, the British East India Company threat). Neither US law nor US monopoloy philosophy traditionally care whether small-time market players can compete at all ("why should it," runs the argument, "maybe Starbucks is ubiquitous because their coffee is actually better. What's the value to the consumer of propping up bad coffee?").

It feels like 90% of arguments on HN on the topic are unaware of that philosophy gap.


I don't think that's actually the root of the disagreement though, because the behavior of large tech companies cause both types of harm. If Google makes life difficult for competing app stores by preventing them from installing app updates on non-rooted phones while reserving that privilege to itself, that obviously harms competing app stores, but it also harms the app developers who are the customers of the app stores (and then have to pay 30% to Google for lack of any other viable alternative), and the app users who suffer when apps they'd have wanted cease to exist or have to raise prices against a monopolist extracting a 30% tax.

The major disagreement, instead, seems to be from the people taking the position that a corporation can't monopolize a market by intentionally isolating it. They want to claim that Google Play doesn't have an effective monopoly for Android apps, even though it has something like 90+% of the Android app market, because the iOS app store exists, even though you can't actually use it to distribute apps to Android devices.

Whether that's the case under the law is something the courts will have to decide, but the harm to consumers is transparent. It creates an insurmountable barrier to creating a major app store competitor, because a challenger would have to establish a major phone platform in order to do it, and the resulting suppression of competition gives the incumbents market power and leads to higher prices. And also prevents the two incumbent app stores from having to even compete with each other.


The question of whether the law cares if app developers have to give up more or less money to be hosted in an app store is actually being tested right now in Epic Games v. Apple, and initial signal suggests that the law does not care (the "why" of that is unclear to me; perhaps companies aren't individual consumers?). But we're in the early stages of that lawsuit.


> Google Play

But as I understand it, that isn't the topic of the lawsuit.


It's the topic of the Epic lawsuit, which is the one where most of the discussions took place, because the new one is only a couple days old.

But it's the same general principle here. If Google uses Android to cement Chrome's as the only browser engine, consumers are harmed because they lose access to potential competing browsers that might e.g. respect privacy more. And the fact that iOS exists doesn't much help because they're even worse -- Chrome is the default on Android but at least you can install real Firefox, whereas on iOS they're all skins over Safari. So a third party has nowhere to take hold.


Are you arguing that both Apple and Google are bad, or that Apple's badness makes Google bad (and vice versa)? That'd be somewhat like a price fixing argument.


I thought the exclusive focus on consumer welfare came out of the last ~50 years of case law and before that US antitrust was a lot more like Europe's.


Why would a US tech discussion site built around a US startup investment company have such a strong representation of the European interpretation of antitrust? Genuinely curious...


Any global company has to deal with both European and American antitrust laws.


You know this is The Internet right?


I am a Google costumer, as in, I pay Google to show my ads in search.

To me a literal monopoly is obvious, no other competitor comes even close to Google in performance of search ads, but Google keep increasing in hostility too, they do everything they figure out they can get away with, like blatantly allowing click fraud, making fighting fraud harder, allowing people to use it's tools for extortion via fraud, and so on.

I really want to not use Google, but I have to.


Exactly. Given the statement from above:

> it is exceptionally difficult to make the case that any of these companies are causing consumer harm, which is the de facto standard for antitrust in the United States.

My fundamental issue is that "consumers" are not the customers here, the customers are the ad purchasers, and those are the ones where it's very easy to show the harm.


That's also where prices have gone up, up, and up versus staying free, free, and free.


And google blocks my cannabis related business from advertising. But allows my direct competitors to advertise. Including the word Cannabis in the ad!

Why is google allowing one cannabis play but not the other?

I'm the ad consumer being harmed. My prospects are possibly harmed because my product is hidden.


And since you're not able to bid on your brand name, Google is allowing your competitors to bid on your brand name while preventing you, which clearly is unfair to you and potentially very misleading to consumers trying to find your site, but being tricked into clicking to a (potentially less trustworthy) competitor.


The problem is Apple / FB / Microsoft / Amazon all want to step in the minute Google gets kicked back. It's structural centralization.


The harm is pretty trivially demonstrated in the privileged search rankings Google gives its own products. This drives down competition in these other verticals and leaves consumers with winners that won because they are Google's products, not because they are the best.

I also really dislike the use of the word "hatred" here, which is a loaded word deployed when a writer wants to make those they are arguing against seem overly emotional and irrational.


Does Google give a boost to its own products in the search rankings?


Yes, a particularly annoying case for example is the "Coronavirus Map".

Everyone I know that typed that on google, wanted to visit the John Hopkins map: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

But to me, and to many other people I know, it starts with Google own map and statistics, then some ads, then some random crap, and finally near the end of the page John Hopkins map.

EDIT: just a note, I am not living in US, so the top-most boxes don't show US stuff.


When I search for "coronavirus map", this is what I get:

https://i.imgur.com/XJ8zL7x.png

I see a link to the Johns Hopkins map at the very top, along with the New York Times map. And below that a bunch of statistics broken down by geography -- which is usually what I'm after, I don't care so much about the map itself.

What I don't see are any ads (and I'm not using an adblocker), or links to other Google properties except for their Coronavirus information site.

I realize you may get different results depending on where you are, but in particular, I'd be surprised if you saw ads or "random crap" for this search.


There's a difference between how Google would define this, which is "No, we don't slant the organic results to benefit any company or product" and how the real world will see it "The organic results sit below ads which look like organic results, and various other boxes Google injects to promote it's own products".

Bear in mind, the first real search result these days requires scrolling to get to. Everything up top is either for Google products or paid ads that Google profits from.


I'm one of the types that doesn't care much if a company has/hasn't reached the legal definition of a monopoly.

This is because by the time anything reaches that point, the damage has already been done to the market.

It doesn't take a time traveller to tell you what is going to happen once it reaches a particular point.

I appreciate both perspectives, but openly take my position.


> It doesn't take a time traveller to tell you what is going to happen once it reaches a particular point.

Just like it didn’t take a time traveler to know that Kodak, Microsoft, and Sears would grow to be unstoppable?


Microsoft was the subject of an antitrust proceeding, and is currently the largest US company by market capitalization. Kodak (film photography) and Sears (mail order catalogs) failed because the markets they had dominated effectively ceased to exist, not because anybody unseated them in those markets.


That’s exactly why those examples are relevant. There’s not a single, static market for browser-accessible website search engines that Google is bound to dominate indefinitely.

Google’s been very clever to survive and thrive up until now, but has had to navigate a number of life-threatening hurdles to do so. Had either Chrome or Android failed, neither of which were inevitable, Google would already be on the way out. It did lose social networks and messaging which opened the way for Facebook to eat half their lunch. More people are using Amazon directly to search for products. Apple’s charging a fortune for access to iOS users while simultaneously funneling more searches to the Siri backend. Google’s losing in cloud even though they invented it. There are plenty of ways Google can, and eventually will, lose power without anti-trust.

Edit: Also, Microsoft belongs with the other examples as well since the anti-trust action had nothing to do with their fall. They also dominated a market that became no longer relevant and missed the pivot. They really still have that monopoly but no one cares anymore. And they became huge again because they were successful in catching the next pivot. They’re a great example of how the anti-trust action was irrelevant and just an distraction compared to the realities of the dynamic markets and their competition.


Your argument in these last two posts only works if one believes technical innovation can continue happening at a roughly constant rate. I'm not sure that's the case, and I'd certainly not like to rely on it.

If, on the contrary, you view the rise of Computers and Internet as a once in 500 years event, then the Kodak of the world were very unlucky to have achieved power at the wrong time.

Looking at technologies today, I see plenty of inefficiencies, but not too many potentials for a large scale market turnover. IMO Facebooks is weakest since social media is subject to changes fashion. The rest are deep seated with pretty foundational roles.

I see the political climate or larger economy more suited for rapid change than the tech giants being unseated in the current political economy.


But that's not really what it's about.

The problem isn't that they came to dominate search, it's about what they do now that they have. They leverage it into control over browsers, video hosting, mobile operating systems. Which makes the monopoly stickier, and creates more of them which reinforce each other, because Google is the default search engine on Android and Chrome is the default browser on Android and Google is the default search engine on Chrome and Chrome is the browser promoted on Google.

And here's a fun one for them: Android has an effective monopoly on mobile phone operating systems from the customer of the OS itself (i.e. the device OEM), because Apple won't sell them iOS licenses. So what's the implication of that when they leverage it into the dominance of Google Play for Android apps, or Chrome?


I wasn’t arguing for or against everything Google has done, but pointing out that these dynamics are neither trivial nor inevitable as many people (like lucasyvas above) want to believe, and it absolutely does take a time-traveler to know which of today’s rocket ships will still be cruising in five or ten years.

But one specific point, you mentioned leveraging Search to win in mobile operating systems, which stood out since that’s one case where they definitely did not. Quite the opposite, they provided the iPhone with all of their best features from day one; no one bought Android phones because it was the only way to get Google search or any Google service. If anything, Google just leveraged having a lot of skilled engineers handy and the strategic foresight to come up with the Android business model. The entire industry was caught flat-footed and Google was the first one to make a viable me too (and gave it away for free).


> they provided the iPhone with all of their best features from day one

iPhone is the competing platform that wasn't flattened. Do they also provide all their best features on Tizen, Ubuntu Touch, PostmarketOS, PureOS etc.? Were they on Windows Phone before it was abandoned?


> and is currently the largest US company by market capitalization

Nitpicking: Apple has that crown


I'm curious what you use as a definition to identify monopolies, if the legal definition is not sufficient for you?


> when the big guy gets knocked down, the idea that being big is bad in and of itself.

This is not pure schadenfreunde. I like the free market, not dogmatically, but because it gives you choices. Breaking oligopoly is thus good for the future


> it's like there's something inherently satisfying when the big guy gets knocked down, the idea that being big is bad in and of itself.

It is surely true that some people see it that way, but I think most people would be fine with Google being gigantic if they perceived the company and it's services as being strictly beneficial for everyone.

If there were no concerns about abuse of power, loss of privacy, squashing of business competetors via ethically questionable means, etc -- if people believed that the phrase "don't be evil" was being 100% followed at Google, I don't think most of them would have a problem with its size.


We need to be aware of our own bubbles when talking about how "most people" feel.

I think most tech aware people are wary of Google, at best.

I think most people people don't care. They use Google to search things every day and it seems to work for them. They might hear about privacy every once in a while but don't give it any thought. Most people think Android is synonymous with Samsung.


I wasn't suggesting that most non-technical people know much detail about why a company like Google might not be their best friend (I know they don't). I was addressing the idea that some people think "being big is bad in and of itself", and that I don't think that most people see it that way.

I spend a lot of time with non-technical people, so I don't think that perception is tainted by a tech bubble.


> the meaningful technical definition of a monopoly

Note that the legal standard of consumer harm is not only uniquely American. It's a creature of the post-war judiciary, arguably, on the basis a specific reading of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890's intent [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Antitrust_Paradox


This is also a good point to make: the popular interpretation of antitrust laws (e.g. current reading of Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and Anti-Merger Act (1950)) is really rooted in a charge against judicial activism from Aaron Director and Robert Bork's idea of "consumer welfare" (which dates from 1964!). That goal is not enshrined in any particular economic gospel, as far as I can tell. So it's worth noting that legal standards change!

In particular, courts disagree! See the Qualcomm verdict: https://pacer-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/3/19-16122/00913201...

There are plenty of reasons to break a monopoly besides just wanting to see "big guys get knocked down".


Google has probably killed more competition and potential competition than any company in history. Further, they now are so heavily biased in results in so many ways, they are actively harming consumers.

By slowly cornering off huge areas of the web, tilting favor, inlining answers into search, releasing free competitors (assistants, cloud, email, maps, docs, travel, shop, the list goes on and on) they’ve flat out killed more potential business than any other company I can think of.

I actually think about this often, if Google had real competition I really believe we’d be in a renaissance. Instead, too much power fell into one company and they’ve literally choked out countless startups and small businesses. The scope of their anti-competitive behavior is hard to fathom.


Isn't the government the ultimate monopoly though? Wouldn't big companies be some sort of (admittedly twisted) competition for it?


Yes, and the government pays for that privilege by term limits, forced transparency, and an election system. When was the last time you got to choose the Google board members?


Google is held accountable by money, which I find as good competition to "term limits, forced transparency, and an election system." These "concessions" do not necessarily align the politicians with the people.


I agree with the populism idea, however the issue to me is that the US government has lost credibility. And I don't just mean under Trump, he has made it a lot worse though.

Is this lawsuit an honest attempt at knocking down the big guy everyone hates? Or is it Google's competitors using the power of the state to knock it down for them because they know they can't win honestly (cough Oracle, see also TikTok cough)? With things like Citizens United it's hard not to believe it's the second, especially as they're going after Google search, which your average consumer absolutely loves.


It seems like you are arguing that it would be good if it was the first. I think that's a fringe view. I think most Americans would love if the government had more power to actually pursue what is in The best interest of the citizenry. Attacking the big guy because he's big is a fundamentally anti-American sentiment that most Americans would reject.


Well I would not be so fast in condemning the US as this issue is also occurring in Europe with regards to these very large technology oriented companies. If anything these companies are some of the largest accumulations of wealth and governments want a piece of it. Oh there may be some break ups involved but what is coming down is regulation which will funnel more of the money back into government under the guise of "for the people".

US wise, the threat isn't the money in politics or where it goes but that two parties have near exclusive say on what is allowed and what is not. It took someone with the fame and money of Trump to defeat both of them and that extreme of an example should have made it obvious to people the real issue; that for any other party to gain traction is impossible and every attempt to limit how people may assemble and spend money only needs to looked at when it is done through the two established parties. As in, they need reigned in, not political movements looking to get into the game


It certainly isn't a legal or financial definition because Americans seem to have no problem at all with regional monopolies.


"No problem at all?" I don't know any American who likes their local ISP monopoly.

To the contrary, we have HUGE problems with them. I'm not sure there's any company more vilely detested in America than Comcast.

Alas, for some reason the Democratic party hasn't shown any real interest in regulating them or promoting competition, which is a failure of democracy. I don't personally know why -- I could guess something about campaign contributions and lobbying but if anyone actually knowledgeable could speak up I'd love to know.


Weird, I don't really hear any citizens complaining about Google being a monopoly. But I hear people complaining about local ISP monopolies. Yet the government seems to be focused on solving the non-issue, and perpetuating the issue.

Is it possible that the American government doesn't represent the will of the people? Just spitballing here...


Based on what? Regional monopolies such as cable ones led my comcast are widely considered the most hated companies in existence so much so that south park even made an episode about it.


It seems more likely that regional governments don't have the power to break up those monopolies, thus people are forced to live with them.


> At the same time, whatever an Aggregator chooses to do on its own site or app is less important, because users and third parties can always go elsewhere, and if they don’t, that is because they are satisfied.

This always strikes me as a weak argument. Facebook users can't go elsewhere because their friends aren't on other platforms. It doesn't matter if there's a more privacy-focused social network out there that people want to switch to. Network effects generally trump consumer choice.


Friends' choices to use Facebook are also consumers' choices. What is the alternative? Either persuade your friends to move, or remove their choice via legislative action. Are there other options?


How much choice did customers of the Bell System have?

There was nothing stopping another company from stringing wires across the country and building their own telephone network separate from the Bell System. But they don't just have to build all that infrastructure, they have to have the customers that are already under the Bell System. So they would have to pay gigantic amounts of money to people to switch, because if they didn't, there wouldn't be a value to switching for that consumer.

There are a lot of analogues to these two companies. And the argument against breaking up Facebook would be similar. It's wrong that they're being punished for building something that so many people have found useful. They spent billions building the network, and now they're shattered into multiple companies because of it?

It's hard to know what the right thing to do is, in terms of benefitting the public, maintaining the incentive for future new technology & infrastructure to be built, and being fair to Facebook & its employees, shareholders, and customers. There's a lot to balance out, and it doesn't seem like there will ever be a right answer. But, I find the similarity to the Bell System very striking, and I do think that it being broken up was on whole the right thing to do for the country and its citizens, which is what a government is ultimately tasked with doing.


Mandate interop?


Side point, but

> This, in turn, leads Google’s suppliers to work to make Google better — what is SEO but a collective effort by basically the entire Internet to ensure that Google’s search engine is as good as possible?

Feels pretty confused to me. IMO, crappy sites with good SEO make Google worse for lots of queries.


Yeah like the way Pinterest’s takeover of Google image results was an effort to make the search engine as good as possible /s


I am fully in support of Google using their monopoly power to bury Pinterest results.

Really. Go ahead and stifle a company, because in this particular case, they make Google’s search results worse.


The blogs and tweets I follow have coalesced around a particular view of this case, which is that it's pretty weak for the reasons mentioned in the OP: it seems to be trying to protect extremely large and well-resourced competitors (like Microsoft) and relies on facts which demonstrate the anti-competitive practices of Apple, rather than those of Google.


One key insight I found from the article is the distinction between European Commission and US approach when it comes to innovation and investment in tech.

> Third, Google will argue that its deals for Android distribution and the tying of search defaults to Google Play Services (including the Play Store) (...) but is also Google’s just reward for having invested in the creation of Android. This last argument didn’t work in front of the European Commission, but it may be more effective before a U.S. judge. The Justice Department, meanwhile, probably has the strongest case on this point: sure, Google created Android, but it also made the choice to open source it, and if its attempts to re-seize control through blatant tying aren’t illegal then it’s hard to imagine what could be.

This argument did not work with EU presumably because they look at it from the current stage perspective and hurting of choices vs just rewards for innovation. Android is open source, but very few manufacturers fork it because they are incentivized not to. There are customizations, and something better could come up if more people work on it. (slightly cheeky, but then maybe Google would not look to Apple to decide what features to add). I remember one time when Samsung was trying to create an OS for its smart TV based on android but decided against it and signed an exclusive MADA with Google years ago (and renewed in 2019 as well).

The question I have here is: what if Google decides to take android private and claim ownership? It wont be well received in the dev community, but are they even allowed to do it? What would be the repercussions of the same?


They would only be able to do it if they get rid of any code at all that they didn't develop themselves, and then accordingly followed the rest of the licenses.

I'd imagine this would be a huge clusterfuck.


Is that not the whole premise of Fuscia/Zircon?


That might very well be it, but that is very, very different from Android.

If push comes to shove, I would expect most manufacturers to continue using Android instead of using Fuchsia or Zircon.


Fuchsia has an Android runtime, FWIW.


A lot of OSes have an Android runtime. The good thing about Android is that it's Free Software which is easily extensible, relatively easy to get good at since it's Linux based, and that risk is minimal.


Telegram was (and is) a much better messenger, yet people in most Western countries continued to use WhatsApp because of the network effects. This is strong evidence that requiring interop is a promising legal intervention. Heck, there is no format you can use on external disks that works on both macOS and Windows. (ExFAT is prone to data loss.)


FWIW, Google was the only big tech co to see a revenue decline YoY in Q2.

They have a valuation of around 1T, which is now less than half Apple, and a third less Amazon.

Search has naturally become less essential to accessing the internet when people are spending more and more time on closed platform native apps, streaming services, gaming, etc. They seem to have put all their eggs in the search basket, which looks risky in a world where the most popular platforms keep people off the open internet.


They may have put all their eggs in the search basket, but it wasn't for lack of trying other baskets.


The article mentions that the real focus of anticompetitive behaviour in Google's case should be the acquisition or integration of additional aggregators. In this case the Android app store. I think one of the most blatant anticompetitive behaviours is how Google has integrated the play store framework into lots of applications which means disabling it breaks them (or causes apps to show warning notifications). At the same time privacy features for apps themselves keep increasing limiting the possibility for new entrants to collect data on consumer behaviour. This gives Google itself an unfair advantage - which is entirely unrelated to the quality of their service (in this case the play store). This I believe should be the main focus of this DOJ lawsuit.


Google's search results are probably (I speculate for lack of data) as good as they are because of all of the privacy problems.

Surely Google either knows who I am, or has cross referenced my interests over the years to similar individuals.

Google also knows my emails.

On mobile Google probably knows my GPS position, and anything with a maps context benefits from that.

==

The search has a lot of implicit input that, apart from just the keywords alone which would still be problematic enough from a privacy standpoint, would be insanely consumer harming to share at all.


I as a consumer find value in the quality of Google's results and consider that the bigger harm is probably worsening this index on the repository of all knowledge we know.

Therefore as competition in this space is naturally limited I would rather see a third option than status quo or break-up; recognition as a natural monopoly and regulations to benefit consumers.


So if every phone/browser etc. asked you to pick your default browser at setup time - would that placate the DOJ? Wouldn't most people stick pick Google?


If the iPhone asked to pick a browser at setup time Chrome installs would skyrocket.


I believe your comment is a bit tongue in cheek about Microsoft's settlement over IE.

The concern here is that government, especially lawyers, are not good at coming up with remedies. If the court rules Google is a monopoly, then what? What changes will be demanded, and will they "fix" the issue that the government is trying to solve?


Anything short of breaking it up won't accomplish anything.


Did you read the article? Or any of the lawsuit? The fix the gov't is pushing for seems obvious - in this case it would prevent companies in Google's position from making exclusive deals that promote their product over competitors.

A specific example - Google pays Apple billions of dollars each year to make Google the default search engine. That wouldn't be allowed. What Apple does in response isn't outlined.


The complaint is purposefully scant on remedy requests.

I was trying to say that lawyers aren't good at solving business problems, not that they don't try to do it. The question I was posing is: Will the remedies that government asks for, actually solve the problem?

The parent comment mentioned that one of the remedies for Microsoft was just to ask people which browser to use as their default, which seemed to be too little too late, so to speak.


If I were the US authorities, I'd start asking/demanding Google to stop SSO across Search/GMail/Browser.

Just because I am a GMail user does not automatically mean that you can trace all my web search.

In addition, I'd demand removing Captcha-alike when using VPN services, to avoid them from tracking my IP.

I mean, even if you are not logged-in, they can still correlate IPs across products.


> In addition, I'd demand removing Captcha-alike when using VPN services, to avoid them from tracking my IP.

You'll demand that from whom? Is not Google that plops the captcha in your face, is the particular webiste/app that is doing it. Is the same thing as with the Facebook trackers/buttons.


It is also Google.


> In addition, I'd demand removing Captcha-alike when using VPN services, to avoid them from tracking my IP.

This feels like a random, irrelevant complaint.


> what is SEO but a collective effort by basically the entire Internet to ensure that Google’s search engine is as good as possible?

On the contrary, it seems like an advantage for other search engines that people aren't trying to game their system.


>But even if a company achieves monopoly position through legitimate means, it cannot take actions that do not advance plausible business goals but rather are designed to make it harder for competitors to catch up.

This reads like a text-book definition of a "moat." It's no surprise to people that have been paying attention that moats are anti-competitive in nature, yet it'll be interested too see what, if any, impact anti-trust will have on the common wisdom of building moats.


Without moats of some kind, you end up with a commodity.

In this instance, marginal value asymptotically approaches marginal cost, which in the case of software is zero. Ironically destroying the incentive to participate.

The only alternative to moats is intellectual property, which is arguably far worse.


By the time you're big enough to have to worry about antitrust, you've already made it. I doubt this will affect the advice given to startup founders.


I'm old enough to remember the 'Look and Feel' and Microsoft vs. Netscape suits. By the time the antitrust actions against Microsoft and the whole SCO/Linux fiasco worked their ways through the system, the judgements were largely irrelevant or moot (in the colloquial sense). I think an additional value of actions like this are to enter some of the issues that the modern information economy---which operate on scales at least an order of magnitude faster---into the legal record and provide basic arguments and interpretations that can afford the development of new law and precedent. Even bad or silly decisions (hello, 'right to be forgotten' and cookie warnings) provide a foundation for legal challenge and new laws (viz. Section 230, although that last has also been serving as an illustration of how ignorant (hi, Donald) or cynical (hi, Joe) legislators can be about the law.)

Minor dig at the generally very good article: complaining that something has become politicized in 2020 is almost quaint. Ya think?


I have to pay Google to compete against Google. I'm in education. And Google has a product for educators and students. So do I. Now Google's going to be able to smartly know who to advertise to and get their product in front of Google's customers better than I will be able to. They're just naturally a big bully.


What do you mean you have to pay Google to compete? Which of their products or services are you forced to buy? Google Search ads for your product?


One thing I wish the piece touched on is the way that these platforms have evolved into anti-competitive environments due to a kind of vertical integration.

Google doesn't just control the operating system or the OEMs. Their agreements with OEMs benefit their own applications over the competition's, effectively allowing Google to leverage its power as a platform to benefit its apps developed for its platform. We've seen the exact same dynamic play out with Amazon and its products. It's only this year that Apple has allowed third party apps to serve as replacements for its default web browser and other apps on iOS. This particular kind of anticompetitive behavior definitely meets the standard of negatively affecting consumers because of the extent to which it intentionally limits the end-user's ability to choose the competition.


Apple would be wise to delay the release of their own search engine now, by a year or two, just to weaken Google. Basically, they'll get paid billions to twiddle their thumbs, while Google is fucked by the DOJ for their getting paid billions.


FTA: "although it has been frustrating to see the degree to which antitrust seems to have been politicized"

I think that was always a bit inevitable. Antitrust is, at its heart, a tool to subvert the rules because the rules aren't fair; left to its own devices, unfettered capitalism is full of positive feedback loops that encourage winner-take-all situations in any case where resources are finite and one set of resources can be spent to acquire another (such as money and attention). Recognizing that doesn't make for a good world to live in, we have laws structured so that when you get so big you're hurting consumers, the government can step in and break up a company.

But the questions of how big is too big, what constitutes "consumer harm," and how one breaks up a company aren't encoded in the law (because the law can't predict the evolution of the market itself). Those questions are always going to be obviously "judgement calls" and therefore very political.


Correct me if I am wrong, but is there anything stopping anyone from starting a new (better) search engine, and promoting it like crazy? Maybe even pay users a portion of the ads revenue for using the new search engine?

I understand there are economies of scale here, but if a few investors got together what's to stop them from achieving this?


Nobody is stopping anyone from doing this, and people are doing this. Whenever I lock my screen on Windows, I get an unremovable ad from Microsoft that says I can earn money for every search if I just switch to Bing. When you click "help" in Windows, it doesn't give you help -- it opens your a browser for a Bing search for something vaguely related to the problem, and the search returns no useful results. (It doesn't link to as much malware as it used to. Maybe that's because of my ad blocker though.)

The reality is that Bing sucks. Hard. It can't even return Microsoft's knowledge base for a search term that Microsoft explicitly set up. Every time, I cut-n-paste the term into Google and that is how I resolve my question. (Of course being linked to Microsoft's own website! They wrote the software. They wrote the documentation. But their own search can't find it!)

The problem is not Google being anti-competitive here. It's Microsoft that can't compete. They don't have two employees that said "hey, we should set up a monthly sync to make sure all the help in Windows gets linked to our knowledge base in Bing" between someone on the Windows team and someone on the Bing team. And that's the kind of thing that makes your company go out of business. The government can do very little to help you with that.


You can hide the Windows 10 lock screen ads: https://www.windowscentral.com/how-remove-advertising-window...

Not sure if it works on all Windows 10 editions though.


Ah, I see that now. It came back after my reinstall. (I'm good at turning off Cortana and sending my web browsing history to Microsoft. This one I missed, however.)


People use Google because it's what they know and the alternatives for whatever reason do not sufficiently differentiate themselves in ways that the user cares about enough to switch.

In order to be disrupt Google, you don't make a better Google. You identify something Google doesn't deliver and which people care about enough to use your search engine. I don't think anyone knows right know what that hypothetical killer feature is, and most probably assume it doesn't exist.

On another level, though, incumbents have a habit of buying potential threats (which can be a pretty good deal when you're in venture capital land and need to show your shareholders high returns). Google's bought a number of companies with a different take on search over the years, such as Like.com and Clever Sense.


The reason Google is because of their AI. And the reason their AI is good is because of the massive amount of data they collect by violating privacy. No other company can start right now. Their search engine is years of efforts of collecting every user's data in Chrome for determining 'freshness', page rank and other related stuff.


You are making the same flawed argument that the DOJ complaint is making: that Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, some of the largest companies Earth has ever seen, somehow can't afford to compete in search, which is plainly ridiculous.


The DOJ complaint isn't "You can't have a monopoly". In fact there is nothing illegal about having a monopoly in a product or service under US law.

The problem arises when a company leverages a monopoly to suppress competition, implement predatory pricing, or manipulate competition in another market. Using a monopoly in search to compel tying agreements prohibiting browsers or manufacturers from including other search engines or apps would qualify. If it turns out that agents of the company (Directors, VPs, etc) internally communicated an intent to suppress competition that would be more than enough to bury them.


I don't disagree with your comments but I also don't see the connection between them and the specific case the DOJ has actually filed against Google.


They could compete, but it would be a money hole. You’d have to spend billions and years to reach some level of parity with Google to persuade enough people to switch, and even then the marketing spend necessary to reach any significant level of switching would be another massive investment.


"wah, this is hard" is not an antitrust case. Anyway it's clearly not all that hard since Bing exists. The fact that Apple sells iOS users' attention for six billion dollars a year is strong evidence of Bing's strength. Market prices are set by the 2nd bidder, not the highest bidder. The price Google pays to Apple is what those eyeballs would have been worth to Microsoft, not how much they are worth to Google.


See Bing


This is not what the DOJ is complaining about. The case is that companies that aren't huge can't compete, because they can't scale.


I don't understand that argument.

By that same argument, companies that aren't huge can't compete with Walmart, UPS, McDonald's, etc.

That argument basically breaks down to "Small companies can't compete against huge companies without finding a way to become huge themselves."

Isn't that just capitalism?


The quality of google search is good for consumers, it also isn't anti-competitve to improve the quality of your product, even if you're using resources and knowledge from unrelated businesses to do so.


The ideal outcome of this lawsuit is Google being forced to open up their vast amounts of data obtained by being the 90+% market monopoly. Only then can other search engines even begin to compete.


How is this different than Coke and their brand?


How is Coke leveraging their strength in the beverage market to dominate another market?


Because Coke doesn't collect massive amounts of data from their customers to feed AIs?

I think you may have replied to the wrong post, because your post doesn't make a lot of sense as a reply to the parent.


Theoretically there’s nothing stopping them. But I personally think realistically it’s too far gone for this current generation. Computer literacy is too low.

The same way an entire class of people (looking at you, Grandma) think that Microsoft Windows IS the computer, many people think Google IS the internet.

And to some degree they aren’t wrong.

Overcoming that perception is going to be insanely expensive and time-consuming. Not to say it shouldn’t be done. Not to say it couldn’t be done, but man, talk about an uphill battle. Especially as Google will naturally mobilize their own machine to crush this new competition.


I guess the question is, to what degree is this like worrying that people identify Xerox with photocopiers? People are still gonna be saying "googling" in a decade, certainly, but there are lots of ways that could go that don't help Google as a company.


I think the biggest difference is the degree of interaction. I'm 25 and have used a photocopier a whopping 5-10 times in my life. It's a non-impact.

The internet, however, is different in both the frequency of interaction and the import of being transparent.

Also, as far as I can tell, it would be an order of magnitude cheaper to start a new photocopying machine because the tricks and tactics that Xerox could ostensibly use to slow down your new startup are relatively benign.

Google controls (more or less) the way anyone, anywhere (who isn't tech-savvy) will find you as an online business. Kinda scary.


> is there anything stopping anyone from starting a new (better) search engine

Nothing, but that's always been the case, with every monopoly. There was nothing stopping anybody from running telephone lines and competing with AT&T in the 80's except for AT&T's massive incumbency head-start.


You chose the perfect example to disprove your own point. Other companies could not run phone lines. There are plenty of hard monopolies, and they’re very different from soft, virtuous cycle monopolies.


Hm, ok, you're right - there was regulatory capture in place at that time, but when the phone companies started running lines in the first place in the 1800's, they had to work around the local regulations at the time as well. Worth noting that the AT&T breakup didn't involve restricting the artificial monopoly, but limiting the power of a single entity to control the market as they had.


As described in the article: It's a chicken and egg problem. More people using a search engine, leads to more data for analytics, more analytics lead to better results and again more people using it.


The part you chose to put in parentheses is the hardest part. No matter what you did to improve the search experience, Google could match it at lightning speed because of their scale.


aiui they still return results for pinterest and quora so it can't be that good.


The argument is that Google would use its monopoly in other areas to defend its monopoly in search. For instance, what if the most popular browser (Chrome, conveniently for Google) just... didn't work very well with this new search engine? Entirely innocent technical details, of course... a wonky library here, a faster protocol there which they can adopt first. Pretty soon, the new search engine is "the slow one" through no fault of its own.


I'm surprised Ben Thompson is able to write such detail and publish in 24 hours without a team. As a one-person newsletter, it is impressive. Makes me feel sad that I don't publish even a single blog post in a year


If the feds really believed these ad tech companies are monopolies they can solve the problem more directly, and permanently, by rolling back the various legal protections these businesses can’t live without.


Consumer harm is easy to demonstrate IMHO.

Google monopolized search with the great product they developed, and then tied it to an ever increasingly aggressive ad product which in turn makes all of the web practically unusable without filtering.

There’s noting inherently expensive about serving http, and it should be getting ever cheaper as Moore’s Law progress along its merry way, but for this middle man we’ve all gotten addicted to.


I think you've got the causality wrong here. There’s noting inherently expensive about serving http -> makes all of the web practically unusable without filtering -> Google monopolized search with the great product they developed

Serving http is getting cheaper, therefore the filtering problem is getting harder, therefore it's harder for new competitors to emerge.

Either way, I agree that ads are the root of the problem because it makes serving garbage http so cheap or profitable. Force people to make informed decisions about where to spend their time and money. Right now people just click away on anything so garbage clickbait is one of the most profitable models.


I wonder if a different approach would work well.

Every 12 years, take the largest 10 companies and break them up in chunks.


Why 12 years?


It's quite a shallow argument. Google's clients are not their users, the users is their product. Main case is the conveniently tax paradise located Ads team. They are the ones making the money and they are a virtual monopoly.

If you want to advertise on the internet what options do you have for Ad platforms? Not many. That's why Tech Giants are now bigger then countries. We might be moving to the Ultra Capitalist future of Demolition Man.


> there is a strain of political thought in America, independent of political party (although traditionally associated with Democrats), that is inherently allergic to concentrated power — monopoly in the populist sense, if not the legal one. > Hatred of monopoly is one of the oldest American political habits and like most profound traditions

In what country does the author live?

Americans are so used to concentrated power that they don't bat an eye when they need to pay $100/mo for DSL, $2500 for an ambulance ride, or 1000%+ retail cost on lifesaving medication. Or when their boss (usually acting in the capacity of a multi billion dollar conglomerate) insists they pee into a cup or be constantly tracked and spied on in their workplace. Or when a single company siphons 100+ basis points off their tax payment (Lockheed, military budget). Or when we allow a handful of private companies to put human beings into prison. Or when five companies own nearly all television output. Or when three companies decide arbitrarily whether we can participate in the financial system (credit ratings). Or when 2% of every single transaction goes to one of two companies (Visa or MasterCard). Or when billions of dollars are spent each election cycle by only a handful of players. Or when a handful of individual bankers destroy the entire country's pensions and retirement funds, and are rewarded millions of dollars for it. To Americans, ceding power to a entity controlled by a half dozen stupendously wealthy shareholders is as natural as breathing.

Or, yes, when two companies (for most, just one company) control the flow of every single bit of information we see and hear online (Facebook or Google). Our allergy to concentrated power is the same one that a patient dying of AIDS would have against influenza. Though, let's be fair: HIV is a pre-existing condition.

This lawsuit probably sputter, though, because it doesn't adhere to the working legal definition of monopoly. Which itself suffers from the same blindness to power shared by the super-majority of Americans.

New laws for a new era? Look at who is on the judiciary. Look who is writing laws. Look at -- oh who am I kidding. We have made our choice the past few decades, and we are making our choice now.


I think most Americans are unhappy with this situation. But we feel powerless to change it. We may have the right to vote, but we don't have options to vote for anyone that is incentivized to change the status quo.


You can technically write whomever you want on your ballot. In most states. At least in PA where I live every slot on my mail in ballot had a write in box.

The problem is that there is no coordination of the people to actually change the status quo. Too many people are still content with it. From both sides movements like BLM, Antifa, Occupy, the Tea Party, the alt-right, etc represent at most a tenth of the nation. And by-and-large the other 80% not participating in political activism at all largely either A. don't believe in the ability to organize a movement for change or B. don't want it at all.

This is not to say it would not be in the self interest of a vast supermajority of Americans to seek such change - for example, universal public healthcare would be a tremendous boon to like 4 in 5 people at least. Better elections, with election day being a public holiday, universal mail in voting, and any of the myriad alternatives to first past the post voting would all improve the conditions of like 95% of the country. The problem is that most people were taught and conditioned to be non-participatory and largely will not become so no matter what anyone else does or says . Even if things did get bad. Even if there were tangible impacts to their day to day experience. Conditioning is an extremely potent force and a combination of American corporate news, American public education, the cultures of swathes of the country raise their kids on, the material conditions you live through and your life experiences within them, etc all contribute to the apathy and attitude.

Thankfully the dial is moving in a positive direction, I think. Anyone under the age of 40 to greater and greater degrees was unable to grow up in an isolated microcosm of Americana that conditioned them into non-participation. The numbers still aren't great, but they are getting better, and unless we see systems collapse take us all offline it will hopefully keep improving moving forward, albeit centralized private social media has done a lot last decade to stymie progress.


Except we do have people willing to challenge the status quo. Go listen to Tulsi Gabbard’s responses in the DNC debate. Talk to any Trump hating republican who at this point would betray their party for a principled person like Sanders. People just don't vote for them and don’t participate locally where it counts.

I believe America is desperately in need of voting reform. And I believe the only way to achieve that is by voting against the establishment. I won’t be voting left or right this election. I’ll either be voting third party or writing in a strong left/right P/VP ticket.


A third party vote is a spoiler unless you change the voting system. RCV/IRV is an absolute minimum.


Approval voting requires no modifications to ballots, has no spoiler effect, and would be so much better than what we have now.

Which is exactly why it will never happen - both major parties enjoy their power duopoly. The powerful always resist democracy because it takes their power and gives it to the people, be they monarchs, corporations, or political parties.


St Louis, MO is putting approval voting on the ballot.


> I think most Americans are unhappy with this situation. But we feel powerless to change it.

BS. Americans will happily send half their disposable income to Amazon in the name of convenience.


Ah yes, because if I alone don't pay Amazon any money, they'll go bankrupt any day now.

There is such a thing as coordination, and it's not always easy.


This is just blaming individual consumers for the fact that there is concentrated power that benefits from minor choices people make in mass, the kinds of choices that are easily manipulable by adding or removing friction to various choices.

We don't have strong enough democratic social and labor movements that can move the needle yet. If we abandon the individualistic frame, we begin to see the necessity of joining political groups and regularly discussing our problems and how we can try to solve them, sometimes by coordinating with coalitions of groups to increase power.


Nobody is "blaming" individual consumers. They're just respecting their free agency. Most people who purchase from Amazon prefer it to brick and mortar stores and other e-commerce websites. Most people who work at Amazon fulfillment centers willingly accept higher expectations in exchange for better pay. You don't get to decide whether someone is being coerced or manipulated.


You're always "free" to take whatever crumbs the master drops from the table. You're also free to organize a rebellion for a better world.


Name another company _that is not Walmart_ that can deliver most of the items I want or need (or, hell, anything that I can think of) next day without paying exorbitant shipping fees and I'll switch to them right now.


This thread exploded and took me minutes before I could circle around to find this comment so, sorry for the delay.

Grainger. Especially if you're doing commercial shopping and need stuff to actually idk maybe do what it says and not be counterfeit.

I know i know they seem like a dinosaur, their catalog is a disaster and it seems impossible to find a real price. Thats all true, but theres a reason they obfuscate themselves. They’re a walled garden but once you're in its living in the future where this whole amazon problem has already been solved going on decades now!!! Its kinda like walmart to sams or target to costco. But grainger isnt owned by amazon, theyre direct competition and I’d wager if the hn crowd had our way and put consumer pressure on them to expand their market and made them know of our capabilities in helping them expand that vision, that grainger would pivot in a heartbeat to be more common consumer friendly. ... and then maybe we could have a little bit of peace.

But seriously their worth checking out.


The only replacement for centralized market dominance you're willing to accept is centralized market dominance with another brand?


Yes this is the convenience I am talking about. Not everything needs to be delivered to you, much less "next day".


I'm just grappling with the question. How can we call this democracy if most Americans want many extremely important things for decades and they don't happen? Isn't the point of democracy that the people have power?


IMO democracy isn't working in the US since the political parties were whittled down to just two actors and they realized they can just fight over social issues and have nearly identical stances on economic issues. This is one of the reasons I've been advocating hard to keep IRV in my local district (Chittenden County VT) and why I'm so happy to see Democrats, Republicans and Progressives all competing in the elections.


The rhetoric of electoralism and the idea that votes for a third party are "thrown away" is intensely corrosive to representative democracy. I agree that ranked-preference voting looks like the best fix for our current hyper-stable two-party system, but it's going to be an incredible uphill battle to expand this style of voting.


Absolutely - mostly because it's in the interest of the establishment of both parties to keep the two party system.

That's why I like advocating for it in local elections - it leads to a more wide awareness of the advantages of the system in the minds of electorates.


Out of curiosity, what's the justification for opposing a preferential voting system in the USA? Is it simply a case of "it would hurt my guy's chance of winning"? Or is there more principled reasoning at play?

As an Australian, it makes perfect sense to me.


There are two points

1. It's held up that it would disenfrancbise voters

2. Tradition (essentially) something being unconstitutional in the US has morphed into an extremely radical idea in the minds of most Americans - the electoral college is established in the constitution, but the US has revised that a bunch of times over it's history including the "undo" amendment (the 21st)


Actually yes, this is a good point, a large part of it can be attributed to the FPTP system enforcing two parties that can endlessly justify themselves by being marginally better on some issues (in this case, social issues).

Do you see a possible path for something like IRV nationwide?


States are expressly empowered to choose how they run elections, although the current FPTP (at least for the House) is actually a law of Congress.

That being said, the major issue with relying on states to do this, is that the first states to do this will probably lose out. In a parallel universe with orange and green parties, if, say, the orange state decides to move to proportional electoral college but the green state does not, then the green party will benefit because they get both split votes from the yellow state and the total votes for the green state.


I think something like the interstate voting compact is an extremely deft strategy for approaching a more proportional voting approach for the executive office - for congressional seats there might be a similar approach possible but I'm not certain - such an approach might need to be activated only when a much higher proportion of states sign on - I agree that the leaders would lose if they approached this individually and, honestly, I think we need a really big change to get into a good place - we might get a bit better incrementally.

I'd really like to see the US have regional and balancing seats in congress - the former tied to districts and the latter allocated to maximize the correctness of the representation - so maybe the Purple wins all the races in Maine but Green had 40% of the vote in both races - Green would gain a non-regionally tied house seat[1] while purple gets both of the regional seats.

1. Potentially seats depending on how national elections go


The thing about the Interstate Voting Compact is that it's still winner-takes-all, so as long as a majority of states are on board it's fine.

The problem with doing it with proportional voting is that you need every single state on board; any state still doing winner-takes-all has much greater power.


Yea - but it should still be possible to structure such a compact in a way where you wouldn't create loser states - let's say you target 80% buy-in of states (by representative numbers) before activating and you're talking about the house (the same rule goes for the senate but the activation might fire at a different time) - The only scenario that would really flub the system is if the 20% of house seats not covered by the compact went all to one party (say the purple party) in close races while the green party and yellow party split the vote otherwise - in that case maybe the purple party won 11% of the popular vote and thus is over-represented by the 20% of control they have. Still the other states could balance the math to split the remaining 80% appropriately.

Additionally, as long as that proportion is significantly high enough (say above the 66% mark) the two parties that were partially disenfranchised would still be left sharing a strong majority in the house between them and, if something similar happened with the senate, they could coalition up and force through a congressional amendment that would bring the remaining portion of the country in line for the next election.

The Interstate Voting Compact couldn't be precisely similarly applied to congressional elections, it'd need more momentum behind it, but there is a way for the math to work out.

All that said, IANAL and I have no idea if the legal shenanigans used to make the IVC binding could also be utilized for a similar movement around the house and senate.


FPTP doesn’t enforce two parties. Canada uses FPTP and has 5 major parties (Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens) that end up with seats. One of the first two ends up in power for the most part but minority governments often lead to de facto coalitions, the way the NDP is currently propping up the Liberal minority while the conservatives form the official opposition.

I would love to see IRV in both places though as it would be nice to see something other than a Liberal or Conservative PM. Near miss with the NDP a few years back.


When it matters, FPTP inevitably eventually whittles away all but two parties.

Canada once had at least 18 active parties, and is now down to five, even with a system that encourages more coalition-building than its neighbor to the south. Eventually it will become two.


Just a note - in Canada there is a party generally called the Liberal party and another called the Conservative party - I've been careful in the text below to differential Liberal from liberal and Conservative from conservative - it can get a bit confusing (especially when the Liberals aren't liberal) but that's just Canada being confusing.

As a Canadian - Canada is slipping into a two party system. There are, weirdly, regional variations of parties - that tends to lead toward the appearance of wider representation. I'm in BC and our conservative party is the Liberals while our liberal party is the NDP - with the greens eeking out a few seats on the sunshine coast and occasionally vancouver island in most elections - it's basically a two horse race provincially between the Liberals and the NDP. Since the Conservatives have essentially no chance of winning all their voters jumped on the Liberal bandwagon and made that party conservative (as evidenced by the pro-life Liberal candidate who recently described contraception as a form of eugenics).

BQ is an interesting party that mostly exists because QC still kinda wants to be independent, and the greens essentially don't exist. The same is essentially true of the NDP when it comes to the national elections - please just look at these results[1] with the Liberal party at 157, the conservatives at 121 and the next most represented party at 32 (up 22 seats over the last election) - Canadian elections are essentially a two horse race and a lot of Canadians that aren't already in "safe" NDP, BQ or Green districts end up voting strategically for Conservatives or Liberals - whichever they hate less.

Oh also there's the PPC but honestly they're a joke - I still think they should have a few MPs though (technically, five seats) - they did carry 1.62% of the national vote in a country where an MP represents .3% of the country. Here's a graphic demonstrating the full skew of voting in Canada, it's not nearly as minor as you might think[2].

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Canadian_federal_election

2. https://www.fairvote.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Canada-vo...


I think there's an important further distinction to be made here. The US has voting directly for the head of state, whereas Canada's head of state is of course the Queen, but the PM is selected incidentally to the vote via parliamentary procedure.

The Canadian system has you pick your local representative for your riding (MP) and the party with the most MPs, traditionally™, gets to make their leader the Prime Minister. The popular vote is irrelevant because the popular vote is not how Canadian elections are 'scored.' At all, really. Each race is a race for your specific representative. That it's correlated with the PM-ship is ancillary, since even a plurality of seats doesn't guarantee your party ends up picking the PM. A coalition of two smaller parties can band together and unseat a plurality party for the PM role. A Conservative-NDP coalition (haha) could have installed Scheer as PM after the last selection. A Conservative-Bloc coalition could have done so too. And a Liberal-NDP coalition could have installed Trudeau as a majority leader in the last election.

In the US, they have FPTP voting specifically for their head of state, which is where the rub lies. You have a poll for who should be in charge, but you weight the votes differently depending on which state those voters happen to reside in, and throw some of them away (via FPTP). This is intentional, to ensure that rural states have outsize representation. A good idea? Maybe not, but it's no mistake.

[edit] Re: the BQ, they've started campaigning not on separatism but on social issues, it's cool to see honestly.


The problem is not really the relative vote weighting in the electoral college, but the fact that nearly all states in the EC are winners-takes-all.

If you instead awarded EC votes proportionally, you'd largely wind up aligning with popular vote entirely. It'd also make more states more competitive, since it is much easier to move the margin on one electoral vote rather than say 55.


> The US has voting directly for the head of state

No, it doesn't. The US has indirect elections for the head of state, but the body which directly elects the head of state literally does nothing else.


By "directly" for the head of state, I mean, they vote, directly, for the head of state. Americans are picking on the ballot between "Trump" or "Biden," not "Republican Elector Steve Ruralson" vs "Democrat Elector Bill City-Slicker."

The results are passed on via electors, but most electors are bound by law to vote alongside the popular vote of the state. Even when not bound, they have almost exclusively done so, making this particular fact more of a technicality.

An indirect analogy based on the Canadian system, for instance, would be whichever party in the House has the most seats gets to put their leader in the President role. I would consider that to be "indirectly."

Canadians are never asked "Who should be Prime Minister: Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May or Yves-François Blanchet?" Parliamentary procedure dictates that.


> By "directly" for the head of state, I mean, they vote, directly, for the head of state.

They don't, though, they vote for (mostly, there's a few exceptions) statewide slates of electors.

> Americans are picking on the ballot between "Trump" or "Biden," not "Republican Elector Steve Ruralson" vs "Democrat Elector Bill City-Slicker."

But that's because the ballot is a lie.


You are technically correct - but in actuality the electorate is intending to vote for the head of state - so I think in practice this technicality doesn't invalidate the general statement that folks are voting for a head of state.

The distinction you're highlighting is a very important piece when it comes to discussing election reform, but I think it's better to classify it as an inaccuracy in the manner in which the electorate votes for the head of state - rather than as the electorate not voting for a head of state.


The first, hardest duopoly to fix in the United States is the two party system.


Democracy only works well with an informed and educated populace and we have been defunding education for a decade. Add in the power of lobbyists and the newfound power of tech giants to inflict misery on humanity and you get the current “corporate rule” we are experiencing.

https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishi...


This is a tired cliche that needs to die: Americans of voting age are the most educated they have ever been in history.

The problem is corruption and collusion between the parties to maintain the two party tyranny.

You can educate everyone to a PhD in political philosophy or political science for free and it would not noticeably change things unless they're willing to coordinate to vote for a third party (assuming that they can get the votes to change the system everywhere, which they probably can't) or pick up a rifle to break up the two party tyranny by threat (or enactment, should the powers that be not go peacefully) of force.


Almost nobody who went through the educational system in the last decade is even voting. People who are voting today were educated during a period of massively growing education funding: https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2015/mar/02/dave-brat/...


>Almost nobody who went through the educational system in the last decade is even voting.

Do I need more proof that defunding education was a bad thing?


In most states, your vote literally does not count.

(mine doesn't for a different reason since I'm a foreign citizen)


Only for the presidential race. Everything else (local offices, local ballot props, state office/props) counts quite a bit!


I see this argument mentioned often, but what would really change with a well informed and educated population? They would still need to elect representatives from 2 different parties. Representatives who would still operate in the current framework. We would still see lobbies, bad short term policies implemented to be reelected, etc.


I guess the idea is that those two parties would have more to gain from having evidence-based policies, and more to lose from outright lies.


Would they? I'm gonna be cynical here but why would they care? What would the "educated people" do otherwise? Not vote? So what? One of the 2 parties would gain power regardless.


If the populace are better educated, informed, and engaged, then having policies which are more evidence-based than your opponents' is more likely to get a greater vote share. This shifts the direction of the arms race away from senseless posturing and towards actual policy debate.

That's the idea at least, and I think it's worth considering. But yes, speaking as someone looking in to the US from outside, a more proportional voting system would also do wonders for your democratic legitimacy.


Support voting reform in an effort to weaken the grasp our first pst the post system retains on our politics?


Can you point me to that wonderful time when the populace was informed and educated?

The average IQ is 100 - do you consider the capabilities of a person with less than 100 IQ (half the population) to be capable of being informed by your definition of informed? Does a person with less than 100 IQ want to be educated by your definition of educated?

---

Alternative theory regarding power/politics:

The only thing that's happened in the last 100 years as far as I can tell, is introduction of new ideas has outpaced the human birth/death cycle in most places on earth.

When this happens, people who utilize new ideas to gain power are at odds with people who already have power but aren't ready to transfer it using the natural birth/death cycle.

This causes a great deal of friction. If you don't want the friction to be lubricated by human blood, those who have power need to have the humility to step down and let the younger generation utilize new ideas to keep things moving.

American politicians are incredibly arrogant, they think the populace is going to put up with another 4-8 years of 70+ year old dinosaurs and their dinosaur friends in Washington fine dining their country to irrelevancy. Hopefully we don't end up using human blood to resolve this friction like we've done historically.


I do not believe IQ is a relevant metric to determine ones ability to be informed politically.


You don't 'believe' an IQ range of 20-34, labelled as 'severely retarded' [0] is relevant to one's ability to be informed?

https://paulcooijmans.com/intelligence/iq_ranges.html


You're putting words into that poster's mouth as you shift the goalpost, but an IQ of 20-34 isn't especially common as IQ is not distributed uniformly. You might have a hard time being informed with a 34 IQ but that applies to all matters. IQ isn't designed to assess political competence nor even one's ability to be informed. Politically it's pretty irrelevant.


I believe that is an edge case and you know it


That's a fair point, but even then there's some good policies such as the breaking up of some monopolies that are backed up by the absolute majority of the American public, yet they aren't put in practice. It would seem to me that one would have to conclude that the problem is deeper, then.


Sure, but when you basically have to be a millionaire to run for high-level political offices that could actually change things like this, you get a limited selection of people, who are likely going to fight to preserve the status-quo of continuing to make themselves and their friends rich.


I guess my point is that democracy isn't really a social structure, but an emergent attribute of social structures where power is distributed widely.

If one would accept this description, and I think that it's appropriate from a literal reading of democracy, then wouldn't the structure you're describing where you can only have power if you're a millionaire and you are incentivized not to use it to express the power of the many, lack the emergent attribute of being democratic?


> Isn't the point of democracy that the people have power?

Over last few decades the democratically elected government has been retreating from providing public goods and services. It may or may not have been meticulously engineered but the US is now at a point where just about every aspect of services and goods has been privatised.

It is assumed, at least as per the PR, that free markets are more effective and efficient than elected government in discharging public goods and services. And the government's role has reduced to maintain the quality of the USD currency. Housing, , health, transportation, education, law enforcement, national security and military, public safety -- just to name a few -- have all either been fully privatised or almost there.

Given this, to what extent can public influence the way things are run? The public get one chance in five years to choose a government which has anyway privatised much of its functions. To add to that the political parties get non-trivial funding by these private corporations.


You're exactly right. Sheldon Wolin calls America a "managed democracy" and an inverted totalitarian state. Democracy was traditionally understood to mean "rule of the poor" simply because the poor outnumber the rich. That is precisely the opposite of what we have here.


I just really want to be the first to say "it's a republic, not a democracy!" because nobody can punch me while I'm quarantined.


Republics are a subset of democracy by the definitions the people original using those terms went by, that's why people punch you when you say this. Personally I think that's overkill, I prefer to issue backhanded anonymous admonitions via HN comment.


Because the US is a republic not a democracy. There is a difference after all there were noble republics like the Dutch Republic (which the framers based their system loosely off of) and Novgorod hell even Rome.


You're overlooking many things:

1) You'd be surprised by what people want. As a background principle, Americans don't like government and don't like government regulation: https://news.gallup.com/poll/243662/americans-worry-less-gov.... The percentage of people who want more regulation "of business and industry" hovers around 25%. Even during most of the George W. Bush presidency, those who wanted less regulation substantially outnumbered those who wanted more. Folks who wanted less regulation outnumbered those who wanted more 2:1 in Obama's first term.

The percentage of people saying the federal government has "too little power" has been under 10% over the last 20 years. Since 2005, a majority has said the federal government has too much power.

2) People might want something in the abstract, but that doesn't mean they support a specific implementation with specific trade-offs.

As of 2007, a majority of Americans said they wanted government to guarantee healthcare: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/washington/02poll.html. but look at the question more carefully: "Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs to guarantee health insurance for all, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts." $500 is just 1.5% of the median individual income. That's not nearly enough to actually pay for European-style universal healthcare.

Unsurprisingly, support for the Affordable Care Act started out well under 40%: https://www.wsj.com/articles/recent-warmth-toward-affordable.... Opposition to the law didn't outweigh support until 2017. And as a result of Democrats pushing through the ACA, Republicans gained 63 seats in the House (a gain bigger than the 2016 "blue wave"). Democrats started out with large majorities of the Senate and House in 2008, and by 2014 Republicans had flipped the situation, with Democrats losing 13 Senate seats and 69 House seats.

In another example, if you asked people in 2008, most Obama voters would have said they wanted clean power. But they don't actually want to pay more at the pump or a higher electric bill. Hence Obama taking credit for fracking a major achievement of his administration: https://apnews.com/article/5dfbc1aa17701ae219239caad0bfefb2

3) Americans really hate taxes: https://news.gallup.com/poll/268295/support-government-inche.... Even in 2019, when 39% of people say they support "socialism" just 25% want a combination of "more [government] services" and "more taxes." (This is an all-time high! It didn't clear 20% from 1993 to 2013.) Meanwhile, 42% want "less services" with "less taxes."

4) People don't necessarily want the same things. Just because 55% of Americans want A and 58% want B, that doesn't mean there is a voting block comprising a majority that wants both A and B.

5) People who agree on a problem don't necessarily agree on a solution. The majority of Americans think income inequality is a problem: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/01/09/most-americans-sa.... But people don't necessarily agree on what causes income inequality and what the solution should be. Democrats want a big government to redistribute income. Republicans want to earn their money, and think that big government creates opportunities for the super-rich to earn income unfairly.

6) America is a Republic, not a Democracy. Elected representatives must balance (1)-(5) to give people what they want, not what they say they want. America makes way more sense if you realize that the government we have is what we can achieve with how much we're willing to pay (not that much) and how much we trust the government to do the right thing (not that much).


This post is well written, sourced, and highlights some of the tricky issues involved. Why is this post down voted?


[flagged]


I’m citing the polls just for the data. Do you actually disagree with any particular characterization of the cited data?

The republic versus democracy point is relevant here for a practical reason, not an ideological one. In a direct democracy, citizens can vote on each issue independently of the others. In a republic, they have to pick representatives that don’t necessarily have the exact same mix of preferences, and those representatives are organized into parties. That produces compromises that don’t need to happen in a direct democracy. For example, a major cleavage line in American politics is race. That splits the working class vote between Democrats and Republicans. And it also splits the religious conservative vote. For example, likely voters support the Hyde Amendment (which bans federal funding of abortions) by a 20-point margin: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/06/joe-biden-hyde-a.... But Joe Biden now supports federal funding of abortions. Thats because the social conservative block is split between the two parties. Conservative Hispanic and especially Black people often vote Democrat for other reasons. In a referendum, federal funding of abortion would be easily defeated. But in a system of representative government, it could become law.

Many other issues split this way. Over 60% of people support eliminating qualified immunity (which shields police from lawsuits) and limiting police union power. In a direct democracy, these issues would win easily. But support for these policies is split between the two parties. Moreover, the parties vigorously disagree about how city mayors handled the protests and riots this summer. So discrete issues like these where there might be bipartisan agreement get sucked up into a larger ideological dispute about when violent protests are justified in reaction to police brutality.


Don't bat an eye? Healthcare has been the largest debate in this country for the last 8 years.


Yea - but the majority of Americans want a policy like what Sanders was offering (Medicare for All) and neither major political party is on board with it - that's sort of par for the course of how US policy decisions look like - generally the US has gone with policies that don't actually gain majority support instead favoring the will of special interest groups.


Why do you think the majority of Americans want Sanders' policy? If neither major party are onboard with medicare for all, then that would be a strong indication that the majority of Americans do NOT want what he is offering.



Well in a country where company lobbying is legal, it's very debatable if political parties are really defending the interests of people.


It's just a simple fact of polling. Your conclusion also completely ignores the influence of money and lobbying in setting party platform and policy.


To clarify, people polled were specifically in favor of adding a public option, not so much for regulating or abolishing private options.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/medicare-for-all-isnt-t...


Yes. Change is slow.

Also it's not like those old farts in the congressional seats lift their pens to write laws. They have a team of policy wonks that do that for them. They just present it in the respective chambers to play along with the charade. If you email your senator directly, it's going to be a staffer that fields the email, addresses your concerns, types up a response, and signs the senator's name in the signature.

Anyone who has lived on the Hill for any amount of time know what really makes this country churn, and it isn't the public faces.


A "strain of political thought" does not mean that this view is the center of mainstream thought. Quite the opposite.

I know people on both far-left and far-right who are just as Thompson describes: upset about any concentration of power, whether political, commercial, or religious. Does that mean they refuse to buy internet service or take medicine? The connection you draw seems nonsensical.

I, personally, loathe concentrated power. I, personally, pay an egregious sum of money for a half-terabit internet connection. That price, and my lack of options, is one symptom of the very issue at hand! Since I alone am unable to change the status quo, I pay what is required of me and grumble about it using that very service.

You describe the status quo as evidence that not one single person fits the description, then go on to demonstrate that you yourself seem to fit the description.

As far as hatred of monopoly being a long trend in America, the original birth of this country had avoiding aying tea in Boston Harbor to setting up three distinct branches of government, the rejection of monopoly and concentrated power was, as Thompson reminds us, a habit and tradition.


Even ignoring the mischaractizations in this comment, the difference is the other problems you mentioned can't be solved by a few mouse clicks or few phone taps.


In Norway I pay $10/mo for DSL (300/300Mb/s), ambulance ride is free, don't pay for lifesaving medication. My bos is not allowed to request a drug test, only if this is collectively agreed upon because you as an employee is not in a position to deny. Prisons are not publicly owned. Four companies own a lot of television output, but a fifth is governmently owned, independent and not allowed to be politically biased. You can opt out of credit rating and entitled to get all information gathered on you, and how the calculation is done. 0% of my transactions done within Norway goes to Visa og MasterCard, because the banks have build a system to identify the card to skip the fee (BankAxept). Political ads is not legal on TV, and there is a lot of regulations on the ones that is legal. The retirement funds can freely be transferred between banks to increase competition and your return. To avoid too much wealth or power to group into a handfull of individuals; all the income information and stock positions is made public every year.


Sounds amazing, and I personally would enjoy all that even with the high cost of living and taxes (which you failed to mention) that naturally goes with that.

A significant portion of American's would find this too close to socialism and with too much government involvement for their tastes, even though they would be far better off with these perks. It's depressing how much worse off they would rather be than to have these regulations and government controlled benefits.


Most of your non-internet examples are fairly accurate, but

> control the flow of every single bit of information we see and hear online

That has to be a gross hyperbole, right? Realistically I highly doubt it even comes close to 50%


Go onto a conservative forum and you will see people happy that this is happening. Do the same on a liberal forum and you will see the same.


HN is both and I see the opposite


Perhaps me and you interact with non-overlapping communities, but I've seen many of those things discussed as concerns.


In what country do you live? ISP monopolies and dysfunctional health care system are discussed constantly. Maybe it just means the people don't have the power they think they do to change things and influence policies.


> In what country does the author live?

Singapore, for what it's worth.


Taiwan.


So what can we do about it?


I totally agree. It's as if the author got his view of Americans from reading Alexander de Tocqueville.


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