For libertarians there’s plenty to hate about giant corporations. The insane amount of subsidies they often receive. Bailouts (and these). Sweetheart government contracts. The horrible connection between the military and oil. The way they often get the US military to do their bidding (dramatic reading). See also this, this, and this, among others. Often despicable labor practices (and yes, I know that grinding urban poverty is often the first step out of even worse grinding rural poverty, but when you don’t pay people what they owe on a massive scale, or you hold them prisoner and threaten them with deportation or other terrors, you suck). The way they’re often exempted from any accountability for the environmental damage they cause. All of these are real things that happen, they’re concerns we tend to share with the left, and they’re terrible. However, having the government break up corporations because they supposedly get too big? That’s just dumb. And the current antitrust investigation of facebook, which may result in facebook being partially broken up is part of a long tradition of dumb.
The idea that corporations will tend towards absolute control of a market absent government regulation is natural monopoly theory, and it’s a common complaint amongst the left about corporate power…except in a free or relatively free market it doesn’t hold up to history. While perhaps this could be dismissed as a bit of “one data point and you’re jumping for joy”, I think two of the largest examples in the public eye illustrate the point nicely.
The classic example is the classic monopoly, Standard Oil. At the height of its power in 1904 Standard Oil had about a 90% market share, but when it was broken up just 7 years later it was down to about 64% market share-still big, still powerful, but a company in decline. It was in decline because competitors were figuring out how to beat them at their own game, and it was before major oil subsidies took over. Likewise, the biggest example of my lifetime so far is the the Microsoft antitrust suit of 1992 to 2001. Now…Microsoft as a company was no saint, and there were plenty of criminal and civil charges that could have been brought about their conduct with Stac Electronics, the crap that went down with them and IBM, and more. But monopoly? Why? There was basically a decade of investigation, from 1992 to 2001, during which Apple revitalized, Blackberry and later Android came on the scene, Linux was developed, and any number of other things happened that ate a lot of the market share of Windows.
Now let’s look at facebook. Facebook is a giant, an absolute titan of tech, to be sure. A LOT of people use its services, at no out of pocket cost to them. It buys up potential rivals regularly and locks them out of its platform. There’s concerns (vastly overblown to my mind, but that’s a separate post) about the role it played in the most recent election. It is arguably at the absolute zenith of its power.
We’ll put aside for the moment the really obvious fact, which is that facebook charges its users nothing unless they buy advertising, in exchange for the use of their data, and pretty much everyone agrees to this contract.
And yet, like myspace before it, like Microsoft, like Standard Oil, like IBM, like buggy whip and typewriter manufacturers before them, they’ve made missteps as of late. While many decry them as safe spaces for racist snowflakes (and probably not without reason), parler and mewe are exploding. Specialized discussion forums are still very much a thing. Bitchute has become an alternate content hosting site. The market continues to respond faster than the state ever could.
The only companies that survive are either those that figure out how to compete and innovate and keep giving people what they want, or those that keep getting bailouts from your wallet. In a libertarian world, only the first would survive.
If you want to hate amazon for their CIA contracts, fine. If you want to hate car companies for getting bailed out by the government when they weren’t make things people wanted, fine. If you want to hate any number of companies (and the California department of corrections) for slave labor, I’m with you. But if you want to hate them simply for getting too big by giving people what they want, I suggest you calm down, read a bit of history, and let the market do its job.