The consequences of monopolistic behavior

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Some private investors might not care too much about what Elon Musk says or does, dismissing him as an outspoken maverick. Yet he is one of the richest men in the world (on paper at least) and also one of the most followed, with around 82 million followers on Twitter.

Musk’s fans appreciate his bold style, and especially the handsome rewards his vision has reaped for them. He led Tesla to a market cap of over $1 billion in just 14 years and has a string of companies named after him. He’s never afraid of controversy or sharing his opinions – this week he blamed Netflix’s dramatic stock price drop on a “woke-mind virus” rendering the streaming service unassailable – and likes to drag the markets into a joyful dance. In the past, he has been fined millions for misleading claims that he was going to take Tesla private.

Now, his unorthodox approach to business has led him to set his sights on Twitter while ruthlessly mocking the business on his own social media platform. He suggested that he should be renamed Titter, and that if his bid is successful, the board’s salary would be $0 – “that’s $3 million saved there”.

Although Musk belongs to this new breed of business leader – highly driven entrepreneurs with vision and drive; think Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs (and Steve Wozniak), Mark Zuckerberg – his provocative commentary and unconventional approach set him apart. There is, after all, something so bizarre about a $43 billion offer (with drug references in the details) that no one knows whether to take it seriously. We also don’t have a clear idea of ​​what would happen if Musk took over Twitter. He seems to want to end censorship and bans on the social media platform more than he wants to release value.

If Musk is a true free spirit, the same cannot be said for his fellow members of the superstar CEO club. They too have made their companies into entities of great wealth and influence, but the bosses of Amazon, Apple, Meta and Alphabet have also unleashed a dangerous monopolistic trend. They float above the rules that bind everyone and circle around governments and authorities trying to end their stranglehold on markets and the ease with which they take hold of innovators and newly arrived rivals. Limiting their power is indeed a very difficult task.

Their huge consumer popularity and exciting new technology initially diverted the attention of regulators and other agencies from the dangers and allowed them to gain a degree of regulatory leniency as they grew. . But failing to challenge them until far too late allowed the tech giants to solidify their monopolistic position even further and walk away with a long list of accusations of abuse between them, ranging from tax evasion, causing social damage, allowing surveillance capitalism (harvesting people’s data for profit) to thrive and thwart rivals.

To be fair, it’s been hard to see the damage done, and even harder to figure out how to deal with it effectively. This is why the task of breaking their grip on the markets is so difficult and has been so ineffective despite a deluge of fines, warnings, bills and legislative acts, calls for them to be broken, lawsuits, settlements and frameworks launched against big tech in recent years. years.

Investors may not have cared too much about this when they were able to profit from it and suffered little visible damage. But stifling competition is deeply damaging and goes far beyond the prices we pay for goods and services. It can destroy innovation and kill economic growth. We should all be hoping that lawmakers targeting tech giants are finally on the verge of offering real support to the delicate ecosystem that is the corporate world.

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