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Crony Capitalists

I wrote this to economist George Reisman.

I’ve noticed you use Jeff Bezos as an example of a good capitalist/businessman/entrepreneur. I haven’t researched him in detail (I doubt you have either), but I’m skeptical of him. I fear he’s a social climber. I also think Ayn Rand would be right to judge his choice of women.

Amazon has long had large amounts of fraud in its marketplace, including fake reviews and fake products, particularly from China. They haven’t done much about this and appear to like it and to intentionally mislead customers about the difference between buying from Amazon and from third party sellers. Amazon has done things like push to get Fakespot – a site that helps identify fake reviews on Amazon – deplatformed from Apple’s app store. I also think there's merit in some, but definitely not all, of the complaints about the working conditions for Amazon employees (of course the government is more at fault than Amazon).

Amazon got the government to start an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and book publishers even though Amazon had much more ebook market share than Apple. The market leader, Amazon, successfully used the government to suppress competitors so they could more freely act like an abusive monopolist.

Recently, Amazon made a video game studio (with a half a billion dollars a year budget) and, after repeated delays, released New World, which is an incompetent mess that shows the people in charge have no idea what they’re doing on many levels. They’ve also been lying about pay-to-win and microtransactions issues. I’ve followed this as both a programmer and gamer, and I know details.

Today, I saw a video explaining how Twitch – a video-game-oriented video streaming platform owned by Amazon – is complicit in millions of dollars of money laundering, as well as defrauding their advertisers. In short, Twitch was recently hacked and tons of their data and code was dumped in public, including financial information. Analyzing this data made it pretty easy to catch large scale money laundering (some of which involves using software to create lots of fake viewers, which advertisers then pay to advertise to). Twitch already had all this data before it was publicly leaked, and they profited off the money laundering while not acting against it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAliAILAee8

Amazon also censored/deplatformed a review I wrote warning people that a book heavily plagiarized my philosophical ideas. (The author said he was my fan and paid me for private calls to teach him stuff, then stopped speaking to me and secretly wrote the book. It doesn’t contain my name once, but contains unique, original material from the calls and from many of my blog posts including posts written after he cut contact. He even used a couple exact quotes from me presented as his own words.)

I urge you to be very careful about which businessmen you promote as wonderful representatives of capitalism. Currently, I think most of them are corrupt social climbers with friends in Washington. It’s unsafe to say any current CEOs are good without researching them.

For example, Elon Musk has a big fan following, and is hailed as a genius, but he's an especially bad crony capitalist who gets many US government subsidies while also dealing with the Chinese government a bunch.

I respected Steve Jobs a lot but I think Tim Cook is mediocre. He was good at his pre-CEO job (supply chain logistics stuff) but is bad as CEO. Cook has moved Apple much more in the direction of making friends with government and environmentalists. And Apple’s Mac and interface design teams have gotten worse.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and many similar companies are connected with government a ton.

Elliot Temple on November 4, 2021


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