Legacy media stooge David Leonhardt took up his pen the other day to add a clueless editorial to the august body of clueless New York Times editorials.
I’d refute the substance of the editorial, but it has no substance. Leonhardt is the kind of guy who’s bought into the idea that he should be paid six figures to tell the little people what to think. His worldview is based on the article of faith that legacy publishers and newspapers should have a monopoly on forming public taste and opinion. His accusations of monopolistic behavior on Amazon’s part are pure projection. He doesn’t care if consumers get reasonable prices or if workers get living wages. He’s jealous that Amazon has let independent authors overthrow the mandarins who kept him relevant.
The pretext of Leonhardt’s poutfest is the imminent death of Barnes and Noble. Though he’s probably just reaching for the handiest stick to beat the dog, his affected concern makes sense because B&N is the last remnant of tradpub’s paper distribution monopoly. The big New York publishers aren’t in the book industry. They’re in the lumber industry, and their survival depended on controlling access to a large network of print distributors and retailers. That was the only real leverage they had over authors. Since KDP came along, the smart, market-facing authors have gone indie. That’s left tradpub with less talent overall and more authors incapable of writing stories people want to buy.
The whole of Leonhardt’s editorial reads like a case study in cognitive dissonance. The high density of misinformation and outright lies goes beyond credible propaganda to the emanations of a triggered amygdala spewing stream of consciousness badfeelz onto the page. Take this passage for instance:
The full story revolves around government policy — in particular, Washington’s leniency, under both parties, toward technology giants that have come to resemble monopolies. These giants are popular, because they provide good products and service. But they have also become mighty enough to vanquish their competitors and create problems for society.
For most of American history, the government viewed giant corporations of any kind as inherently problematic. Their size gave them too much power — to eliminate competition, raise prices, hold down wages and influence politics. So the government passed laws to restrain businesses and occasionally broke up the largest, like Standard Oil and AT&T.
In the 1970s, however, a new idea took hold: Size was not a problem so long as prices remained low. Bigness could even be good, because it promoted efficiency and thus lower prices. The legal scholar Robert Bork was the most influential advocate for this view, and it soon guided the Supreme Court, the Reagan administration and pretty much every administration since.
But the theory has two huge flaws, as a new generation of scholars, like Lina Khan, is emphasizing. One, prices are not a broad enough measure of well-being. Wages, innovation and political power matter as well. If prices stay low but wages don’t grow — which is, roughly, what’s happened in recent decades — consumers aren’t better off. Two, regulators have focused on short-term prices, sometimes ignoring what can happen after a company drives out its rivals.
Leonhardt doesn’t even attempt to put forward a semblance of historical literacy or logical consistency. It’s glaringly obvious that what he means by “problems for society” is “a threat to the dominance of the elite chattering class and our paymasters”.
The definitive CogDis tell comes in the editorial’s closing paragraph.
Once the country emerges from the Trump presidency, I hope we will have a government that takes monopolies seriously. Until then, I’ll be rooting for Barnes & Noble. So, it turns out, are some people who once viewed it as the enemy. “It’s in the interest of the book business,” Teicher says, “for Barnes & Noble not just to survive but to thrive.”
NB: With the death of the gatekeepers, anyone can be an author. But only quality books will stand out from the crowd. If you’re ready to work with a professional editor who can take your book to the next level of quality and salability, send me an email.
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