Tag Archives: Monopoly

Jeff Bezos: Hero or Villain?

Jeff Bezos

When the news of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods broke, some wondered whether Amazon owner Jeff Bezos was flying too close to the anti-trust sun, teetering on the verge of an unfair monopoly.

Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor who specializes in such questions, tweeted:

Wu did not immediately respond to inquiries, but further Twitter-digging showed varied theories about the business deal:

It’s notable that the news broke alongside The New York Times’ report on Bezos’ lack of philanthropic giving. As ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis highlighted on Twitter, Bezos is the second-wealthiest person on the planet and has given away a mere .1 percent of his wealth.

After the Times questioned Bezos, he turned to Twitter with a “request for ideas.” As the Times noted, Bezos is a hero of sorts for some in journalism since he purchased The Washington Post in 2013. The Post is, of course, a for-profit business, so the purchase hardly makes him a philanthropist. But in an industry where the editorial rank-and-file are being laid off in droves, up against ownerships that devalue deep work who are intent on repeating the same failed strategies in floundering attempts to turn a craft into a viable business, the fact that the Post has been on a hiring spree and Bezos has appeared to value good, hard-won journalism is a bright spot in a bleak landscape.

And, for what it’s worth, he threw $1 million at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press last month, an organization that seems increasingly vital as journalists face decades in prison for covering protests on U.S. soil.

Of course, the flipside of that is Amazon. Amazon has:

In The New Republic in 2014, Franklin Foer accused the company of “cannibalizing the economy,” insisting that it “must be stopped.”

Good deeds by Amazon include providing a space to a homeless shelter in Seattle — which could indicate this Whole Foods deal is a chance for Bezos to use his new properties for good in cities like New York and San Francisco, where homelessness is a chronic, persistent issue and housing costs have become prohibitive for many. And while the company is often criticized for lowering prices to a point that is deadly to their competitors, if Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods makes home delivery of healthful groceries affordable for low-income people — who tend to struggle more both with health issues and access to transportation — that would be a good thing.

For now, it’s unclear what Bezos will do with Whole Foods, though Amazon’s foray into brick-and-mortar bookstores may provide a clue.

 

The Twisted History of Your Favorite Board Game

Jessica Gross | Longreads | March 2015 | 16 minutes (4,113 words)

 

Mary Pilon spent several years reporting on finance for the Wall Street Journal, and several more reporting on sports for The New York Times. In her first book, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, Pilon debunks the myth—long perpetuated by Parker Brothers—that Monopoly was invented by a man named Charles Darrow during the Great Depression. Really, three decades prior, a woman named Lizzie Magie had created The Landlord’s Game, an obvious ancestor. A surprising twist: Lizzie’s game included a set of rules that was anti-monopoly, in which the object was to spread wealth around. In the 1970s, a professor named Ralph Anspach unknowingly carried Magie’s torch by creating a game called Anti-Monopoly, which rewarded players for trust-busting. It was via a very long lawsuit with Parker Brothers that Anspach unearthed the game’s buried history—and through reporting on a wholly unrelated article that Pilon became aware of it. I spoke with Pilon by phone about this complex, multi-layered story, her reporting and writing process, and the surprising Monopoly tricks she discovered. Read more…

“Monopoly Is Theft.” — Christopher Ketcham, Harper’s Magazine

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