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Free markets by Cory Doctorow (pluralistic.net)

“The ‘free market’? It’s nowhere to be found.”

Good article (originally a tweetstorm, I think) about the general suckiness of content distribution thanks to companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google.

If you sell stuff through an app on either of the major mobile app stores, then Google and Apple require you to use their payment processors and pay 30% for the privilege.

Apple recently cut its app tax to 15% for some sellers, but the actual cost of processing a payment is 0.5-3%. It’s ironic that two of the most aggressive corporate tax-evaders in the world are levying a 30% tax on anyone who uses mobile devices.

 

This is why “it’s their store, they can charge what they want” is such a ridiculous argument. There is increasingly no alternative; they’re making money merely from owning. Yes, that 30% includes distribution but they literally do not allow any other method of app distribution. They are rent seeking from both producers and consumers.

 

Adam Smith railed against rents, describing markets as “free” when they were free from rents, not free from regulations. For centuries, a “free market” was a market where buyers and sellers operated without interference from rentiers, not regulators.

 

Funny how high school education frames Wealth of Nations as an important defense of the free market, but doesn’t address the author’s original meaning.

 

For further reading, there’s Cory’s article for Lotus Magazine, which includes this gem related to my post the other day:

 

None of the “Amazon origi­nal” books and audiobooks are available to libraries (Amazon says that libraries should spend public money buy their patrons Kindle and Audible subscriptions, and subject them to the fine-grained surveillance that comes with using Amazon’s digital products).

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