As public demeanours towards Silicon Valley and Big Tech continue their rapid pivot from admiration to vilification, the present occupant of the White House has sought to lead the chorus. Several weeks ago, he propelled a tweet-driven crusade against Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos, alleging the company of ripping off the US Postal Service and mischief Americans by not rallying more nuisance tax. His Thursday order for a review of the Post Office’s finances is a clear is making an effort to undermine one of its largest patrons, Amazon.
Zachary Karabell is a WIRED Contributor. Karabell is the president of Global Strategies Envestnet and the president of River Twice Research.
The president’s aggressive–and factually doubtful–attacks have prompted expressed concerns about the insecurity of our republic and the potential for the powers of the state to be followed to quash private companies. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said Trump’s criticizes on Amazon echoed Mussolini’s Italy, where the nation cowed private companies or destroyed them. Sheila Bair, former chair of the FDIC, suggested that Trump is subverting the Bill of Freedom by assailing a company based on personal arouse at negative coverage in the Bezos-owned Washington Post.
Yet, here as abroad, the reaction to Trump may say more about his ability to arouse strong and often negative spirits than about how close the US is to a constitutional crisis or an eroding of fundamental liberties. Trump is barely the first president to criticize a large company by specify. He is by no means the first to give his personal animus prescribe his approach , nor the only to entertain consuming the considerable powers of the conference of presidents to trauma or hobble a company or CEO that he detests. While the past is at best prologue, compared against presidents of yore, Trump just stands out as remarkable in his willingness to engage in personal and public brawl with massive a company that piss him off.
Take Teddy Roosevelt. He famously originated his tenure in the White House, on the heels of the assassination of William McKinley, with a devote to take on the great corporations then referred to as “trusts.” He wrote to Congress at the end of 1901 that “There is a widespread conviction in the minds of the American parties that the great firms known as the trusts are in certain of their the characteristics and bents hurtful to the general welfare.” The only way to protect the interests of all and counter the “crimes of cunning” perpetrated by the business world was to more aggressively use the authority of the recently passed Sherman Antitrust Act.
Roosevelt then proceeded to take on the most significant trust of the day, the Northern Securities Company organized in 1901 by an alliance of banker JP Morgan, railroad barons, and oilmen including John D. Rockefeller. The resulting holding company restrained an undue percentage of the nation’s rail line, with the health risks to create costs for its own earning at the public’s overhead. So Roosevelt–personally–instructed his attorney general to indict Northern Securities under the Sherman Act. The trust campaigned back, but the Supreme court ultimately sided with national governments and Northern Securities was forced to dissolve.