by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The big problem with Trump’s view of Amazon is not that he gets his facts wrong. By now, we should be used to “taking Trump seriously but not literally,” in Salena Zito’s memorable phrase. And commentators are probably wrong that Trump’s attacks on Amazon stem solely from pique at aggressive media coverage from the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Trump has been attacking Amazon for years, starting long before Bezos bought the Post.
The much bigger issue is Trump’s Bernie Sanders–style misunderstanding of economics and his nostalgia for an imagined 1950s America.
Trump blames Amazon for “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.” In particular, Trump is reportedly upset that his friends in the real-estate business complain that Amazon is responsible for the decline of the shopping center. There is some truth here. The most pessimistic estimates suggest that competition from Amazon has been responsible for the loss of some 300,000 jobs between the Amazon’s founding and 2015. Although in fairness, we should note that Amazon itself employs some 300,000 U.S. workers, and its work force is growing by 40 percent year over year, with plans to hire an additional 50,000 workers at its yet-to-be-located HQ2.
More fundamentally, though, we should recognize that Amazon puts those retailers out of business because it offers a product that consumers prefer. I frequently choose to buy online rather than spend time and effort driving to my local shopping mall. If enough Americans agree with me, the stores in those shopping malls will have to adapt or lose business. That is the “creative destruction” at the heart of free-market capitalism.