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Letters, Oct. 29

Corporate coup d’etat

The closing of Renaissance Rose is sad in so many ways.

It’s sad because it was a local color fixture in Ashland for so many years. It’s sad because it was a unique shop that offered to our imaginations tangible options for altering our identities, allowing us to get out of ourselves if only viewing the masks and costumes on display. It’s sad because it is yet another example of the unaffordable rent increases that plague both our commercial and non-commercial real estate markets contributing to accelerating wealth disparity. But its closing is mostly sad for me because it represents a small part of the seismic shift in retail taking place in cities and towns across the nation.

That shift, which began with shopping malls and huge box stores, is now moving toward something even more antithetical to American values, the belief in a fair, competitive marketplace. The big gorilla is, of course, Amazon — the world’s largest online retailer. Its CEO, Jeff Bezos, is worth over $160 billion (with a “b”). His foremost critic, Stacy Mitchell, has accurately stated, “Bezos doesn’t want Amazon to merely dominate the market; he wants to become the market.” To test this, ask yourself the last time you searched online for an item by entering it in a Google (or other browser) search.

It would be bad enough if Amazon’s monopoly ended with its grip on customers but it extends its grasp to sellers, forcing them to forfeit their individual expertise. Using its algorithms, it finds which products are popular and then copies them to sell as its own brand (which then gets top billing in its search results).

Unlike mom-and-pop businesses, huge multinational and transnational corporations have loyalty only to their shareholders. They would be broken up through enforcement of our antitrust laws, were our government not subordinated to their interests. A corporate coup d’etat has taken place while we were sleeping. It’s all explained in the film “The Corporate Coup d’Etat,” which will be shown in the Meese Room at Hannon Library at SOU at 6 p.m. on Nov. 6. We need a “renaissance” in our marketplace. Knowledge is power.

Andy Seles

Ashland

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