People often ask me what stocks I own. My investing advice is simple: I only invest in unregulated monopolies. They aren’t supposed to exist, but our antitrust laws were written in the era of steam engines, and enforcement has been nonexistent. Big tech is the twenty-first century version of John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, and there is no trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt on the horizon to rein them in.
How have they done it? The algorithm is this: innovate, obfuscate, and exploit. Especially in a pandemic.
Put simply, COVID-19 has been an effective weapon of mass distraction from big tech’s bad behavior. No news story survives 12 hours while a pandemic coupled with a national display of incompetence renders everything else what it is, less important. But whether we are paying attention or not, unchecked growth and market dominance lead to a slew of problems. Inevitably, companies without serious competition become less innovative and capture more profits and share from exploiting their position, and less from creating real value. And to protect that position, they perform infanticide on other innovators.
No wonder that Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook have added hundreds of billions in market value since March. By virtue of being the biggest elephants in the herd, the Four are well positioned to survive any crisis, and to thrive when the rains return. And a pandemic that keeps us home in front of our screens and leaves the professional class with plenty of unspent income is hardly a crisis at all for the companies that sell us those screens and dominate what we do on them. The Four were already ascending to dominance, and the pandemic has accelerated that trend, just as it has so many others.