Platform capitalists: The new would-be rulers of the world
A Facebook employee walks past a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., in this March 15, 2013, file photo | Jeff Chiu / AP

Some numbers to consider:

Facebook: Market Capitalization – $486 billion. Number of employees – 20,600. Market cap per employee – $23,600,000.

Amazon: Market Capitalization – $474 billion. Number of employees – 341,000. Market cap per employee – $1,390,000.

Bank of America: Market Capitalization – $246 billion. Number of employees – 208,000. Market cap per employee – $1,180,000.

General Motors: Market Capitalization – $51.2 billion. Number of employees – 209,000. Market cap per employee – $245,000.

JCPenney: Market Capitalization – $1.19 billion. Number of employees – 100,000. Market cap per employee – $11,900.

We are in a new era in the fight against inequality. The companies where workers actually make things and provide services are being swamped by tech capitalism. The big bankers, the hedge fund managers, the manufacturing CEOs—those are not the only big villains anymore. They made for easy targets in the 1990s and earlier, with all their flaunting of wealth.

Fast forward to the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. Banks are still big players in the economy, but they are not as dominant as they were before. The big manufacturers like GM and others were hit hard. The jobs that remain in auto don’t pay like they used to. Much of the retail and low-wage sectors where millions now work are struggling to stay alive in the era of Amazon.

The tech-CEOs—the platform capitalists—pose as a group of high-tech saviors making the world a better place. What they are is a group of (admittedly) intelligent people riding the technology boom, leveraging their control of data to shape the global economy, knowing everything we do and buy, and going around unnoticed in their white t-shirts and jeans, looking like one of us.

The tech elites aren’t like the old tycoons with the pinstripe suits, who get driven around in chauffeured limos, or build gigantic temples to themselves in Detroit or New York. Instead, they occupy suburban “campuses,” take Smart Cars to the office, and drink Starbucks like the rest of us—all while gobbling up other firms and solidifying monopoly positions in the economy. And, to make it worse, they don’t even create all that many jobs while doing so. The market cap per employee statistics above show the rate at which value is being generated compared to the number of workers creating it.

More attention should be given to critically analyzing the tech giants—the real power players in the new economy.

TC

Canada

 


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