In my essay on socialism and why it stinks like last month’s leftover halibut, I noted that when the government provides services for you, you have no choice; but under capitalism, even the biggest corporation can be brought to its knees by its customers if it doesn’t please them. Little did I know that within 24 hours, I’d have an example of that.
Wednesday, Facebook warned of weak revenues, and its stock price dropped by as much as 24% before it recovered enough to close down 17%. There are various reasons given, such as the effects of new privacy policies on revenue. But it boils down to consumer choice: Facebook is struggling because it got too big for its britches. It decided that as the almighty social media platform, it could violate your privacy, mess around with your news feed, snoop on your friends, decide which type of political speech was allowed and which type was taboo (guess which was which?), and so on. They never imagined that users would respond by simply leaving, migrating to other social media sites or even going outside, squinting into the sun, and doing something else with their lives.
It’s too early to tell whether this warning shot will put the fear of consumers into the self-anointed demigods of Silicon Valley, but if not, then they’re in for more rude awakenings. Two of the greatest things about capitalism are that it can make a pauper with a great idea into a billionaire; and that if said billionaire forgets that the customers are the boss, he can become a pauper again.