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Column: Are Google, Amazon price cuts too good?
There's nothing quite like a good deal, and the Internet is full of good deals. Every day Facebook showers us with status updates, for which it never charges a dime. YouTube is free, and yet it provides us with so many hours of entertainment and such endless quantities of procrastination and schadenfreude.
And one of the best deals of all is the cloud. Unemployment checks might not buy you a DVD library, but they will cover a Netflix subscription. That's probably a good thing, because cloud technology also allows businesses to avoid buying new equipment and hiring new employees -- two budget items that fell out of favor during the Great Recession. So you can thank Web companies for the fact that, according to Credit Suisse, "corporate investment in technology is now farther below trend growth than it has been at any point in the last 50 years."
This raises the question: At which point does a good deal become a big problem? If you follow the technology sector, then you're probably aware that author Jeremy Rifkin has been trolling the Internet for the last two months, pushing a new book called “The Zero Marginal Cost Society.” He argues that the Web will soon have us all out of work and hunting for jobs in the nonprofit sector. And in the last few weeks, French economist Thomas Piketty became an international celebrity for claiming in a 700-page treatise that capitalism is rigged against the working guy.