The New York Times features a short video today about Warby Parker, the online eyeglass company that “wants to do everything themselves, from designing to manufacturing to selling the product.” I didn’t learn much about Warby Parker from this piece, but I question the Times’ claim that they truly “want” to do all that stuff. More likely, they simply have no choice because the United States government no longer bothers enforcing antitrust law. Luxottica’s stranglehold on the design, manufacture, and retail sales of eyewear is so strong that any wannabe competitor has no real choice except to do everything themselves. This is why a simple pair of replacement lenses now costs 300 bucks at LensCrafters, even though the technology existed to sell them for a hundred bucks two decades ago.
Anyway, good for Warby Parker, and I hope they manage to build a retail presence someday too. But their attempt to make an entrepreneurial buck is a lot harder than it ought to be. It’s just one small example of the demise of antitrust enforcement over the past few decades, which is itself a small example of the way that the rich have not just rigged the rules of the capitalist game for their own benefit, but convinced everyone it’s for their own good. We are all victims of economic Stockholm Syndrome these days.