America’s tech giants have most certainly engaged in abusive practices. Demands that Washington break them up seem to grow by the day. Many of them are from brilliant people we respect and almost always agree with.
That doesn’t make them right, though.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others have just become too powerful, says the narrative. And it’s not just the political right, which is justified in being upset at Big Tech’s efforts to marginalize and silence it, that wants to use the nearly limitless power of the federal government to tame private businesses. Some Democrats are in the game, too, most prominently Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who “has made breaking up the tech giants a cornerstone of her campaign.”
The fact that a high-profile Democrat who has no appreciation for property rights and the blessings of markets, nor their power, is lighting torches and handing out pitchforks should be a warning.
Antitrust enforcement is anti-freedom, pro-big government. As Cato Institute Chairman Robert Levy has written, it “debases the idea of private property” as “government seeks to transform a company’s private property into something that effectively belongs to the public, to be designed by government officials.”
It’s also a waste. Markets always busts the trusts on their own. They churn, evolve, kick out the companies that fail to serve consumers, and reward those that do. We don’t know when today’s Big Tech dominators will suddenly be yesterday’s Blockbuster. Nor do we know what will be tomorrow’s success. We not only don’t know which company it will be; we can’t predict which industry or sector it will be in. Market dominance is fleeting, and it is becoming even more ephemeral as the pace of new technological innovations accelerates.
“The speed of innovation in today’s online marketplace makes innovation and government nearly incompatible,” says Pacific Research Institute fellow Bartlett Cleland, “which is why it is so difficult to develop a modern application of antitrust law,” which, we add, was passed and signed for one reason — to increase government’s power to intervene in private matters.
If Big Tech has power, it’s because consumers have voluntarily given it to them. Yes, consumers have been violated in various ways. But they also have the power to stop the abuse. They are free to stop using the products and services offered by the companies they feel betrayed or abused by. This ensures that companies continue to innovate.
An antitrust response, however, has the opposite effect.
“Government intervention,” says the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Iain Murray, “does more to create barriers to entry that entrench powerful incumbent corporations than the free market, which forces companies to innovate in order to grow their business and prosper.”
Let the market, the preferences of consumers, handle the Big Tech issues. Don’t like Google’s and Facebook’s anti-conservative bias? Cut ties with them. Hurt them in their wallets. Force them to choose between politics and business. It’s a private affair, none of government’s concern.
— Written by J. Frank Bullitt
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