Free market capitalism has thrived in the United States and allowed some of the great innovations that have made life better for so many Americans to thrive. Somehow, Big Tech innovators have enraged both Democrats and Republicans. The consequences for these companies, and the American economy, could be dire over the next four years no matter who wins the White House.
We have learned much from the House Judiciary hearing that was titled Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The CEOs, including Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Jeff Zuckerberg of Facebook, seemed wholly unprepared to defend their business models against claims that they have violated antitrust laws. There is a growing body of politicians in both parties who want to use the immense power of government to acquire a de facto board of directors seat at these companies' decision-making tables as a means to force a change in behavior.
Republicans are outraged that the liberal bent of the leadership of Big Tech companies has led to the censorship of conservative viewpoints on social media platforms. Some who are national security conservatives worry that Big Tech is tougher on American citizens than on China. Many Republicans are adherents to the strain of the Republican Party that leans populist and dislikes big government and big corporations. Some libertarians have made strong points that these tech companies are sucking up personal information to make billions that end up violating the right to privacy of Americans as recognized by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Republican Party is loaded with leaders who are poised to hammer Big Tech if the party retains the White House and the Senate the next two to four years.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) encapsulated the Republican position in one sentence – “Big Tech’s out to get conservatives.
Democrats on the Committee made the case that Big Tech has engaged in retaliation and bullying of smaller companies that the big tech companies saw as competitors. Liberals on the committee are desperate to use the power of antitrust law to break up these companies. The mere fact that the CEOs of these companies include the wealthiest people in the world is something the left will use as prima facia evidence that these companies are too big. For the left, success is to be taxed and these CEOs are the new Robber Barons.
Democrats on the Committee made case after case that these companies were too big to allow real competition. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) was the voice of Democrats in the House when he said – “Facebook saw Instagram as a powerful threat that could siphon business away from Facebook, so rather than compete with it, Facebook bought it.” In other words, Democrats are going to imply that every acquisition is the equivalent of a violation of antitrust law.
The hearing was a glimpse into the difficult future these companies may have. The New York Times made the class warfare case against these big companies when they tweeted, “Today's big tech hearing is set to be a bizarre spectacle: 4 men who run companies worth nearly $5 trillion combined — and who include 2 of the world's richest individuals — primed to argue that their businesses are really not that powerful after all.” In other words, big is by definition bad.
These companies are in deep political trouble. The individuals in control of the power of the federal government seem to agree that action needs to be taken to slap Big Tech down a peg. Expect a bipartisan push in 2021 to hammer them no matter who is the big winner in the fall elections.
Our nation’s economy will be harmed if a bipartisan push to hammer Big Tech is successful. I share many of the concerns that these big companies are sucking up too much personal information of individuals and too soft on China, yet worry that antitrust law is the wrong way to deal with these companies. The last thing our nation needs is allowing the growing number of avowed Democratic Socialists to hold hands with some Republicans to take the reins of Big Tech and run them, and the American economy, into the ground.