Squid Game is the new “it” show on Netflix – it is a psychological thriller that deserves the popularity. The idea of the show is that contestants play childhood games and losers are eliminated (in the literal sense). So, the stakes are high, and the players play accordingly. Watching a recent hearing called by the House Judiciary Committee, I saw some similarities. There were teams, the members were all jockeying for position, and a few people played with wild strategies that appear crazy. And, if their strategies fail – careers could fail with them.
The hearing was ostensibly about the 21st Century Antitrust Reforms and the American Worker, but given the questions and the people providing testimony it was really about attacking Amazon while promoting Unions. If the hearing followed the political lines that have been drawn over the past 40-60 years then the Republicans would have been supportive of Amazon and opposed to the Unions.
However, in the past several years these traditional political lines have become a bit blurry because of the influence of former President Trump and some slight movement of what voter blocks are in play. When Trump was in office he followed a largely populist agenda – alternating, almost randomly, between supporting unions, supporting conservative policies, and supporting whatever issue of the day would get people fired up. Some in the party followed him, some tried to follow him, and some stuck with their ideological beliefs – and opposed Trump when he deviated from the historical conservative agenda.
These recent deviations from the status-quo is why the hearing was interesting as a little bit of everything was on display at this Squid Game-style hearing. Congressman Buck, who has supported taking on Big Tech through the expansion of antitrust laws, couldn’t support the idea of unions to go after Amazon and instead decided to largely ignore his attacks on big tech and support of other antitrust proposals to return to his conservative roots and support regulatory rollback. Matt Gaetz decided to go all in and attempted to out left the left by condemning them for failing to bring up bills that would expand government, hurt the economy, and impede innovation. Other Republican member generally just relied on the idea that current antitrust laws were enough to handle whatever labor issues were being discussed. And the democrats – besides marveling at the Republican split – just continued on their lifelong push to expand the powers of government.
It was a show. And, while it is the Congressional version of Squid Game – golden parachute vs. slightly less-golden parachute – vs. actually being eliminated, it is just as interesting to watch. What is at stake is the future of the Republican party, the conservative movement, and the economy.
The economy is an important piece of this conversation because when laws are expanded, more regulations are added and more liability is heaped on entrepreneurs when starting a business. Meanwhile market incumbents are protected and it's less likely that new competitors will enter any given market. However, the fight over the direction of the Republican party might be even more important.
If populism wins, if a new era of big government republicans is currently being witnessed – then the economy is already in trouble. There won’t be a counter argument to the left’s expansionary agenda. It will be a Gaetz style battle between who can propose the bigger government expansion.
In politics a debate isn’t life and death. That is good – Squid Game is only good entertainment because it is fictional. However, some of the decisions that politicians make can be life and death. They can affect what businesses are created, how they hire, and how fast something grows. They can affect our everyday lives.
What I realized at the end of the hearing is that this Congressional Squid Game isn’t really the politicians at risk. It is the businesses that they are debating. The jobs that exist at these companies – both now and in the future. They are debating their actions like children arguing about the rules of the game – but it is the entrepreneurs and the workers that have truly put their lives on the line.
We need a government that supports risk, rewards innovation, and rewards job creation. We don’t need a nanny state arguing about new rules at every turn. Entrepreneurship isn’t a game.