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Conservatives Need to Admit Remedy to Big Tech Abuses Is Bigger Government

Presidential candidate Kristi Noem blurb-bashes Big Tech to please her base. But is she willing to bash her conservative principles and support the bipartisan legislation proposed by members of Congress to check the power of corporate Internet giants with robust government intervention in their insufficiently regulated marketplace?

Republicans like Noem complain a lot about alleged censorship of their conservative views online. But most of those complaints are legislative and litigative dead ends, since the government can’t compel any private business to provide a platform for anybody’s messages, especially not messages threatening the integrity of democratic government.

Noem’s “conservative convictions” somehow don’t prevent her from advocating government overreach on First Amendment issues, so one would think her “conservative convictions” wouldn’t hinder her from advocating more reasonable, precedented, and proper government action against anti-competitive business practices. That’s the focus of the four bills introduced yesterday in Congress and a fifth already through the Senate:

One measure bans platforms from owning subsidiaries that operate on their platform if those subsidiaries compete with other businesses – potentially forcing the Big Tech firms to sell assets.

…A second measure would make it illegal in most cases for a platform to give preference to its own products on its platform with a hefty fine of 30% of the U.S. revenue of the affected business if they violate the measure.

The third bill would require a platform to refrain from any merger unless it can show the acquired company does not compete with any product or service the platform is in.

A fourth would require platforms to allow users to transfer their data elsewhere if they desire, including to a competing business.

In addition to those four, a fifth bill would raise what the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission charge to assess the biggest companies to ensure their mergers are legal and increase the budgets of the agencies. A companion to this has already passed the Senate [Diane Bartz, “Breaking up Big Tech in Focus as New U.S. Antitrust Bills Introduced,” Reuters, 2021.06.11].

Arguably, anti-trust legislation is rooted in conservative principles: the best economic results accrue from the free market, from the aggregation of billions of free choices between competing sellers and buyers. The government should not interfere in those choices, but neither should companies that grow so rich and powerful that they can stifle free choices by quashing competition. Taking an absolute position against government action opens the door for corporations to abuse their wealth and power and hinder the free market we thought we were saving.

In the United States, this has been compounded by efforts dating back to the Reagan years to weaken antitrust legislation, creating the laissez faire environment that the big tech companies have been able to exploit particularly well [Enrique Dans, “Congress Rolls Out Some Tough Regulatory Proposals for Big Tech,” Forbes, 2021.06.12].

To prevent the rich and powerful from rigging the free market, government can’t sit on the sidelines. We have to temper our conservative principles and advocate government’s entrance into the marketplace to level the playing field. Since that entrance is required only when one player becomes too big, the intervening government must necessarily be bigger, a Leviathan referee who can tell even the biggest player to cool it or, if the big galoot won’t heel, chew up that Goliath and spit out little Davids who can play nicely and fairly with others.

The bills also ask Congress to boost the enforcement powers of antitrust regulators, such as the Federal Trade Commission.

“They [Big Tech companies] are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers and put folks out of work,” the House Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee chairman David Cicilline said, introducing the measures on Friday.

The goal, he said, is to “level the playing field” and ensure that powerful tech companies follow the same rules as other businesses [“US Lawmakers Unveil 5 Bills Targeting Big Tech,” Deutsche Welle, 2021.06.12].

The free market is a game with rules. Rules require enforcement and enforcers.

There’s the challenge for Noem and other conservatives who profess to oppose Big Tech. To take effective action against the excesses of corporate Internet giants, they must acknowledge and execute the proper role of necessarily big government in regulating business for the good of the community. Such pragmatism is too complicated and conciliatory for a red-meat campaign letter, but it’s how we make a free market economy really work.

One of Joe Biden’s campaign pledges was to regulate big tech, and the president has incorporated into academics and activists in favor of it into his team; but the idea has also found support among Republicans, part of a global regulatory trend that includes not only to the European Union, which has led the way in recent years, but also China. If we combine this trend with the recent G7 agreement that will try to put a stop to the aggressive tax optimization processes that these companies, as well as many other multinationals in other industries, have benefited from, the outlook for these new empires could be distinctly bumpy.

And frankly, it’s quite possible that this is going to be a very good thing, both for users and for competition and innovation [Dans, 2021.06.12].

Related Reading: Vox discusses all five bills in detail here. Sponsors are lumping the bills together in a package given the nicely conservative title, “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, and Choice.”

19 Comments

  1. grudznick 2021-06-12

    grudznick is on the fence with Mr. H on this blogging. We need ness government intrusion into private big business, but then again government is a big business itsownself.

  2. O 2021-06-12

    grudznick, does that axiomatic thinking then lead to the conclusion that bug business is bad (just as big government it bad)?

    Being a billionaire is a moral failing. When discussing “big tech” it does seem to more often than not reduce to a discussion about the men who jun those juggernauts.

  3. Jake 2021-06-12

    ahh-grudz being the lobbyist he is-loves this play on words ‘big’ this, ‘big; that.

    As goes the GOP mantra “Obfuscation, chaos” reign!

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-06-12

    Any comment would have to acknowledge that trumpism isn’t allied with any principle other than the whims of trump. Conservatives, who knows which nunnery or friary they have gotten too.

  5. Porter Lansing 2021-06-12

    Too bad more haven’t see the film “THE SOCIAL DILEMMA”.

    The vast majority of tech people won’t let their kids anywhere near the internet.

    That’s because Google, Facebook, Twitter, What’sApp, Instagram etc are Machiavellian manipulators of their users, with their only intent being keeping you logged on to their platform for as long as possible.
    No morals.
    No ethics.
    No responsibility to truth in any regard.
    Beholding to no one but stockholders.

    They can’t be regulated enough.

  6. Guy 2021-06-12

    Kristi is all talk. She doesn’t mean anything she says. She’s been playing this game ever since she came on the scene in 2010 and just enough people keep buying into her drama over and over and over again. They keep falling for the: I’m a freedom-loving cowgirl bit.

  7. Richard Schriever 2021-06-12

    GRUDZ “government is a big business its ownself.” Hey there grudz – you do understand that yours here is the Fascist perspective – right? Any business – no matter its size, can be bought out by another or a consortium of other businesses. GOVERNMENT is not – or should not be a “business’. it must be bigger – have more authority and address broader societal issues to all private enterprise COMBINED to be a properly functioning GOVERNMENT.

  8. Francis Schaffer 2021-06-12

    What did she have to say about big-tech, Apple and Microsoft complying with DOJ subpoenas to gather information on members of congress? I realize this is absolutely an acceptable thing to do if it is properly predicated(Bill Barr). It will be interesting to see who issued the subpoenas, the facts used to request it and the judge who signed it. I guess this is an example of how my information isn’t private.

  9. mike from iowa 2021-06-12

    Frank Luntz would like to disagree and insists magats stop calling capitalism, capitalism and rename it economic freeddumb, because big businesses need protection from taxes.

    https://www.rawstory.com/frank-luntz-tax/

    Public education needs to be reprogrammed to promote pro capitalist idiocy…er ideology.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-12

    Well…the Governor is blaming the messenger because the Liberals won the “message war” in 2020. Government regulation of free speech and the press, and I assume the internet providers fall within both categories, is tricky business. Trump exploited this liberty to the absolute edge of the envelope (I’d say he slopped over the edge into sedition and treason). But…the same was said of Eugene Debs and he spent 3 years in prison for inflammatory campaign language.We should be reluctant with regulation and very careful with our use of these liberties. As citizens we all must have our BS detectors fully engaged.

  11. Guy 2021-06-12

    Whoever decides to take Kristi on in 2022 needs to do as George McGovern did: get in their car and drive to every county in the state and meet with the voters a few times while Kristi is busy jetting off to every other state collecting her big campaign cash. Frankly, I believe we need a true “Independent,” candidate this time around. People are sick of both political parties playing their same back and forth games that solve nothing while both political parties scare and sucker people into giving more money and power. That game does not phase me anymore because I see right threw it

  12. Mark Anderson 2021-06-12

    Well Guy, I believe that most people stick to their bubble. I used to comment on foxie all the time and since they are pretty much a jerk off village to themselves I can’t anymore. I commented on war something or other from So Dak, same thing. It might take a new McGovern to find some way to get through the density but I’m not sure how. All you have to do is look at all the right wing push on critical race theory which they use to attack almost any discussion of race or gender. Those poor white kids need to be protected from facts that might make them feel bad. Kristi is the same, never a discussion of anything real just a push of bs all the time. A debate with her would be interesting but pointless. In the words of Ringo(Buck really) all you have to do is act naturally.

  13. Porter Lansing 2021-06-12

    Lets talk about CRITICAL GENDER THEORY, instead.

    It’ll castrate this GOP move to hide racism.

    Try and tell a woman that it’s stupid and un-American to teach that women are discriminated against in every facet of their lives.

    You’ll never get laid again, MAGA’s. And, that’s a very good thing.

  14. John Dale 2021-06-12

    If we had a free market without government intervention (google National Security Letter) and inexpensive capital, we could easily solve this problem.

    The problem is mass surveillance. That’s the constipation in this problem, not that government is too small.

    Sincerely,

    John Dale, MS MIS

  15. O 2021-06-12

    Guy, I so badly want to agree with your be-a-new-McGovern concept, but I don’t at all get the feeling in SD that people are tired of THEIR tribe; it’s the other guys that are too political or partisan or unreasonable.

  16. Guy 2021-06-12

    Mark and O, that’s why it was so disheartening to see Kristi barely beat Stephanie in 2010. In my opinion, Herseth was the closest we had to an Independent representative and at the time, I truly believed Stephanie would be the one to become Governor. Stephanie actually represented the interests of her constituents. Herseth actually put the interests of all South Dakotans ahead of her own political party and she truly was one of a kind.

  17. John Dale 2021-06-13

    Porter:

    “The vast majority of tech people won’t let their kids anywhere near the internet.”

    Everything in your post is veritas.

    Good job.

    Couldn’t have said it better.

    John

  18. Porter Lansing 2021-06-13

    Mr. Dale and Mr. Lansing agree on some things.

    We both have deleted GOOGLE and use Duck Duck Go as our primary search engine.

    I switched about six months ago and the quantity of junk/spam emails and solicitations has declined by at least 75%.

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