Politics

The Conservative Case for Breaking Up Big Tech

AMAC Exclusive by Daniel Roman

conservative

Former President Donald Trump appeared before a large crowd of conservatives at CPAC in Texas on Sunday—but don’t bother trying to find the video of his speech on YouTube. It’s not there.

Google censored the former president, which is perhaps unsurprising, since he spent much of his one-and-a-half-hour address laying into the Big Tech giants and calling for them to be broken up. This underscored a real tension within the conservative movement about how to challenge the increasing power and influence of Big Tech without abandoning their historic support for capitalism, free, enterprise, and business.

Many Republicans have spoken out against getting “tough” on Big Tech on exactly these grounds: they’re private companies, the conservatives say—so there’s nothing a principled Republican can do.

Yet if Republicans look to history, they will find that the anti-trust advocates of the past often started with a very “conservative” mindset. They saw trust-busting not as a threat to the capitalist system or to free enterprise, but as vital to its preservation. Today, conservatives do not need to embrace big government in order to fight big business. Rather, they need to be willing to prevent certain corporations from exploiting the massive power of big government to their own private advantage.

An Alternative Vision of Anti-Trust

On June 27th, the DC District Court tossed a lawsuit by the FTC and several states asking to break up Facebook’s “social media monopoly.” Yet it would be a mistake for conservative critics of the power of big tech companies to weep for the demise of this half-hearted Democratic effort.

At the same time the antitrust case was making its way though the courts, without the support of any senior Biden Administration officials, the Administration was investing its efforts in ensuring that talks regarding a minimum global wealth tax excluded the world’s wealthiest corporations. The agreement on establishing a global minimum tax rate of 15%, supposedly intended to ensure that major multinationals cannot use tax havens to avoid paying taxes anywhere, only allows for the taxation of local operations of multinational tech firms, not the firms themselves. Inserted at the insistence of the Biden Administration, this means in effect that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other giant tech firms will not in fact be taxed as corporations anywhere. On the contrary, because their local operations will be taxed at local rates but not any profits, any effort to force them to pay taxes in a particular jurisdiction will incentivize them to do exactly what conservatives have always warned businesses will do when faced with higher rates—pass the costs on to local consumers.

That Big Tech received this sweetheart deal from the Democratic Biden Administration is not evidence that charges the Biden Administration is anti-business are overblown. On the contrary, the Biden Administration appears more committed to raising taxes than any Administration in fifty years, whether through the Infrastructure bill working its way through Congress, or international treaties. Instead, the administration’s defense of Big Tech it is evidence of something the original drafters of anti-trust laws recognized. When certain corporations become large, their interests shift from defending the businesses community against government, to using the government against other businesses. Once corporations are big enough to control government, regulations and government taxes no longer threaten them. They can always ensure they are excluded from any of the consequences, as Silicon Valley did with the recent global wealth tax. They no longer have an interest in opposing government regulation or taxes. In fact, these mega corps in some cases have the opposite interest. They find regulations and taxes desirable. While the heavy-hand of government will not seriously hurt them, it can be used to crush their competitors.

This occurs not merely in the form of economic regulations and taxes, but other policies as well. Take COVID-19 as an example. While lockdowns were a catastrophe for small businesses across America, airlines, and retail outlets, they were a bonanza for Google, Zoom, and most of all, Amazon. Lockdowns, by putting Amazon’s competitors out of business, effectively handed a government-enforced monopoly to Jeff Bezos over a large segment of the economy. When wondering why Bezos’s Washington Post championed lockdowns, the answer is self-evident. It was extraordinarily profitable for him to do so.

Conservatives need to understand this dynamic. For decades, a principled commitment to capitalism has sometimes drifted into an unconditional deference to concentrations of power, provided that power was located in the private sector. It was, and remains, inconceivable to many conservatives why corporate leaders would back the Democratic party, much less champion causes such as lockdowns, environmental regulation, critical race theory, or media rules which seem designed to hurt the private sector. They have forgotten that while the Left does hate corporations because they are wealthy, it was conservatives who once backed anti-trust laws because corporations had became too powerful.

The power of companies like Standard Oil did not come from the fact that they were rich. Rather it came from the way Standard Oil and its peers dominated particular parts of the country to such an extent that government was effectively a subsidiary and it could use its control of elected officials, courts, and the police to crush competition and reinforce its own power. Breaking up Standard Oil was not, as leftist historians argue, designed to allow for cheaper prices for consumers or better treatment of labor. To the extent those occurred, they were fortuitous side effects. Breaking up Standard Oil created multiple companies that by competing with each other, checked the ability of any single firm to weaponize government against the others.

The behavior of Silicon Valley firms before and after the 2020 election should make clear why such regulation is necessary. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have the ability to control what Americans see and do not see. They can cancel anyone they chose, effectively erasing them from political existence. Democrats complain about Social Media companies’ wealth—yet when they complain about Big Tech’s power, notice that they do not bemoan its scale, but rather that it is not used more aggressively against those they disagree with. The clear message is that if Social Media companies want to continue to be treated as special “partners” of a Democratic Washington, they need to use their power to advance the Democratic party’s priorities. Nowhere is this more evident than in the social media utterances of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who focuses her ire on the unwillingness of firms to ban those who “harass”, i.e. respond critically to her, online.

Senators like Josh Hawley recognize this. It is not a coincidence that Hawley found it hard to get his book, now a bestseller, published.

Republicans need to embrace the original purpose of anti-trust law. This does not mean taxing industries into oblivion. The US government did not nationalize Standard Oil. It did not need to, nor did it want to. Its objection was not to the wealth being in the hands of a private company, but the power being in the hands of a single company and person who could abuse it. In the same way, Republicans should make clear that they do not fear the wealth or prosperity of Silicon Valley. They welcome it. But the power wielded by Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon is too much for a small handful of people to wield in a democracy. Ever since Adam and Eve, humans have been fighting the temptation to God-like power, and the temptation to abuse it was too much for the best men and women. Republicans and conservatives need to make clear that government will not tolerate the interference of unelected individuals who use their market power to thwart democracy, not because they distrust businesses, but because they value them and want to protect them from those who wish to use government to destroy free enterprise. Not all would-be socialists are poor.

Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Master’s degree in Iranian Studies.

 

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Wanda
2 months ago

The government proclaimed Bell Telephone in antitrust and being a monopoly…I thought it was against the law to be a monopoly in America….that was before our corrupt government sold us out….I do know that Bell Telephone was dismantled in the 70’s because it was a monopoly and its technology was shared for competition….this is why you have hundreds of phone companies….the same should be done to Face Book and Twitter and Google….dismantle them and share their technology because it the public hand other places to go, all three of these would bite the dust. Don’t count on your government to help you….especially the communists in charge now.

Karen
2 months ago

Love to see everyone shut off TVs and Radios, Newspapers, etc. for one day along with not using the social media. Fast way for them to go out of business.

Hocaspocas
2 months ago

The best solution to this problem would be to shut down all social media

Patriot Will
2 months ago

We, the American people, deserve a media which encourages open information and open debate. Our future as a freedom loving country depends on our citizens and leaders. If we are to remain free, we, the American people, need a robust communication and exchange of ideas and talking points.

Patriot Will
2 months ago

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are destroying our ability to analyze information and ideas. They pose a direct threat to our Constitution and way of life. The time is now to break down the Technocrats stranglehold on what we, the American people, can see and do. The Technocrats live in an alternative universe. They think they have the right to control Americans like pawns in a chess game. They are tragically mistake and must be brought back to reality. Too much power in too few hands is a classic recipe for disaster. The American people deserve better. Our future depends on open information and open debate. Otherwise, we, the American people, are lulled into a false sense of security.

DenvilleSr
2 months ago

In China, Russia, Venezuela and other authoritarian nations, the government decides who can speak and what they are allowed to say. Step out of line and you are in jail or out of a job or perhaps you just disappear. In the United States, the Dems have big tech to do it for them. So these rich corporate heads buy their office holders not only with campaign donations, but by controlling access to the media platforms they own. It’s a nice system. Dems can do what Putin does without getting their own political hands dirty. If left unchecked, Dems will learn that those with the most clout in the Democrat Party will also be able to silence other members of that party who don’t sing the same song. But by then the Great American Experiment will be over. I’m almost glad I’m not a youngster any more.

VIETNAM VET 67-68
2 months ago

WE KNOW THAT THERE IS ONLY 100-150 SUPER RICH WHO ARE STAGING THIS TAKE OVER OF THE WORLD AND THERE ARE 6 1/2 BILLION OF US, WHEN DO THE MASSES REVOLT AND TAKE BACK OUR WAY OF LIFE AND EXECUTE THEM INSTEAD OF THE OTHER WAY AROUND !!! WHY DO YOU THINK THEY WANT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD VACCINATED WITH AN UNAPPROVED DRUG THAT IS SLOWLY CHANGING YOUR DNA AND ALREADY PEOPLE ARE GETTING SICK FROM OTHER DISEASES CAUSED BY THE UNTESTED SO CALLED VACCINE ??? BILL GATES WANTS 6 BILLION PEOPLE EXTERMINATED WHAT BETTER WAY TO START A PANDEMIC AND VACCINATE EVERYONE WITH A SERRUM AND ALL OF US THE GUINEA PIGS !! VIETNAM VET 67-68 THIS IS JUST MY OPINION !!

Rhonda Holub
2 months ago

The conservative’s don’t need a case argument for this, even the village idiots know what this administration is about. The Federal government has reached it’s useful life with the current village idiots running the show. Pop the popcorn, this is going to get very good; talk about reality television!

Stephen Russell
2 months ago

Big Tech Bust up cases for:

Std Oil, 1900s era
Censorship unlimited
No accountability
Police State
They choose the message
Deny other ideas.
TOO Big.
Beholden to China

PaulE
2 months ago

I see the AMAC censor is up bright and early this morning. So tell me AMAC, what is wrong with what I just posted? No offensive language. Nothing at all other than stating simple facts.

Patriot Will
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Yes, Paul, you are correct. I am being twice censored, today. I said nothing vulgar or violent. However, my ability to communicate freely is being curtailed. Why is this happening in a supposed open and honest forum?

ShellzNCheez
2 months ago
Reply to  Patriot Will

I see both of your posts, plus these comments.

Patriot Will
2 months ago
Reply to  ShellzNCheez

ShellzNCheez, it took over 2 hours for one of my monitored posts to be approved. If my comment is not vulgar or violent, why should someone have to “approve” my writing before it gets released on the site?

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  ShellzNCheez

It took over 4 hours for my original post to be approved by the site censor.

Hocaspocas
2 months ago
Reply to  Patriot Will

Because everything on here is going through google

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  Hocaspocas

Except the censor works for AMAC not Google.

PaulE
2 months ago

It is good that President Trump has decided to take on the social media giants in court, as it doesn’t seem the establishment Republican party doesn’t seem willing to do much beyond soliciting for campaign donations on the issue or hold meaningless dog and pony show congressional hearings to generate photo ops. Once again highlighting the difference between a “doer” and a bunch of “talkers”.

Ultimately, as the lawsuit goes through our court system, it will end up before the Supreme Court at some point. So once again, while a couple of Supreme Court Judges have voiced concern that the issue warrants a closer look, it will come down to whether Chief Justice Roberts will agree to hear the case at all or whether, if he does agree to hear the case, he will rule on the merits or once again side with the liberal Judges to preserve his social status on the D.C. cocktail party circuit. Time will tell.

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