Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Republican and Democratic Attacks on Big Tech Must Be Stopped

By Robert Wenzel

Republican and Democratic lawmakers both have their eyes focused on big tech, specifically Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

Trump Republicans are unhappy with the manner in which conservative social media commentators have been blackballed or shadow-banned by various social media outlets. Democrats just hate everything big, other than big government. Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren wants to split big tech up. Republicans want to regulate them to stop the censoring.

But it is always dangerous to get government involved in regulating a sector. It always creates a point of central power that can most easily be captured by the big players that are supposedly regulated.

It is foolish to think that government is going to make things a "level playing field," as some conservatives and libertarians think.

Conservatives and libertarians who advocate the regulation of big tech under the claim of "public square" policy are very weak conservatives and libertarians. They do not understand what F.A. Hayek taught in Chapter 10 of The Road to Serfdom, that in government affairs the worst get on top.

Government regulation will stifle creativity and new options and add the heavy hand of government to the scale. It would be absolutely more dangerous and result in much greater limitations, that is how government works.

As Ludwig von Mises put it about socialism (that is, central planning) and the intellectual life:
The nationalization of intellectual life, which must be
attempted under Socialism, must make all intellectual progress
impossible...No censor, no emperor, no pope, has ever possessed the power to suppress intellectual freedom which would be possessed by a socialist community. 
I am not happy with the censorship that goes on by the social media giants (I have proof positive that I have been shadow banned by some of them) but I don't want a giant censor overruling all.

With the censorship that goes on now, I have to be clever and find workarounds. This would unquestionably be much more difficult with a giant government censor. And I have to keep in mind that views not part of the mainstream are always censored. That is the nature of the world. Socrates was forced to drink hemlock and Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross---both killings by the order of governments I might add. So I am not looking for help from government. I know in the end it will be worse.

Government should stay out of trying to regulate big tech. It is a very bad, totalitarian idea. No friend of liberty should ever advocate it.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank and most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.


  1. Except government hasn't stayed out of "big tech" or "big tech" hasn't stayed out of government as the case may be.

    It is difficult to defend a company on free market principles when that company seeks favors from the state and partnership with it. If these companies told fed gov to go pound sand when something was requested of them or didn't seek political favor for building facilities or any of the other things they've done then defending them would be easy. These companies have decided to play politics for their own benefit, then took action to favor those that helped them. Now this is the result. It's the game they decided to play.

    It's bad that government grows into the sector, but the big players in the sector invited it. The only viable defense at this point IMO is keeping the sector(s) open for new companies. But it's not really open without eliminating the government favor for the existing companies.

    1. It is a very valid point Jimmy even though many would say that social has changed the face of media consumption at the same time that MSM has become a demonstrable tool of govt propaganda like never before.

      With the shrill demands of The Swamp making censorship the new norm, just as the Assange fiasco demonstrates the consequences of straying from the party line, you dont want .gov anywhere near a public platform. Is their current censorship (as RW indicates personally in the affirmative,) is it going to be worse than regulation?

      Absolutely not! The liberal nut job platform owners are a known and lesser evil. What will their efforts do to the Internet at large? Offer an opportunity for others to fill the void of impartiality.

      Thats better any day!

  2. Because of the network effect, these companies get to create negative externalities. We don't want these negative effects, therefore force against them is retaliatory not initiatory. Regulate them now.

    1. That's a very collectivist sentiment.

    2. But it is consistent with libertarian code.

    3. I'm not aware of any "libertarian code" that would be consistent with (a) claiming that someone should act on behalf of everyone without getting each person's explicit consent or (b) viewing a vague phrase like "negative externalities" as the initiation of force.

    4. I've corresponded with Walter Block on this and he agrees that negative externalities are initiatory force.

    5. What are the specific property violations? By whom, and against whom?

      Libertarianism only recognizes a wrong where one person violates the legitimate private property of another person, and only the victim has the right to take retaliatory action, and only against the aggressor (the victim may appoint specific agents to act on his behalf).

      Even if you were able to point to specific violations of legitimate private property, which you haven't yet, the state never has the right to take retaliatory action because it is never the victim, and nor can it act as a legitimate agent, because it is a wholly illegitimate entity.

    6. NAPster: the Big Tech is fundamentally reliant on violating private property rights, and this is true no matter which side of IP debate you're on:

      If you believe IP is a property, then Big Tech appropriates private data without explicit informed consent of owners of this data.

      If you believe IP is not property, then Big Tech is guilty of preventing others from developing competitive business by means of copyrights and patents.

      Big Tech is also a big beneficiary of money printing. These companies are fundamentally reliant on it.

      And given that Big Tech is deeply in bed with Big Government, especially the most obnoxious and murderous parts of it (aka "intelligence community"), I see no valid reason for a libertarian to be in favor of protecting Big Tech from Big Government. The more infighting between "public" and "private" parts of the gang, the less energy and time they have to oppress the rest of us.

    7. averros, as a libertarian, I'm not interested in advocating for the state to do anything to (pretend to) right wrongs that it created or perpetuates, other than to shut down and/or stop acting. From a philosophical perspective, I don't want to grant the state any legitimacy; from an economic perspective, the state consumes significant amounts of confiscated taxpayer income to enforce its petty rules; and from a practical perspective, (a) the state is not your friend, and is not going to help you, and (b) asking for a more active state will only destroy liberty, not enhance it.

    8. Glen Greenwald discusse with Tucker Carlton how these companies are granted special legal protections.

  3. Because of network effects, these companies create positive (not negative) externalities...which is one of the reasons why they keep growing ahead of smaller rivals. And as to the issue of political advantages for Amazon or Google, please identify these advantages so we can decide whether they are unfair or illegal. Finally while market performance is never perfect, government re-structuring or regulation is inherently political and invariably worse from an economic perspective.

    1. Take a look at how governments bend over backwards wrt the construction of say amazon facilities. Do you think you or I could get those kind of deals? No. We would face an expensive uphill battle just for the government to allow us to do what we wanted. Tax breaks and government paid for infrastructure and subsidy would be out of the question. We would not even get a meeting with the political office holders.

  4. Anyone who has been part of management of a business knows that part of what the business does to operate is deal with government. These big tech companies that are so prevalent in how our current civilization functions need to deal with the government in additional aspects. To some extent that they have achieved the position in the market that they have is a testament as to how well they have played the game with the powers that be.

    I’m not giving them a hall pass, but understand that they have fiduciary responsibilities to their organizations to make them as successful as possible. In today’s world that requires cronyism.