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In the Rush to “Do Something” About Big Tech, Conservatives Should Avoid Antitrust Agendas

Big Tech has a big censorship problem. In fact, a renewed focus on evaluating Big Tech’s biases and impact on public discourse has become a major campaign issue for Republicans ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Indeed, the party’s members have increasingly voiced a frustration with the suspensions of notable conservative influencers and commentators from big tech platforms. For example, former President Trump’s suspensions from Facebook and Twitter. As dissatisfaction with biases in big tech companies has grown, some conservative voices have started calling for the use of antitrust regulation to make an impact.

Fanatical use of antitrust enforcement has traditionally been the antithesis of long time conservative priorities of limited government principles and promoting economic growth. However, a growing number of elected representatives that have typically not favored excessive government involvement and control are now loudly advocating leveraging antitrust to go after big tech companies.

ISEG Executive Director weighs in on how conservatives can avoid favoring excessive government control and deterring economic growth while still addressing concerns over big tech

On August 29, 2022, Dr. Ted Bolema, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Growth (ISEG), and Alden Abbott,  Senior Research Fellow focusing on antitrust issues at the Mercatus Center, published an article on why conservatives should be skeptical of big tech antitrust agendas.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Conservatives until recently have generally been highly skeptical of substituting the judgment of Washington regulators and bureaucrats for those of customers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Some Republicans, seeing how certain large technology corporations have favored leftist agendas and censored competing ideas, have begun joining the call from the left to increase antitrust enforcement. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joshua Hawley (R-Mo.), Representatives Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Lance Gooden (R-Texas), and other elected Republicans have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to do much of what antitrust expansionists on the left want to do.

The fundamental problem with the new antitrust legislation and plans to target technology industries is that they do not embrace dynamic competition as a primary source of innovation. Whatever one thinks about the largest technology companies, they got where they are primarily by being more creative and making better investments in R&D, not monopolistic dominance. If they fail to keep innovating, they will soon fall behind the next wave of emerging competition. If that statement sounds idealistic, think back to Myspace, Yahoo, Palm Pilot, or any number of relatively recent industry leaders. Nor is there a lack of smaller competition regarding search engines, e-commerce, smartphones, or social media.

The drive for technology innovation is powerful and relentless, but it still can be blocked or directed in less productive directions by bad government policies. Technological advances give us more efficient production and distribution of more and better goods and services. The internet-based economic sector, which hardly existed 25 years ago, now accounts for between 9 percent and 12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, depending on how it is measured. This remarkable progress has occurred in an antitrust environment that has rarely pursued enforcement actions against technology companies.

Moreover, this technological progress has played an essential role in reducing inflation, as innovation has dramatically reduced prices and increased the quality of technology products. Even with the national inflation rate soaring, prices for goods purchased online were recently up only 0.3 percent for the last 12 months. Increased antitrust intervention also threatens these deflationary benefits of technological progress.

Dr. Theodore Bolema
Executive Director

Read the whole article at the National Interest.