Don’t trust the government to make Big Tech behave

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

The social-media wars are heating up. Congress has grilled Google’s CEO, and the British Parliament wants to hear from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Across the political spectrum, there are calls for the government to do something about Big Tech’s seemingly unaccountable power. Since we live our lives increasingly on social media, it’s understandable.

But it’s a highly suspect idea.

Let’s start with the left’s version of this argument. Critics like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich point out that Big Tech is too big, that Silicon Valley’s vast wealth gives it too much political clout. It’s a complaint that recalls the trust-busters of a hundred years ago.

Yet the threat of government intervention is going to give us more, not less, money in politics. Microsoft went into lobbying overdrive following a 1999 breakup order, and it’s vigilance against government intervention that impels Google to spend $17 million a year on lobbying.

And what would government do exactly — break up the mega-firms? Imagine breaking up Facebook and sending half your Facebook friends into one company and the other half into a second. A to L here, M to Z there. Let them compete, but a year or two later, only one company would be left. We’d all migrate to one of the companies to get our friends back together.

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