I’m not sure if this is a reaction to the fact that he’s fallen to fourth place in a number of recent polls or just a reflection of his previous positions, but Bernie Sanders is going all in on stronger anti-trust policies. He told the Washington Post this week that if he’s elected president he would absolutely look to break up the tech giants. That’s going to go over well with his more socialist followers who are basically against capitalism in general, but the rest of the country may still be a bit more skeptical. (Politico)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today said that if elected president he would “absolutely” look to break up online giants Facebook, Google and Amazon, offering his strongest pledge to date to pursue antitrust enforcement against the tech industry.
Asked at a Washington Post event if his administration would try to split apart those three tech titans, Sanders said, “Absolutely.” He singled out Facebook in particular as having “incredible power over the economy, over the political life of this country in a very dangerous sense.”
His comments followed an assertion that Amazon is “moving very rapidly to be a monopoly.”
Sanders didn’t stop there, however. He also suggested a laundry list of other sectors in need of Big Brother’s ruler across the knuckles. He included Big Pharma, Wall Street and basically any corporations that appear to be “too large.”
I’m sure somebody on Sanders’ team has informed him that this remains a fringe position in the general population. We have some very recent polling showing that solid majorities say it is unnecessary to break up large companies just for being “too big.” The support for such anti-trust action is generally in the low thirties and is found primarily in Democrats and self-described liberals under the age of 40.
This is a touchy subject for a lot of people, and understandably so. It’s easy to be upset at any of the tech giants at any given time. Between either selling off our data or failing to prevent hacking, censoring (primarily conservative) opinions and all the rest, there’s plenty to complain about. But at the same time, particularly for small-government conservatives, trust-busting action is thin ice to tread upon.
I don’t advocate abandoning all anti-trust laws. There have been cases where companies have used total dominance of physical infrastructure and the resultant huge monetary advantage they gained to stomp out all competition. This results in the stifling of innovation and higher costs. (Think of Ma Bell back in the bad old days.) But the internet is still largely a free-range battleground. The advantages that Facebook and Twitter have (just for two examples) don’t come from ownership of the data pipelines into everyone’s homes. They were in the right place at the right time and delivered something most everyone both wanted and shared. Should they be punished for that?
My heart wants to say yes, but the capitalist in me insists I say no. There are alternatives to all these services, most of which can be had for free with the click of a button. If they tick off enough users for whatever reason, people will vote with their feet. Handing that unfettered power to the federal government to use at their discretion would likely “solve” one problem while introducing a much larger one to replace it.