Has Big Tech turned into a threat to democracy? Yes, argues Senator Josh Hawley, and in more ways than one. In an exclusive* interview for Hot Air, the author of the new book The Tyranny of Big Tech explains how their monopolistic control of speech and marketplaces subjugate the rest of us.
The book came out this week from Regnery (owned by the parent company that also owns Hot Air) after getting canceled by Simon & Schuster after the January 6th riot at the Capitol. The book doesn’t have anything to do with the election or its aftermath, and Hawley argues that the cancellation demonstrates the impact of monopolies or near-monopolies on free speech and the exchange of ideas in the marketplace. Consolidation and the rise of massive corporations in all industries are creating a political crisis, Hawley argues, but it is especially acute in Big Tech due to its infrastructural nature.
It’s a fascinating conversation, and Hawley’s book reminds us that the founders didn’t just mistrust concentrations of political power. To put a more modern term on their thinking at the time, the founders desired a more distributist economy, as later imagined by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. (Quick note: I mistook Belloc for Honoré de Balzac during the interview in a momentary brain fade.) Hawley points out that the original states mainly forbade the forming of private corporations for fear of having combined capital overwhelm the balance of widespread ownership of trades and agriculture. This was meant to prevent the rise of an elite, thus making Americans equal on more than just a political basis.
This, of course, was hardly perfect — especially in slave-owning states with plantation systems, which were feudal by their very nature. The rise of Manifest Destiny also made such a system cumbersome, for reasons that Hawley points out in the rise of the first monopolies: railroads. Having dozens or hundreds of private railroads created confusion and incompatible systems, whereas consolidation allowed for standards and efficient transportation and expansion. Unfortunately, it led to dangerous consolidations of economic and political power.
That has parallels to the Internet age, too, where compatibility and efficiency convinced lawmakers that consolidations made sense. Just as we found out over a century ago, however, infrastructural consolidation has enormous consequences. Hawley argues that Congress needs to act to restore small-R republicanism, as Theodore Roosevelt attempted at the beginning of the last century.
Be sure to watch all of the way through. Whether or not one believes an anti-trust intervention is needed, it’s still an excellent topic for debate, and The Tyranny of Big Tech is an excellent launching point.
Note: I use the term “exclusive” in the mainstream media sense, which is defined as “no one else was on the call with us at the same time.”
Update: I meant to write “mistrust” rather than “trust” in the paragraph following the video. I’ve corrected it now.