What can we do about a tech sector that appears to be dominating competitors while becoming increasingly hostile to conservative ideas?
It’s a difficult question to answer, but there are some obvious mistakes. Trusting government and expanding bureaucracy is one of them, especially as the Biden administration becomes more aggressive and partisan, removing Republican appointees from ostensibly neutral advisory boards. Unfortunately, leading Senate Republicans are siding with Democrats in support of antitrust regulations that would empower the government at the expense of the private sector.
The bills these Republican senators are reportedly considering are companions to House bills sponsored by Democrats that narrowly passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this summer, and are motivated by righteous, justified indignation about anti-conservative bias. In practice, however, these bills will not prevent the censorship of conservative online speech and will only broaden the government’s reach.
As my colleague Patrice Onwuka points out, many conservatives instinctively support antitrust regulation of Big Tech because they are dissatisfied with the unequal treatment of content.
In many cases, we are not discussing violent, extremist, threatening, or dangerous speech, but rather rational, opposing viewpoints on a specific topic. Taking down the president of the United States from various platforms while allowing terrorist spokespeople and despotic heads of state to spew violent, anti-American rhetoric is just one example that many on the Right find frustrating.
Despite this, none of the antitrust legislation introduced in Congress comes close to addressing censorship. They may actually result in increased censorship or additional barriers to presenting diverse viewpoints to large audiences.
The Antitrust Education Project’s president, Robert H. Bork Jr., provides an excellent overview of Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposal, which “would outlaw all mergers and acquisitions for any company with a market cap of more than $100 billion.” Bork continues, “That’s a Who’s Who of American capitalism, nearly 80 companies in total.” So conservatives should support ossifying Procter & Gamble, Exxon-Mobil, Boeing, CISCO, AT&T, Eli Lilly, and Texas Instruments because we’re upset that Facebook and Twitter won’t let Donald Trump post anymore?”
Hawley is also joining Democrats in demanding that the threshold standard for prosecution under current federal antitrust laws, proving “consumer harm,” be reduced to a weaker standard that “protects competition.”
Bork writes, “This would turn antitrust law into a blunderbuss aimed at failing competitors against companies that do a better job of serving consumers.” This watered-down standard for proving consumer harm will ultimately harm consumers by providing fewer products at higher prices.
These pending bills could make it illegal for Amazon, for example, to sell its Amazon generic 200-pack ibuprofen, which costs roughly 137 percent less than the same 200-pack of Advil tablets Amazon also sells. Higher prices hurt all shoppers, but women should be especially aware of how this affects them because they buy the majority of everything from milk and bread to dishwashers and couches.
Companies that lose federal antitrust lawsuits should “forfeit all profits resulting from monopolistic conduct,” according to Hawley. This could spell the end of corporations, discouraging investment, expansion, and innovation.
Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly working closely with Senator Amy Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, who has stated that action against technology companies is high on her priority list. “Grassley has supported some antitrust changes aimed at pharmaceuticals and agriculture, and notably sponsored legislation (S. 228 (117)) with Klobuchar to increase merger filing fees to provide additional funding for the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission,” according to Politico. That bill was passed by the Senate in June as part of a science and trade legislative package (S. 1260 (117)).”
Unlike his Senate colleagues, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan sees these bills as a “woke” attack on the private sector. Some House members from Silicon Valley’s home state of California, of both parties, have understandably echoed Jordan’s warning.
Instead of stifling innovation, conservatives should build their own competitors to bring wealth to conservative entrepreneurs — people like Jason Miller, who launched the Twitter-like platform Gettr; and Larry Sanger, a Wikipedia co-founder who is launching a free-speech-friendly competitor.
It will take time and effort to create a fair and tolerant technological environment, but the solution lies in markets and competition— not in bigger government and a more powerful bureaucracy.