Google Latches on to Political Society

Apropos of my article today, we get news of Google's fancy soiree this past weekend. Unfortunately, it wasn't to announce a new service, the company's much-anticipated foray into cell phone service, or to demonstrate some other bit of newly-minted Google genius. It was, regrettably, to celebrate the opening of Google's first D.C. lobbying office.

The Cato institute's David Boaz has a standard op-ed he writes on each sad occasion that an upstart company setting the world on fire has to take the unfortunate step of protecting its interests from predation by hiring a cadre of lobbyists, consultants, and lawyers to fight in Washington—money the company could otherwise be giving to engineers and developers instead of pissing away into the parasitic Beltway economy.

You can't blame Google for protecting itself, though I'd guess it's only a matter of time before even don't-be-evil Google begins to play the rent-seeking game, too.

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  • R C Dean||

    You can't blame Google for protecting itself, though I'd guess it's only a matter of time before Google begins to play the rent-seeking game, too.

    Cost centers don't fare well in for-profit companies. As long as the lobbyists are playing defense, they're a cost center. Once they start contributing to the bottom line via rent-seeking, its bonus city, baby!

  • Episiarch||

    I think we are going to see Google turn into exactly what it proclaims not to be, or worse. If you take the data collection and searching power of Google, and then make them a company now totally in bed with Washington...

  • Russ 2000||

    It's either spending the money on defense of lawsuits or spending the money on tribute (read: bribes) to avoid getting sued.

    The road to serfdom indeed.

  • ||

    Google makes its money through intellectual property laws, which are invented out of whole cloth by the federal government. Google is coming to Washington to prevent its rivals from rewriting the intellectual property laws to favor themselves and injure Google. But there is no such thing as a "level playing field" in the Internet or anywhere else--no "natural law." The federal government doesn't distort the laws which allow Google to prosper; it defines them.

  • ||

    Cost centers don't fare well in for-profit companies. As long as the lobbyists are playing defense, they're a cost center. Once they start contributing to the bottom line via rent-seeking, its bonus city, baby!

    I don't think it cycles that slowly. Whatever Google's PR office put out, it's lobbists are going to hit the ground running on offense. 100% guaranteed. The people that hired them knew what game they were playing.

  • ||

    Wouldn't selling out disidents to the CHICOMs count as rent seeking? I can't imagine Google's behavior being any more reprehensible than it already has been. As a matter of fact, if they would stop turning people over the the Chinese, I might not object to them taking a little money out of the public till. That is certainly the lesser of the two evils.

  • ||

    At least Google isn't profiteering off of the Warfare State, which is a lot more than you can say about a lot of companies (Hi there, Boeing!)

  • PC||

    Wasn't their motto "don't be evil"? I do worry about a company, that possesses many peoples' thoughts, brokering deals with "law"makers.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Wouldn't selling out disidents to the CHICOMs count as rent seeking?

    John, to what incident or incidents are you referring? Are you thinking of Yahoo!, by any chance?

  • ||

    or to demonstrate some other bit of newly-minted Google genius

    What the hell?

    Google only "mints genius" (by buying out other companies who've made some) to stick ads on it. They're history's most bloated, conceited, and dangerous billboard company.

    And they thank you for regurgitating their marketing-speak.

  • ||

    Laursen,

    My mistake. Yahoo sent the guy to jail. Google only agreed to censor its results to please the CHICOMs. Reprehensible, but not what I accused them of.

  • Rimfax||

    Google only "mints genius" (by buying out other companies who've made some) to stick ads on it.

    I love the smell of assumed bad faith in the evening. It smells like...bullshit.

    Google has bought a number of other companies. Some of the products from those companies are even turning a profit for Google. The core business of Google is and always has been searches. That always has been their very own home-grown product.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I dunno 'bout anyone else, but I'm gonna dump Google like a hot rock if they don't stop flashing that Sorry we think you're a spammer message every third time I type in a search term.

    Just started on my new machine about two weeks ago, but I'm about sick of it.

  • Rimfax||

    Google saw what Congress did to Microsoft. You can bet that there already has been or there will soon be a similar party in Brussels. Washington defines the game. Google plays or dies, regardless of how "evil" they may or may not be.

    I do not know of any large, profitable company that has stared into the abyss of Washington for long without turning to rent-seeking. I'll wait to seal Google conviction until after they buy some special treatment.

  • Rimfax||

    TWC,

    Never seen it. I just tried several quick searches and I still don't see it.

  • ||

    Wow, nobody even said the M word. Remember how Microsoft had exactly one part time lobbyist when the DOJ initially brought its anti-trust case against the company?

  • Kolohe||

    At least Google isn't profiteering off of the Warfare State

    I have no idea what the terms were, but for the last year or two, the default search engine in govt's classified internet has been google. (It used to be altavista, and it totally sucked when it was)

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Rimfax, it has to be tied to my lousy ISP or maybe to Vista (or a combination of both). I say that because Mrs TWC also began seeing the messages after she got a new laptop around Xmas.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Sometimes clearing the cookies helps. Sometimes closing the Firefox and reopening does the trick. Sometimes it doesn't pop up other times you can't get rid of it. I do a lot of searches, maybe that's why.

  • cgee||

    At least Google isn't profiteering off of the Warfare State

    No, it is just profiting off of trademark infringement. On the bright side, this provides me with a substantial number of billable hours each month.

  • ||

    Google makes its money through intellectual property laws, which are invented out of whole cloth by the federal government. Google is coming to Washington to prevent its rivals from rewriting the intellectual property laws to favor themselves and injure Google.


    How do you figure? Google's crown jewels are various software running on their own servers, which don't need IP protection laws to keep out of anyone's hands.

    All the software that Google produces and actually releases to get installed on peoples' computers? It's free.

  • ||

    Thank god we have people like joe who are keeping money out of politics, otherwise i would be really scared.

  • Peter||

    I wouldn't be surprised if soon the infamous Fairness Doctrine is applied to the internet as well, and then much use for their lobbyists Google will have, yeeeees.

    Anyway, I think it's entirely possible that the lobbyist can be used for good as well as for evil ... well, not necessarily good per se, but as we've said defensive, rather than as obsequious corporate conduits from washington to HQ.

  • R C Dean||

    Never seen it. I just tried several quick searches and I still don't see it.

    I'm just guessing, but somebody may have been searching for "penis enlargement."

  • ||

    This gets a well deserved DEATH METAL GROOOOOWWWLLL!

  • DRichard||

    Google only agreed to censor its results to please the CHICOMs. Reprehensible, but not what I accused them of.

    Reprehensible? Why, exactly? Google operating in China is at worst a wash and at best a net gain for Chinese freedom. They have to follow the PRC's rules or the government will just kick them out/shut them off/block them/whatever; however by operating at all they are very likely giving mainland Chinese greater access to information than they would have otherwise.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I dunno. Last time this subject came up on this blog, I realized that although most or all news reports about exactly what occurred in Yahoo!'s Hong Kong office, and what they could have done differently, were sketchy, commenters filled in the details to suit their prejudices and either declaried Yahoo! guilty or innocent accordingly.

  • ed||

    intellectual property laws, which are invented out of whole cloth by the federal government

    The laws may be "invented", Alan, but the very concept of property rights cannot be so glibly shrugged off. The merits of Google's case may be debated, but the notion that one may control (and benefit from) the products of one's mind is fundamental to libertarian thought. At least it used to be. What day is this? Maybe things have changed since last Friday.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I wouldn't consider the concept of intellectual property rights to be fundamental to libertarian thought. And I'm talking not fundamental to minarchist libertarian thought, not just anarchist libertarian thought.

    Intellectual property protection requires an elaborate and far-reaching government framework; intergovernmental in today's globalized economy. Also, there is a countering interest in libertarian thought that ideas should be freely shareable. I don't think I've heard anyone, except maybe Objectivists, venture the idea that intellectual property rights shouldn't be balanced against freedom to share ideas in some way.

  • Prognosticator||

    No lies, I think that it's more likely that Google's share price hit double digits than 4 digits.

    Much more likely it hits neither though, and after a few years of not getting to 1,000, they'll give the dividends and that'll be fun.

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