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Free Minds & Free Markets

Are You Ready for the 'Inevitable' Clampdown on Tech and the Media?

When Apple's CEO Tim Cook says "the free market is not working," bad things are coming.

Georgetown Book ShopGeorgetown Book ShopOne of the most remarkable statements ever made by the CEO of a major corporation generated relatively little notice or pushback. But just a couple of weeks ago, there was Tim Cook, the head of Apple, spitting in the eye of the very economy that made his company the highest valued corporation on the planet.

"I am not a big fan of regulation," Cook told Axios in an interview. "I'm a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn't worked here. I think it's inevitable that there will be some level of regulation... I think the Congress and the administration at some point will pass something."

Holy hell! Regulation of the tech industry and the larger economy (both of which are already pretty heavily regulated, if we're being honest) is inevitable? The free market isn't working? Well, maybe not quite as well as it used to for Apple, which been a little droopy over the past several years in terms of killer new devices and mega-hits. Right around the time Cook was prophesying, Microsoft and Amazon both could lay at least temporary claims to be more valuable. Maybe in that sense the free market isn't working so great anymore...for Apple. But come on already. Factor in the housing bust from a decade ago, the Great Recession, mall closings, the opioid epidemic, and whatever else you want to, and any semi-serious analysis is going to conclude that over the last few decades, "The living standards of Americans have vastly improved during the past 50 years, with the quality of available consumer products steadily rising even as their prices have steeply fallen."

And it's not just Americans, of course. Just a week before it ran its dour interview with Tim Cook, Axios reportedly cheerily that "half the world is now middle class." The world is becoming more equal, not less. So two cheers for capitalism (for more on how income mobility and broad-based economic gains are the rule and not the exception in America too, go here for starters).

But the facts on the ground—however disputed they might be—are irrelevant when titans of industry, such as Cook, declare that "the free market is not working" and that regulation is "inevitable." His opinion carries more weight than yours or mine. And he's not alone. Earlier this year, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg embraced increased government control in anticipation of sitting down before Congress. "The question is more what is the right regulation rather than 'yes or no should we be regulated?'" he told Wired.

When actually talking to Congress, Zuck even volunteered to help write the regulations, while noting that the more Facebook and social media are regulated, the less likely it is that a rival will emerge. But hey, that's an outcome he and Congress were willing to live with. Conservative Republicans want Facebook to do more to spread content they like (Ted Cruz does love him some Diamond and Silk!) and Democrats want to make sure that the next time Hillary Clinton runs for president she loses simply because she ran the worst campaign of all time, not because of whatever Facebook did to screw her over. In more recent hearings (which came on the heels of yet more revelations of Facebook's weak record of protecting user data and whatnot) Zuckerberg's colleague Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey reiterated their willingness to jump on various bipartisan regulatory bandwagons.

The same consensus is visible in elite opinion, too. The Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, who popularized the concept that eventually became a short-lived law known as "Net Neutrality," has a new book out called The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age. In it, he calls for the breakup of what are known as the FAANG companies, tech giants such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, who he says wield too much market power. Like Cook, he sees regulation as inevitable but actually worries the government won't do enough to really bust up the companies. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, he said:

[I] think that companies like Google and Facebook have come to hold too much power. There's a growing sense that they have too much control over information, news, advertising, even who we are and what's going on. I'm actually most concerned that we'll cut some kind of deal that effectively nationalizes or weakly regulates Facebook. and that that deal will endure for a long time. That's the trajectory we're on, and I would resist that.

Some of Wu's support comes from a surprising place, and it suggests just how widespread the belief is that we need to heavily regulate tech and social media. Glenn Reynolds, the University of Tennessee law school professor better known as the proprietor of the libertarian-leaning aggregator website Instapundit, endorses Wu's analysis, writing, "These new tech monsters have a one-two punch that Standard Oil lacked: Not only do they control immense wealth and important industries, but their fields of operation—which give them enormous control over communications, including communications about politics—also give them direct political power that in many ways exceeds that of previous monopolies." Reynolds muses,

Facing a similar situation [of major trusts and monopolies], [Teddy] Roosevelt declared, "When aggregated wealth demands what is unfair, its immense power can be met only by the still greater power of the people as a whole."

With today's economy dominated by the FA[A]NG companies, will Donald Trump — another brash New Yorker who found himself in the White House — follow TR's lead? Perhaps a better question is, why wouldn't he?

When you have people such as Wu and Reynolds, representing the progressive left and the libertarian right, agreeing on both the problem and the solution, something bad is definitely afoot. (For a quick look at how antitrust law typically yields bad results, go here.)

Then there's the legacy media, which is also doing its damnedest to characterize tech and social media companies as not simply all-powerful, but unprecedentedly dangerous in their actual effects on our lives, dreams, and politics.

A recent story in the Washington Post, for instance, tracked how a satire site, America's Last Line of Defense, that literally tells its readers "nothing on this page is real," is nonetheless believed by any number of dumb people. "The more extreme we become, the more people believe it," the creator of the site tells the Post, which notes that the "page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55." The New York Times recently released a breathless, three-part video series called Operation Infektion about "Russian disinformation from the Cold War to Kanye." Neither of these products (and others like them) do a particular good job of explaining why new modes of media are particularly dangerous or even effective. How much does it matter that retirees are willing to believe just about anything that anyone says about a particular politician? Operation Infektion's big example of how brilliant the KGB was deals with it spreading the lie that the U.S. government created AIDS back in the 1980s, a conspiracy theory that never reached mass acceptance or affected world events.

The overall impact of these sorts of journalistic pieces is to add to the idea that we are in a bold new world that needs bold new solutions. Ironically, of course, those solutions are themselves older than the mummies on the Senate Judiciary Committee: breaking up businesses or heavily regulating them, typically with rules written by the very people who run them. This is what the railroads managed to do back in the day, as socialist historian Gabriel Kolko reminds us. Contrary to received progressive mythologizing, railroad tycoons worked with would-be regulators to fix the markets in their favor. It's a predictable evolution from what Burton Folsom called a "market entrepreneur" (one who makes a fortune by producing a superior product or service at a price people want) to a "political entrepreneur" (who uses government power to lock in a superior position in the market). Tim Cook, in other words, knows what he's doing.

I worry less about the market power of the FAANG companies than I do about the rise of a new industrial state in which powerful companies and powerful politicians team up to decide how best to run the world in which you and I live. As bad and stupid as Facebook's, Twitter's, and YouTube's attempts at policing themselves have been, I don't see things getting better if Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) or Charles Grassley (R–Iowa) get involved, do you?

Maybe instead of freaking out all the time about how stupid media consumers are, we can start focusing on how to become more critical readers and listeners. Maybe instead of listening to CEOs of trillion-dollar companies, who insist that the free market has crapped out, we can establish basic, common-sense fiscal, monetary, trade, and labor policies that enable innovation and growth. And maybe instead of trying to figure out how to keep old zombie businesses such as GM afloat with more government money and regulation, we let that failed free market kick things around a little bit.

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  • Bowerick Wowbagger||

    "I don't see things getting better if Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) or Charles Grassley (R–Iowa) get involved, do you?"


    sadly lots of people see exactly this...things getting better if only the government smarties would help more

  • mr burns||

    Watching a cabal of payment processors, funding sites, and so-called platforms act in unison, often within 24 hours of each other, to unperson people, usually conservatives, it is very hard to see how this cannot be an organized effort to silence alternate news and commentary on the internet. This silencing financially damages, to a modest extent, the very platforms engaged in the mechanics of silencing alternative media, Facebook, Youtube, Patreon, Stripe, Twitter, etc. They lose content, piss off customers and become more dull and uninteresting. Big media, cable, newspapers and magazines benefit from this. They must destroy the alternative media before it destroys them.
    We already have a distinction in the law between a platform, which cannot censor except for criminal incitement, and a publisher, who CAN censor, but can also be sued for slander and defamation. Just enforce this distinction on all internet companies, So they don't get to hide behind their phony terms of service. if they wont serve someone then they are publishers and should get sued for anything they publish that is slanderous or defamatory.
    Israel and Hungary are already outcasts from the globalist socialist totalitarian oligarchy project so companies from those countries should start up free speech banks, payment processors and crowdfunding sites.

  • vek||

    Right? If it were mere single companies doing this stuff, it wouldn't be a big deal... But it's more like a syndicate or whatever, and the syndicate controls 95% of everything important online.

  • BYODB||


    Holy hell! Regulation of the tech industry and the larger economy is inevitable?

    Well, yeah. Was no one paying attention when the government started using these platforms as investigative tools, or what? In fact, at a certain point, you'd be wise to expect that membership will also be mandatory as social media is nationalized. This is all expected since we've long known that tyranny is the logical next step for a democratic republic. (RE: Tytler among others)


    You know, for the kids! *holds up a picture of a zero*

  • Eddy||

    "the FAANG companies"

    How about rearranging letters to make FAGAN? You know, picking the pockets of the public, only with the help of the government instead of a loyal army of thieving orphans.

  • Eddy||

    Oh, it should be FAGIN - Facebook, Apple, Google and the whole INternet.

  • BigT||

    Homophobe!!

  • Eddy||

    That was out of left-field, I thought you'd say it was anti-Semitic.

    Facebook, Activists, and Government?

  • Fancylad||

    No, he's right. It was homophobic because of Guatemalan immigrant transgender tech-phobe bitter-clinger unite-the-right racist intersectionality pussy-hat #metoo...

  • MarkLastname||

    I'm more worried about Facebook, Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Google, and Sony. Lets get those FAAAGS!!!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It bothers me that he uses the FAANG shorthand because it's well known, rather than just specifying companies he has issue with.

    It would be hard to argue that Netflix is a Monopoly.

    I think the perception of dominance is more important than actual dominance. Like people view Google as a monopoly on Search and Bing as kind of a joke. But Bing is still 20-30% of all search, it's not small. Shit, a few years ago Google actually became only the plurality of users rather than the majority. It's not as set as everyone thinks.

  • Overt||

    This is the populist impulse- to view everything through the lens of NOW, rather than over a decade. It's why socialists are preoccupied by stats about Quintiles of income distribution, despite the fact that the people in those quintiles will change over their lifetime. And it is why people were focused on Microsoft in the 90s and the googles today.

    Politicians love a good crisis, and the worst thing for a crisis is to suggest that things could change in the near future.

    I am really sad to see Glenn Reynolds go down this path. I honestly think if it were any other industry, he'd be more rational about this. But since this impacts him so much (blogging was the first social media, and is heavily dependent on Search) he seems to have lost some perspective. Or maybe he was always a pragmatist libertarian- lest concerned with the principles than with the outcomes. I dunno, but it is a pitty either way.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Glenn Reynolds is a self-described movement conservative. The unconvincing libertarian drag he dons in an attempt to make right-wing positions and thinking more popular does not make him a libertarian. Prof. Reynolds is the type of right-wing academic who, much like Eugene Volokh, masquerades as a libertarian but periodically drops the mask to endorse a Ted Cruz.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    This is also why the crisis mongers depend on support from youths who don't listen to their parents. They lack the perspective that comes from living through similar "crises" before.

  • MJBinAL||

    Had Microsoft, not been trimmed back in the 90's over Internet Explorer, Google would be nothing. Windows would still have 90% operating system penetration because of legacy applications and everyone would be using Internet Explorer because Microsoft would subtly disadvantage alternative apps and sites. Microsoft would have had the ability to choke Google off early, but for the anti-trust actions that caused them to fear choking Google off.

    The natural gas line to your house is regulated because due to the right of ways required and the capital investment vs usage rate required, it is a natural monopoly.

    This is not the norm, and should not be invoked often, but some things ARE natural monopolies. Is Fakebook a natural monopoly? We may disagree on that, but don't dismiss that SOME natural monop0lies exist. And it is possible for the early entrant in a market to use those conditions to embed themselves as a defacto monopoly.

  • lafe.long||

    Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave.

  • Fats of Fury||

    It's an acid flashback.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "No, Brother Fox!!!! PLEASE don't throw me in the briar patch!"

    "No, Big Bro Government Almighty!!! PLEASE don't regulate me!!!"

    Meanwhile, smirking at ten billion laws and three trillion lawyers being needed to keep the BIG companies moving, and the SMALL companies OUT of the business!

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I just wanted to acknowledge your use of this example. I've used it often and no one seems to ever notice. A little childhood exposure to Brer Rabbit and Aesop would go a long way to fixing the worlds problems.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Second!

  • MJBinAL||

    You can't use Brer Rabbit as a reference any more. It was part of the Uncle Remus books and the movie Song of the South and the official proggy determination is that they are racist and glorify slavery.

    Nevermind that I thought that Uncle Remus was the hero of the movie and smarter than anyone else in the household.

  • Fancylad||

    "Help, help (don't help), the Government will pursue corporatism and hand me even more power. That's the last thing we want. Boy Howdy, sure would hate that."

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Anyone and everyone calling for more government knows their particular propaganda has peaked and wants to be frozen in place rather than have to innovate to stay ahead.

  • John||

    The problem is that even the platforms can't really censor very well. For example, Twitter has kicked off several high profile people whose ideas they didn't like. That hasn't stopped those people's ideas from being spread on Twitter. Every Twitter personality has hundreds of thousands of followers who are all connected by just a few degress of seperation from one another. So, unless you ban all of their followers, the information flows just like it did before. It just doesn't all come from a central source. And if they can't ban all of the followers because doing so would end up quickly causing them to ban way too many customers to stay in business.

  • John||

    The most stupid media consumers are journalists. For example, the only people ever fooled by the Sean Spicer Twitter account were journalists and there have been and continue to be a lot of them fooled by it.

    This is different than ordinary industries subverting the regulatory system. Ordinary industry use regulatory capture to ensure the regulations make them money. These idiots are going to use regulatory capture to ensure that social media and the internet is a dull and uninteresting and people find something else to do with their time. The world was plenty free before the internet. If the internet wants to censor itself and make it the equivelent of Pravda for SJWs, people will find other means of expressing themselves and more importantly other means of getting their information.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    People will not find other means of getting their information without a business model for gathering and publishing information. There was one that worked for centuries, but the internet is killing it off, pretty quickly—with no sign of delivering anything to replace what is dying. Folks who don't see that as a crisis are mostly folks who haven't noticed that almost all the useful information on the internet is still being ripped off from remnant survivors among traditional media.

  • Sevo||

    Stephen Lathrop|12.6.18 @ 9:26PM|#
    "People will not find other means of getting their information without a business model for gathering and publishing information. There was one that worked for centuries, but the internet is killing it off, pretty quickly—with no sign of delivering anything to replace what is dying"
    Yep, courtesy of the internet, I can now only get my news from 3 broadcast TV stations, two newspapers and oh, 5 radios stations!

    "Folks who don't see that as a crisis are mostly folks who haven't noticed that almost all the useful information on the internet is still being ripped off from remnant survivors among traditional media."
    Lathrop, you are full of shit.

  • Jima||

    "Folks who don't see that as a crisis are mostly folks who" don't think all journalists are non partisan tellers of truths... There's no crisis unless you work at a newspaper/magazine/etc which doesn't produce content its followers find valuable. Then there's a personal crisis, but the rest of us working in the real world will deal with the "crisis" just fine.

  • Overt||

    "Folks who don't see that as a crisis are mostly folks who haven't noticed that almost all the useful information on the internet is still being ripped off from remnant survivors among traditional media."

    This is, frankly, horseshit. The big publications and networks have largely based their entire media operations out of two cities (New York and DC). Their news is almost wholly centered on the circle jerk that is Federal politics, and the happenings of those two swamps. It's why the entire country could be encased in ice and get a 30 second spot on the evening news, but a flurry in Manhattan gets 24 hour news coverage.

    The really useful information I get- the stuff that I actually depend on for my daily life (one might even say I "use" it)- is from google maps, Yelp reviews, facebook recommendations, hardware reviews on various tech review sites, etc. There is little that the big news outlets are useful for other than entertainment.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Overt, the sources you name in your last paragraph may suggest something about why the interests you describe are quite narrow.

    Your critique of the DC/NY media makes some sense. But it doesn't show much awareness of the changes those media have suffered—you may not be old enough to remember when, in more prosperous times, they were more varied, and supported a notably broader focus.

    Nor do you seem to notice—as many others do not notice—the near-collapse of second-tier news gathering, in cities and towns across the nation. For many decades that robust news-gathering infrastructure supported a networked (by wire services) dissemination of fine grained information which worked its way upward to national attention according to need and relevance. Now that network is sliding toward collapse, deprived by internet giantism of even the local advertising money that kept it going.

    Seriously, ask yourself if the commentary—and please note, it's almost all commentary, with any actual factual additions vanishingly rare—you find on sites like this one really satisfies your need to be better informed. I'm talking about facts, not opinions, not ideology, not social movements to deprive the folks you don't like of undo influence. Just facts.

    I'm worried about the disappearance of facts from public discourse. I don't see the internet replacing the factual sources it is killing off. If you see it otherwise, can you tell me where to look?

  • MJBinAL||

    Interesting take.

    So the stuff is ripped off from the legacy media?

    The same legacy media that buried Bubba Clinton's sexcapades with Monica until Drudge went public with it?

    The same legacy media that covered up Kennedy being a drug addict who was out of it much of time?

    The same legacy media that went public claiming that G. W. Bush had all these irregularities in his National Guard Service and even forged documents to support those claims?

    Oh yeah, the same legacy media that went along with the official story from the Obama administration that Bengazy was a protest against a movie preview ... until alternative media exposed it?

    Even with the legacy media wrote a real expose, it was not investigative reporting, but rather a whisleblower (or sometimes a sabateur) who called them with the scoop.

    Sorry to tell you Stephen, but I do not expect to miss the legacy media's monopoly on information, their ability to cover for wrongdoing when it was "their guy", or their "fake it until you make it" attitude toward the facts..

  • MJBinAL||

    Not claiming that the internet fixes it all, but more sources and more competition reduces the ability to hide facts even while enabling more junk. I would rather sort it out than I would trust the NYTimes to do it.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yep. The net result will be websites full of politically correct content where SJWs echo each other while other people make things happen in the real world.

  • ||

    Follow Nick Gillespie on Twitter

    Find Nick Gillespie on Facebook

    Find Nick Gillespie on Google+

    Talk about biting the hand that feeds you...

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Yes, The Jacket does sometime bite Nick's hand.

  • Longtobefree||

    How about one simple law - A social media company has to identify all data it collects on you, tell you each time that data is collected, and pay you each time any of that data is used by the company or any third (4th, 5th, etc) company.
    And a simple court finding that the social media companies are publishers if they are filtering content by restricting users.
    That'll learn 'em.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Why, though. If you write down something about your neighbor, should you be required to notify him? All the info social media companies collect is provided voluntarily, is it not?

  • Qsl||

    Iffy.

    Suppose I collect all manner of info about you. Depending, you may have a case for harassment. If I sell the info, there is a degree of liability involved. And should there be an adverse effect by a third party from the info I collect and provide, we have now moved into culpability.

    The best analogy I can think of is a credit reporting agency. That is also data freely collected, but once it changes hands there are a host of liabilities (well, at least theoretically) incurred with safeguarding that info and verifying its accuracy, including your right to review for a nominal cost.

    I am more concerned that there aren't specific damages awarded when their databases get hacked.

    If they want to collect data, fine. Let them bear the responsibility for that data.

  • Overt||

    Where do the liabilities come from? Not from principle, surely. They come from government fiat.

    I think the more relevant analogy is your local pub. If you stop off each night and buy a couple beers, what liability does the bartender have if he mentions it to others? What if he tells your work colleague that you fancy Hendricks, and your colleague uses that information to get you a nice christmas gift? What if he tells your wife that he saw you flirting with another woman the other night? What if he tells all your coworkers that you put down three or four drinks while bitching about your boss every night?

    How can he be liable for your wife finding out about your cheating, or your coworkers coming to think you are a loud drunk? You did these things, he merely took note and shared that information. Certainly, using the information unwisely will result in him loosing you as a customer, and likely loosing many others if it gets around that he has loose lips. But the idea that he has some sort of culpability outside that business relationship isn't based on any natural right- it is only based on government fiat.

    The same is true with our online information.

  • Qsl||

    "Government fiat" (what ever that means in this instance) is vague.

    If I stop off at a bar and drink, the barkeep is perfectly entitled to tell any one he wants about any behavior he wants. He may even lie in his telling.

    But when keeps records of all of my receipts, takes pictures exclusive to me, and then offers to sell said information (or possibly keep it quiet from my wife... for a price); it's a slightly different problem.

    Further, if the full details of the barkeep maintaining records on each of his customers isn't divulged as a part of my contract with him, that's another problem as well.

    The same is true with our online information.

    Same is true of your credit history as well. Best of luck arguing any and all data from that is up to the highest bidder with no recourse because "government fiat" isn't valid.

    Why should anyone be limited to natural rights?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    What if he tells your work colleague that you fancy Hendricks, and your colleague uses that information to get you a nice christmas gift? What if he tells your wife that he saw you flirting with another woman the other night?

    And your wife invites her over for a midnight cocktail on Christmas?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    That's a nice gesture because, well, baby it's cold outside.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Plenty of stores post signs saying that their customers are being recorded with security cameras. What if a store owner dubbed the video and posted it online for profit?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Where is Steve when we need him?

    Remember when he praised iconoclasts and trouble makers? They replaced him with some kind of nanny statist square.

  • BigT||

    Tim Whoops, 1959:

    I think that companies like Xerox, Brunswick, Kodak, Polaroid, and Sears have come to hold too much power.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Sears is holding up a barrel with suspenders.

  • IceTrey||

    Dealing with these tech companies is simple, remove their Section 230 protection. Treat them like the publishers they now are and open them to libel suits.

  • Echospinner||

    Spoken like a true authoritarian.

    So should Reason for publishing monkey butt sex.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeKSiCQkPw

  • Mithrandir||

    Is there anyone in this country that wants our tech industry to be more closely modelled after the EU tech industry? No?

    Keep the government out of tech please.

  • Overt||

    This. There is no more stark comparison of what an unregulated industry can do than looking at Silicon Valley vs big European tech companies like Nokia.

    Prior to the big Telecom meltdowns, we had a crazy, dynamic tech industry that had amazing rising and falling giants. We had Myspace, Yahoo, Altavista, Ask Jeeves, Freindster and countless other companies that peaked and then were washed away by disruptive market forces. And out of it came some amazing products. Google, as problematic as it is today, truly changed the way we find information. Facebook created connections between family and friends.

    If you want to understand why those giants are not being disrupted today, look no further than the Dot Com bust and the following destruction of Wordcomm and Enron. These failures prompted Sarbanes Oxley and NUMEROUS rules and regulations from the SEC. It basically made it so that it is very difficult for a company to fund itself through to a successful IPO. As a result, players already on the field, like Google, are at a sitting advantage. Those newcomers have a lesser chance of making it to IPO, and so they flame out or get bought out by one of the big boys. YouTube, WattsApp, and various others that could have unseated the big companies instead join them.

    If our country were smart, we would free the reigns again and give power back to disruptive companies. Unfortunately, that means risk- and lord knows we can't have that.

  • vek||

    I'm not in favor of nannying laws from the SEC etc... But that argument doesn't really hold up.

    The reason we have what we have now is simple: The early days, there was NO established dominant player for ANYTHING on the internet. Therefore tons of businesses popped up, most eventually failed. What is left are the survivors, who have become dominant players in their respective fields. They have then decided to buy out damn near every new tech company that comes along that has even the slightest overlap with their core businesses... And expanded into completely unrelated stuff because they have so much money they don't know what to do with it.

    Compare tech to the auto industry: ENDLESS nameplates most people have never heard of. A few got big. They're mostly STILL the biggest auto companies in the world. A few new ones cut themselves into the deal every couple decades, the Japanese companies, now Korean, Tesla even... But in America and Europe every one of the major companies is basically 100 years old, or close to it.

    This is where big tech is. We're still getting new big guys coming in now and again, like Uber, but we may well have Google being a dominant player in 100 years. Or maybe not. But it is entirely possible.

  • Echospinner||

    Cook runs Apple, not Facebook which depends totally on social media content. He does not sell Tide and kitty litter like Amazon.

    Trump tarrifs and trade war are killing Apple stock.

    Cook really does not care about this censorship thing. He needs to sell and ship stuff.

    One thing about Apple is they still have a lot of cash. They still make the coolest stuff.

  • Fats of Fury||

    "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." Ronald Reagan

    Looks like Facebook and Twitter are looking ahead to subsidization .

  • Echospinner||

    Cook is recognizing something missing.

    First amendment and legal boundaries are political. His company can make cutting edge gadgets. They are not the government.

    By far the worst thing for these companies to deal with is uncertainty. Uncertainty is what Donald Trump uses as currency.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    By far the worst thing for these companies to deal with is uncertainty. Uncertainty is what Donald Trump uses as currency.

    That's brilliant - thank you!

  • Jerryskids||

    Generally when somebody says the free market isn't working it means the free market is working and they don't like what it's doing. You'd think somebody in tech would understand the idea, it's much the same as the idea that computers don't do what you want them to do but only what you tell them to do.

    It's like the guy who dies and goes to Heaven and asks God, "God, why is it every time I prayed to you for something I really wanted, you never once answered my prayers?" And God smiled and said, "But I did answer your prayers, my child. I said 'No'"

    Just because you want the free market to give you something doesn't mean you're going to get it, and it's not the free market's fault it has to follow the rules of economics.

  • Overt||

    At the end of the day, Tim Cook is less worried about the market and more worried about throwing a wrench in the works of his competitors. Google is his top competitor for the iphone and its related businesses (itunes, apple music, app store). If regulators break up google so it cannot use its search dominance to fund more Android development, he wins. Even Facebook is a competitor- for employees. If they are significantly hamstringed, his employment costs win.

    Apple is happy to see the government suddenly concerned about privacy and fake news- none of those areas are key to their business model.

    Expect Cook to sing a very different iTune just as soon as regulators start really scrutinizing the closed nature of the App Store. Suddenly he will be super concerned about regulation's effects on the competitive market place.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Factor in the housing bust from a decade ago, the Great Recession, mall closings, the opioid epidemic, and whatever else you want to, and any semi-serious analysis is going to conclude that over the last few decades, "The living standards of Americans have vastly improved during the past 50 years, with the quality of available consumer products steadily rising even as their prices have steeply fallen."

    There is so much wrong with that you would need thousands of words to even begin to cover it. Just start with one point. When I graduated from college, ~ 50-years-ago, there was no chance I would remain unemployed even a day longer than I wanted to. I could take my pick of jobs from a vast range of work types, from menial jobs, to skilled blue collar jobs, to professional jobs. I could do that pretty much anywhere in the nation. If I wanted to, I could do one kind of work for a while, then move to another kind, and I did.

    The experience of recent graduates is utterly unlike that. Unpaid internships are the closest many of them get to appropriate employment, before they land in the no-benefits gig economy.

    Beyond that, there's the OP's smarmy focus on "available consumer products." Screw those. What about health care, decent education, and a safe place to live? Those aren't cheaper now, they are far more expensive.

    The OP is a post promoting free market ideology, and it's far short of forthright.

  • Sevo||

    "When I graduated from college, ~ 50-years-ago, there was no chance I would remain unemployed even a day longer than I wanted to. I could take my pick of jobs from a vast range of work types, from menial jobs, to skilled blue collar jobs, to professional jobs. I could do that pretty much anywhere in the nation. If I wanted to, I could do one kind of work for a while, then move to another kind, and I did."

    Do you ever get tired of whining?
    Sorry to hear you finally got some competition.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    50 years ago, the habits of consumerism, while widespread and growing, weren't nearly on the same level that they are today. The decline of employment in the manufacturing sector, combined with inflation and the transformation of undergraduate education into 13th-16th grade have effectively killed off that broad base of employment choices you had after your graduated.

    We're quickly evolving into a two-caste economy dominated by UMC and upper-class white-collar professionals in the tech and entertainment industries on the high end, and the working-class service sector on the low end that serves them food in their boutique restaurants or fast-food franchises, provides daycare for their kids or walks their dogs for them, cleans their homes, and stocks their consumer goods at Target and WalMart. 50 years ago, at lot of those fast-food workers and inventory stockers probably would have gotten factory jobs that paid decent, albeit still humble wages. To be fair, there are still a lot of blue-collar jobs out there and the work force in many of these areas are rapidly aging out without sufficient replacements. But American society is so obsessed with getting a college degree, that kids who might be better off going in this direction professionally no longer get much in the way of shop education provided in schools, and counselors just steer them to community colleges if they don't have the grades for a traditional four-year college.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    +1, Red Rocks White Privilege

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Red Rocks, I don't disagree with most of your observations, but I wonder about their relevance to solving the predicament they describe. It seems to me that any economy has two primary functions—first, baking the pies, second, distributing the pies. History teaches that without adequate performance of both tasks, economic systems fail, and political systems go down with them. You have described an economic system where the second task is not getting done, and more or less left it at that. Do you suggest there is any role for politics to intervene, and how?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I doubt there's any significant role that politics could play here that's more than window dressing or deck chair-arranging. This is a social problem that's rooted in middle- and working-class striver anxiety going back well over 50 years--the idea that if you don't get a college degree, you'll be "stuck" in a dead-end job or breaking your back in a blue-collar profession instead of living the Pottery Barn lifestyle in a McMansion (there's an old ad by the Hispanic Ad Council from about 2010 that infuriatingly plays off of this social insecurity. You can probably find it on YouTube still).

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    The exponential increase in social mobility that's taken place since the end of World War II also ensures that people are less invested in the long-term stability and management of their communities. Look at my home state of Colorado, which is dominated by the Front Range and Denver specifically. This is a state that turned from one that was purple for decades, to solid blue in the span of about 10 years. Yet, in the November election, while Democrats were wiping out Republicans across the state, those same voters were rejecting bills that would have fixed and expanded the road infrastructure that's been completely overwhelmed by tens of thousands of migrants, along with another bill to provide funding for schools. The cost of living has gone up so much thanks to all this migration, that even Democrats can't stomach paying additional taxes to fix what a lot of them helped cause. And because most of them have no emotional or economic stake in the community beyond their next paycheck, they'll just pick up and move on if things go south, leaving those who do have that stake to try and pick up the pieces.

    As long as this free-floating anxiety, emphasis on consumerism, and hyper-social mobility exists, the kind of changes that should be made, won't be.

  • vek||

    One thing I wonder though is: Is the college or bust thing ALMOST not a logical thing? In many ways the powers that be have created a system where people are largely fucked if they don't get their little fancy piece of paper. Via specific policy choices we have undermined stable lower middle class and middle middle class jobs.

    That's not to say there aren't still plenty of them out there... There are. But the number has shrunk dramatically as a proportion of employment, so it creates a situation where it SEEMS like you're a fool to not go to college. Which amusingly enough has created a shortage of people to do all the good paying blue collar jobs :/

    I agree that this rootless cosmopolitan ideal has borked things. I have lived in Seattle for over 13 years. I have lived here longer than the majority of people in the city according to the Seattle times. These people have ZERO investment or concern for this place functioning beyond the short term. I'm bailing soon myself, because I can't take it anymore... But this mentality really does bork a lot of things IMO.

  • Zarquon||

    If anybody that matters is reading this: The link under "conclude" is https://reason.com/admin/pages/The living standards of Americans have vastly improved during the past 50 years, with the quality of available consumer products steadily rising even as their prices have steeply fallen., which—isn't a link. Try again?

  • Sevo||

    "I'm a big believer in the free market. But..."

    No, you're a liar.

  • JFree||

    I worry less about the market power of the FAANG companies than I do about the rise of a new industrial state in which powerful companies and powerful politicians team up to decide how best to run the world in which you and I live.

    Bit late there. That was what the 1912 election was about. And while there were three options then - NONE of them were 'ignore the problem cuz it isn't really a problem and it'll just go away - and don't speak ill of the big market powers cuz it's all the big govt powers fault'.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    If only Gary Johnson hadn't been the spoiler in that election.

  • mtrueman||

    "we can establish basic, common-sense fiscal, monetary, trade, and labor policies that enable innovation and growth. "

    Good lord man, you don't need government permission to innovate. Government money is always nice, especially in the tech field, but I suspect that the kind of innovation that will render Facebook, Google et al obsolete won't hinge on the adoption of correct fiscal, monetary, trade and labour policies. It will come down to awesome and inspired coding.

  • Overt||

    The problem I mention above is that the policy environment is drastically different than when Facebook and Google started.

    After the Dot Com crash and meltdown of Worldcom, Enron and the like, the SEC issued a whole new set of regulations, and the Sarbanes Oxley act created a whole set of compliance requirements. Getting to IPO (an important step in disrupting big industries) is orders of magnitude more difficult and expensive. As a result, far fewer companies are going public- most either get bought by the big guys, or get funding to survive to IPO from those same companies.

    Getting rid of those kneejerk regulations would open up our markets to more dynamism and disruption.

  • mtrueman||

    Innovation comes from genius, hard work and inspiration. It doesn't come from lobbyists and accountants.

  • Rich||

    a satire site, America's Last Line of Defense, that literally tells its readers "nothing on this page is real," is nonetheless believed by any number of dumb people.

    Well, to be fair: "nothing on this page is real", *including* that disclaimer.

  • LiborCon||

    "Maybe instead of freaking out all the time about how stupid media consumers are, we can start focusing on how to become more critical readers and listeners."

    If people were capable of becoming more critical readers and listeners, they wouldn't be so stupid.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Many people are capable of becoming more critical readers and listeners. That is why the government mandated health insurance pays for Ritalin.

  • Bob Meyer||

    If Tim "The free market doesn't work" Cook and George "I had to violate free market principles to save the free market" Bush had a child it would be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    If business and government don't believe that the free market works, what do you expect a somewhat retarded twenty-something to think? When the Ocasio-Cortez hordes seize power I'm sure that they will hang Bush and Cook with the government subsidized rope they sold their hangmen.

  • Sevo||

    "If business and government don't believe that the free market works, what do you expect a somewhat retarded twenty-something to think? When the Ocasio-Cortez hordes seize power I'm sure that they will hang Bush and Cook with the government subsidized rope they sold their hangmen."
    Cook is getting a pass since he'e gay; he should be hung since he's stupid.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Oh my! Is it racist now to say that Black men are hung?

  • Bob Meyer||

    Begin gay didn't help Kevin Spacey. The PC hordes will eat their own to gain power.

  • yvirtual||

    "the free market is not working,"... - well, it's just not free, and that's what we all know. Getting delusional about that (for whatever reason) doesn't change the fact.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    " The Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, who popularized the concept that eventually became a short-lived law known as "Net Neutrality,""

    Can't tell the difference between laws and regulations?

  • ned johnson||

    WHY is mass immigration and "diversity" demanded in ALL white populations and ONLY white populations?
    WHY is no global place or institution ever "too yellow" and "too black"?
    WHY is Open Borders a white only 'privilege'?

    That's why we say #White G-!
    That's why we say #ANTI WHITE!

  • mtrueman||

    "WHY is no global place or institution ever "too yellow" and "too black"?"

    You've probably never heard of the International Go Federation. It's a group to promote the game go, and they've been reaching out to the world to make their game popular beyond China, Korea and Japan. Rappers too have long been aware that their music is too black and have been reaching out to talented white artistes like Kid Rock to spread and diversify their art.

  • ||

    What do you expect? These tech companies are being run by people that have a world view that they wish to promote through their platforms. Those platforms have become such an intertwined part of so many lives that what these tech leaders wind up promoting is censorship of ideas against the world view they hold dear.
    They are victims of their own success combined with the intolerance of opposing viewpoints. As a result they have given regulators an excuse to interfere...
    Sometimes the smartest people are the dumbest...

  • Deelerious||

    Peer to peer internet is on the horizon. Eventually this will be a moot argument. Liberty, uh, finds a way.

  • Mcgoo95||

    I believe you are right. More government regulation will hasten it's arrival. Richard Hendricks will have his day yet!

  • vek||

    I was reading up on decentralized hosting a bit ago... Pretty crazy stuff from a technical perspective. Some of the basics are already implemented in a few sites in some ways, like Bitchute for video.

    The problem is to replace most of these platforms, people have to use them. Inertia is a bitch for something like social media... But I surely hope better businesses that are more freedom oriented do kick some ass in the future.

  • ||

    The reason the "Market" is NOT working is due to the monopolistic practices of the big SM companies------Duh!

    Timmy knows that.

  • Sardondi||

    Neither is a belief in the free enterprise system a suicide pact. FAANG, all of which have been the recipients of generous regulatory and/or financial assistance from government, have repaid their success with acting as digital despots. Society must protect itself from the cultural equivalent of the Mongols under a postmodern Genghis Khan.

    And because of both their power to injure, dismantle and destroy, and their demonstrated willingness to do so, government regulation must be significant, even severe. If the choice were no regulation and to permit FAANG to continue as they have in the past, and their total annihilation, I would vote for the latter. It's a matter of our survival. FAANG provide us mere convenience, not life, and they threaten us with widespread social upheaval and the total elimination of privacy at best, and serfdom at worst.

  • mtrueman||

    "Society must protect itself from the cultural equivalent of the Mongols under a postmodern Genghis Khan."

    Your fear of the Mongols is misplaced. The Silk Road, connecting China with Europe was never busier than under the Mongol empire. Perhaps you've heard of Marco Polo, a Venician spaghetti merchant who visited the east while it was under Mongol rule. (Yuan Dynasty) The culture of Europe was enriched considerably thanks to Mongol trade policy.

  • vek||

    True... And tell all the people massacred by the Mongols, including outright genocide, just how awesome the Khan was!

    Pros and cons my friend. Sometimes the pros outweigh the cons in a situation... Sometimes they don't. I'm not saying I agree with homebody above, but if I had to choose between Facebook and the utter destruction of freedom in the world... I'd choose freedom. I'm not saying that IS the case here, as I don't believe it is... But with the tech syndicate becoming ever more assertive, and ever more anti speech, it may well be possible in the future.

  • M.L.||

    Regulation of social media/tech is likely to be very bad, and very favorable to the companies it regulates, only furthering their monopoly power and worsening the problem in the long run.

    But it doesn't have to be that way necessarily. Competition is the key. Most of the concerns are phony and don't need to be regulated. You'll notice that the legacy media as Gillespie notes here actually just wants the power to go in and censor information they don't like. Yeah, how is that improving things? These folks are either blithering idiots or evil totalitarian thought police, or both.

    But to the extent that there is a legitimate antitrust problem, and a lack of competition, any sort of government response, whether it be regulation or more along the lines of enforcement actions, should be focused on COMPETITION. For instance, government has required monopoly telephone companies to allow consumers to the choice of which equipment they connect to the network. In the future if online platforms become more and more monopolistic, perhaps they could be required to allow users to make their content viewable and retrievable by other platforms. Picture a platform with an open source-type of feel to it where you can see content posted by your friends across a number of social media networks, and which is able to scrape your content and data such as your friend's list from your Facebook account if you desire. Competition could become very viable in a single click.

  • vek||

    A social media content aggregator... Now there's a thought! That could indeed give small companies a leg up if the aggregator was THE popular portal everybody used, as you don't have the chicken and egg problem with users.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Conservative Republicans want Facebook to do more to spread content they like

    No.

    What conservative Republicans, and all sane people want--including actual libertarians-- is for the tech giants and social media moguls to stop banning, shadowbanning, hiding, quarantining, and all the other things they do to keep liberty centric ideas out of sight.

    They don't have to DO anything. They just have to STOP VIOLATING THE AGREEMENTS THEY MADE WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS.

    That's all.

  • vek||

    Seriously. If they were being even close to neutral, instead of 90% biased to the left, how many people would be bitching about what they're doing? Pretty much nobody.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Hubris, meet Nemesis!

  • Rockabilly||

    I'm sure the goober mint will be up to the task to make the new iPhone and other apple products per Central Committee.

  • Spookk||

    "Holy hell! Regulation of the tech industry and the larger economy is inevitable?

    Well, yeah. Was no one paying attention when the government started using these platforms as investigative tools, or what? In fact, at a certain point, you'd be wise to expect that membership will also be mandatory as social media is nationalized. This is all expected since we've long known that tyranny is the logical next step for a democratic republic. (RE: Tytler among others)

    You know, for the kids! *holds up a picture of a zero*"

    That is already the case. Try and do very much of anything while refusing to have a phone number....

  • Rational Exuberance||

    It really doesn't matter whether these companies are regulated or not; in 5-10 years, the market will kill them anyway.

  • William F. Maddock||

    Guys, when corporations have such a stranglehold on their field that they can wantonly violate a person's God-given rights (recognized, NOT GRANTED, by the Constitution) something is in SERIOUS need of being done about them.

  • Echospinner||

    Stock gains are wiped out. At best we hope that China will be the adult in the room.

    Trumps room, the adults are leaving.

    Goodbye Trumpists there is no talking with you.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The free market isn't working? Well, maybe not quite as well as it used to for Apple, which been a little droopy over the past several years in terms of killer new devices and mega-hits.

    That was so trumpian a burn it could have come from the president himself!

  • Hank Phillips||

    You know who else said "The market ias not functioning properly"--after his White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives asset-forfeiture, prohibition and girl-bullying binge collapsed the economy? http://tinyurl.com/ya7p2ep8
    The oligopsonists at Apple need to quit forcing Weekend Updates and delete 30,000 words from their "or else" ransomware "agreement"

  • vek||

    1. I don't think we need to regulate them at this point.

    2. If anything we should remove regulations that encourage monopoly creation.

    3. BUT that is not to say I don't think it is possible anti-trust might legitimately arise in the future. This actually made me ponder an interesting concept...

    4. If we assume the market will EVENTUALLY take out a company if people don't like their actions... How should time frame play into this? I mean should an effective monopoly be allowed to operate with clearly bad practices for 10 years? How about 20? What about 50? 75?

    That's basically an entire lifetime. Even if the market eventually takes them out, might it not have been more reasonable to bust them up a decade into their bad behavior?

    Obviously I think trust busting should be a VERY rare thing... And laws that encourage monopoly should be abolished first and foremost...

    But I don't preclude the possibility that sometimes a business might get out of hand. The idea of how long we should tolerate such a situation was my new thought on this subject, as I'd previously always thought of it as perpetual state issue, but that's not how it works IRL. So framing it as how long before something is done is actually more realistic.

  • vek||

    Not saying it's QUITE there yet, but in deciding "Is freedom more important than a single business and its positive economic output?" I have to go with freedom.

    And the current crop of information controlling businesses DO have more power over information than any ever before in history. Even legacy media is more concentrated than ever. I think we are seeing a clear result, which is leftist ideology being pushed. And this is more consistent than was ever possible before in human history, excluding the USSR, Nazi Germany, etc.

    So IF, in say 10 years, it were to become a true existential threat to free civilization... Would not a few companies merely being forced into slightly less effective economic units by being split up not be preferable to 1984 world? I would say so. It's not like Facebook NEEDS to own SnapChat, or Google NEEDS to own half the startups that come out of Silicon Valley. It may arguably be more efficient economically, but economics is NOT the most important thing in life at the end of the day. Freedom is. And if a couple companies ever DO truly threaten that, I'll take the .1% GDP growth hit to save liberty.

    Anti trust considerations, at best, apply to 1 in 10 million businesses... So it doesn't require throwing the whole free market under the bus if it seems to be worthwhile to employ such laws for extremely bad situations a couple times a century.

    Just some thinking out loud...

  • Rock Lobster||

    "When you have people such as Wu and Reynolds, representing the progressive left and the libertarian right, agreeing on both the problem and the solution, something bad is definitely afoot."

    Bipartisanship is a euphemism for, "Citizen, bend over and grab your ankles."

  • JeffreyL||

    This new industry has learned what every other successful industry has learned after becoming successful. Government regulation is the easiest form of protection.

  • macsnafu||

    The very fact that people like Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook are seeking regulation *ought* to tell people just how bad regulation really is for consumers, and how regulation favors big businesses and corporations at the expense of their competition. But no, all they can see is how they can quote Tim Cook in favor of more regulation. Useful corporate idiots, most of them, who will never see that regulation will not achieve what they think it will achieve.

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