Big tech isn't swallowing up small businesses, it's saving them. Trump, Congress should get out of the way

The government should keep its hands off regulating the technology companies and their platforms

It’s the oddest thing. The more America’s big tech companies – such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter – have contributed to keeping America’s economy afloat during the coronavirus lockdown, the louder the voices to break them up or tie them up into regulatory knots.

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At the very time the White House and many conservatives are pushing to “bring our businesses and manufacturing back home” from nations like China, many “nationalists” see our globally dominant high tech firms as the enemy.

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Do they realize that there is nothing that the communists in Beijing would wish to do more than knock Amazon, Apple or Google from their king of the hill status and replace them with state-assisted enterprises like Huawei and Alibaba? Washington’s assault against America’s trillion-dollar companies would aid and abet President Xi’s efforts.

But it is happening. Last week Tesla CEO Elon Musk blasted Amazon for being a “monopoly” and tweeted: “Time to break up Amazon.” Conservatives piled on.  New antitrust legislation against the tech companies has been introduced by Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri.

President Trump has threatened to “strongly regulate” social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.  Some in Congress want an investigation into Google’s search engine algorithms to make sure they aren’t discriminating against conservative web sites.

I have been a loud critic myself of the anti-conservative bias of the big Silicon Valley tech firms and it’s important for conservative leaders to keep the pressure on these firms to level the playing field.

New polling commissioned by a group I run, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, and conducted by Remington Research Group, reveals that a majority of conservative activists believe that tech companies engage in censorship or display bias against conservatives.

But when conservatives were asked: “Do you believe the federal government should be involved in regulating political speech on the internet?” The results were shockingly one-sided: 76 percent of respondents said no, the government should keep its hands off regulating the technology companies and their platforms.

The same poll asked conservatives which issue is most important to them when casting their vote for federal offices like U.S. Senator and House Representative. Just 1 percent said “online censorship.”

This is reassuring.  From the start of the internet age, conservatives like me and Grover Norquist and many more have argued that the best way for America to dominate the digital age of online commerce was to keep the internet tax and regulation-free.

Our most critical infrastructure today is the gig economy connectivity through satellites, internet platforms, clouds, fiber optic cables, the sophisticated nationwide electric grid system, and the like that was almost all built out by the very tech and telecommunications companies that are now coming under fire for being too successful and making too much money. 

That is what we have mostly done in America – and the rewards have been bountiful. Millions of jobs and the spurt of innovation and entrepreneurship that has the top six American tech companies with a higher productive capacity than the entire GDP of most other nations in the world.

We have seen first hand over the past three months how the gig economy saved our nation from plunging into a Great Depression. These were terrible times with as many as 40 million Americans losing their jobs.

But thanks to our multi-trillion dollar tech sector – and not just big tech, but hundreds of new entrepreneurial online services - commerce kept flowing, food was available on the shelves, gas in the tanks, packages were delivered, and paychecks processed.

They saved America from utter chaos and severe deprivation.

It was the services, knowhow, and infrastructure built by our pioneering tech giants that enabled the tens of thousands of small tech firms to sprout up from nowhere, and these firms will be essential to securing the next phase of recovery.  Our construction firms, steel and oil and gas industries, hospitals, media, food processing, manufacturers are all dependent on the kinds of just in time inventory and supply chain management made possible by the tech sector.

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In many ways, the success and array of business-to-business services provided at very low cost (often for free) of companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and the like is what makes possible the next generation of tech firms that could through free-market competition race past these giants.  Innovation stops monopolies, not government lawyers.

High tech isn’t swallowing up small businesses, it is saving them. A new report from the Connected Commerce Council, which analyzed the impact of Internet platforms and digital tools on small businesses in the COVID-19 crisis found almost one of three (31 percent) business owners say that without digital tools, they would have had to close all or part of their business during the crisis. Nearly 70 percent say digital tools have been useful during the COVID crisis.

There is now a call in both parties for multi-trillion dollar government “infrastructure bills.”

Wait a minute.

Our most critical infrastructure today is the gig economy connectivity through satellites, internet platforms, clouds, fiber optic cables, the sophisticated nationwide electric grid system, and the like that was almost all built out by the very tech and telecommunications companies that are now coming under fire for being too successful and making too much money.

Conservatives are rightly suspicious of big tech’s political power and liberal slant.  The recent effort by Amazon to censor a conservative book on the coronavirus lockdown is just a recent example of how the tech world seems to go out of its way to placate the left and alienate and even silence the right.

But the one thing free-market conservatives are even warier of is big government. When asked “Who do you think should regulate big tech companies like Google: the federal government or the free market?”, almost two-thirds answered “the free market.”

We learned big time during the coronavirus crisis that tech isn’t broke. The last thing we need now is for Donald Trump or Congress to fix it.

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at FreedomWorks and is a member of President Trump’s Economic Recovery Task Force. His latest book, with Arthur Laffer is: “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy.”

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