The Market Institute President Charles Sauer has a new article in Real Clear Markets rebutting some conservative lawmakers that are going after ‘Big Tech’ with new antitrust laws. He argues this is incompatible with small government.
“Representatives and one-third of Senators dread even-numbered Septembers. That’s because they must leave the campaign trial for a Congressional session where they risk casting a vote that could give their opponents last-minute ammunition against them or alienate part of their base.
This year, if one believes the claims made by some on the Right, the majority of Republican House members cast such a vote when they opposed the “Merger Fee Modification Act” (HR 3843).
As the title suggests, the act raises fees business must pay to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when it makes a mandatory filing for federal review of a proposed merger or acquisition, The House-passed bill also contains the language of the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act, which allows state attorneys general to pick the venues in which they pursue antitrust cases.
It may seem odd to insist a bill as unsexy as one that changes procedures concerning federal antitrust laws could sway voters. However, passage of has bill could provide the FTC with billions in new revenue to increase enforcement of antitrust laws and make it easier for state attorneys general to successfully pursue antitrust cases. Making it easier to prosecute antirust cases is a priority, not just of the left, but of a new strain of “big government conservatism” that has arisen on the right.
These conservatives believe that the threat posed by “Big Tech” (usually a shorthand for Facebook, Amazon, and Google) requires abandoning the “fusionist” consensus that defined conservatism – in theory if not in practice – since the 1950s in order to “free” conservatives to use tools like anti-trust against Big Tech and other practitioners of “woke” capitalism. This vote shows that many (most?) Republican office holders and voters, do not believe that conservatives’ concerns with Facebook et al justifies abandoning a commitment to limited government.
It certainly does not require supporting Federal Trade Commission Lina Khan’s radical agenda.
Pro-antitrust conservatives fail to understand that the authoritarian tactics advanced by the left will not necessarily benefit the right for two reasons. One is most federal bureaucrats lean left, and thus would work to undermine a conservative President who sought to use government means to promote conservative ends. Second is that conservatives seek a society of strong families and communities, a thriving free-market, and a culture that does not undermine traditional values.
All of these goals are incompatible with a big federal government.
The pro-big government conservatives (like their progressive counterparts) claim that the big tech companies are impervious to market forces. If this is true, then why is Meta (Facebook’s parent company) losing so many users that it is being forced to impose a hiring freeze and lay off employees, and why is Amazon’s stock price declining?
One reason the larger social media platforms are losing customers is their content moderation policies are driving conservative users to sites that market themselves as more “free speech” friendly than the bigger companies. These companies could easily find themselves in the crosshairs of federal bureaucrats or ambitious state attorney generals if they continue to grow. This is another reason why conservative Republicans may have opposed HR 3343.
The main reason limited-government conservatives oppose expanding antitrust to get back at Big Tech is rooted in the ties between any large industry and Big Government. Like Jafar says, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” Therefore, expanding government’s influence over these companies will worsen the problems conservatives already have with big tech.
Many of the most notable examples of conservatives and others being deplatformed have been carried out at the “suggestion” of government officials and politicians—including the big guy himself. Big Tech companies are far from the only industry that adjusts its policies to comply with government “suggestions.” Therefore, instead of giving government more power over tech, conservatives should fight for the separation of tech and state.”