"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." Thus did Ronald Reagan capture the essence of big government. The two biggest challenges facing defenders of free markets in technology policy lie in Reagan's second point:
- Telling the "Good News Story" about how "it" (human ingenuity--what the great economist Julian Simon called our "Ultimate Resource") keeps "moving" (by inventing new hardware, software, services, etc.)
- Holding the line against efforts to extend the regulatory regimes of the past over new technologies, and chipping away at those regimes as best we can
So one might think that believers in limited government would celebrate a company like Google as a great American success story: A university research program launched by two smart kids (one of whom fled Communist oppression
) that grew from a garage start-up into a global tech titan whose wide-ranging innovations are revolutionizing more and more of the economy. Surely free marketeers would rally to the defense of such a company when, say, the New York Times
--that if-it-moves-regulate-it bastion--calls for bringing "into the regulatory fold," right?
Unfortunately, all too many free marketeers seem willing to hang Google out to dry, or at least stay silent because they resent the pro-regulatory policy positions taken by the company or the political leanings of its employees and leadership. The company has hardly been a champion of digital capitalism in Washington, allying itself with a number tax/regulate/subsidize groups, pushing for net neutrality regulation, and using antitrust as a sword against its rivals (some of whom seem willing to return the favor). But the principles at stake are too important for free marketeers to gloat, as Adam Thierer argued in an op/ed for National Review Online earlier this week: Government vs. Google: Why Free Marketeers Should Rally Against "Search Neutrality."
Adam and I have been writing about this issue on the TLF for a long time. Here are a few pieces about the dangers inherent in the seductive idea of search neutrality: