BY BOB BARR
Perhaps it is too much West Coast air, or perhaps because the vast wealth of their owners keeps them insulated from the working class, but with few exceptions (such as Pay Pal founder Peter Theil), tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon all share a left-leaning, Kumbaya-like corporate culture; one that will protect itself with all the vengeful vigor of any social justice warrior on a college campus.
This corporate culture war has pushed many conservatives to view these companies and their enormous clout as a threat in the market place and in politics. This is, of course, much the same as they see groups like MoveOn.org, or politicians like Rep. Nancy Pelosi; and such sentiments are hardly unjustified. Private companies, not politicians or special interest groups, for example, were the leading force in the amending of California’s original religious liberty bill; and conservatives have long been disproportionately targeted on social media with bans for “objectionable” content that site administrators claim to be “hate speech.”
Fear and skepticism of the power of these companies appeared to reach a peak last month when Google fired a senior software engineer for politely questioning the company’s gender initiatives in an internal memo. Adding fuel to the fire, the company then seemingly forced the firing of a respected scholar at the New America Foundation, of which Google is a major benefactor, because his research shed a critical light on the concentration of power by American tech giants. For many on the Right, as Popeye says, “that’s all they can stands, and they can’t stands no more.”
“Google’s fascist witch-burning of an honest engineer for refusing to bow down at the altar of politically correct lies was the final straw,” Kurt Schlichter wrote last month here at Townhall.com. He continued, “Republicans at both the federal and the state level need to rein in [Silicon Valley]…through the kind of crushing regulation of these private business that we conservatives used to oppose.” In other words, to beat the liberals, conservatives must act like liberals, even if it means throwing the free market to the wind. I sympathize with Schlichter’s anger and frustration, but his is a terrible idea.
There is no question that these tech firms wield enormous power, and that they play by a double standard when it comes to tolerance; but playing by liberals’ rules does not help us beat them, it only makes us more like them.
In the decades since America’s last great Republican president, Ronald Reagan, the GOP’s principles have morphed to become, shall we say…a little “squishy.” George H.W. Bush promised “no new taxes,” but raised them. George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative,” which translated into huge, expansive federal programs like “No Child Left Behind” and the costly Medicare Modernization Act; not to mention some $700 billion to bail out Wall Street as part of the “Troubled Asset Relief Program.” Now, with President Donald Trump – who does not seem to care much for Republican orthodoxy – one is never quite sure what position the President will take; conservative one day, populist the next.
The result is a Republican Party philosophically rudderless, and concerned more with winning the next election than its principles. In fact, the GOP’s free market, pro-capitalism roots (as diluted as they might have become), may be one of the last true differentiators between “us” and “them.” If anything, it is time to double-down on these principles, not let up as some conservative critics of the tech industry suggest.
As private consumers, conservatives are well within their rights to find alternatives to Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, in protest of these companies’ Leftist agendas; and, from a pure personal privacy perspective, not using their services may be a smart move as well. Yet, demanding government take swift and punitive action, simply because we do not like them, undermines everything that makes conservatism superior to liberalism. Using, as Schlichter states, new or pre-existing regulations to harass liberal companies into submission may feel good, but consider how it felt to watch President Obama use the National Labor Relations Board to block Boeing from opening a new factory in a non-union state. Conservatives should be fighting against such abuse of power, not encouraging it when it might [temporarily] help “our” side. If we keep our wits and our principles about us, the spirit of true conservatism in the tech market places will outlast them all; including Google and Facebook.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.