The drive to break-up Big Tech is building among America’s progressive politicians and bureaucrats. From Tim Wu’s appointment to the National Economic Council to Lina Khan’s nomination for the Federal Trade Commission, Democrats are making an antitrust crackdown central to their political strategy. In May, the District of Columbia joined the Democrats’ crusade by suing Amazon based on local antitrust law.
The left is not alone in this crusade, however. Conservatives have joined the parade of rising anti-tech antitrust fervor, too. Some Republicans are thrilled at the thought of wielding antitrust laws and expanding government powers to punish tech companies because of their moderation decisions regarding conservative speech and the influence they have in Americans’ daily lives.
In response, senior Trump economic advisor and free marketeer Steve Moore recently released a report detailing the devastating economic and foreign policy implications of breaking-up American tech businesses. His argument is, in short, that conservatives should not cut off our nose to spite our face. Facebook’s disdain for alternative speech should concern conservatives, but to break up our most successful businesses—including Apple, Amazon, and Google—would injure our economy, our workers, and our free speech at a critical time in our nation’s history. As we face the challenge of a Chinese rival, Moore’s report puts our workers, our consumers, and the American economy first. America First Republicans should heed his warnings about the impact of breaking up tech.
Antitrust enforcement on tech could actually make the problem of social media bias against conservatives even worse by making sites more vulnerable to attacks from the left and from boycotts from woke corporations like Ben & Jerry’s. Smaller, mostly conservative social media sites can’t afford the bad press the left can rain down on them the way larger corporations can.
These legal assaults will not only make matters worse for free speech, but will damage our free enterprise system. A present example of what could be lost by an antitrust approach to Big Tech is low inflation rates. Inflation is rapidly rising under President Joe Biden; our tech services play a key role in keeping prices low and helping American small businesses compete. Moore’s research shows the prices we pay for many tech products have radically dropped since 2000. For example, an annual license for Microsoft Office cost $499 20 years ago. Thanks to fierce competition, every American can access email, word processing, and spreadsheet software for free. The price of internet services alone has dropped 25 percent since 2000, a period over which prices across our economy have risen almost 50 percent.
Voters won’t quickly forgive or forget a Republican party that helped Democrats wreck an online ecosystem so many Americans rely on. Punishing America’s leading businesses for their innovation and success threatens the economic gains that everyday Americans have received from tech. If Amazon is forced to divest its profitable cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, American consumers are likely to see fewer free Amazon services such as online photo storage and TV streaming, and two-day delivery will likely become more expensive.
While technology has benefited everyday Americans through innovative and high-quality services, it has also enabled America’s global leadership on future tech issues like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and information services—all of which will play a key role in America’s 21st century economy. While America leads the world in these areas, China is snapping at our heels and devoting their resources to overtake the U.S. in technology leadership.
Breaking up and regulating our tech companies will reduce their ability to innovate quickly and remain at the cutting edge of technology. That will be the single biggest boon to China in their quest to run the world’s tech services. Rather than having to innovate and produce competitive services that people want, China will be able to sit back as our government rips apart a key American industry. As Moore rightly says in his report, “the greatest economic and national security threat facing America in the 21st century is the rise of communist China…. Calls to break up high tech or prohibitions against [tech’s] expansion in the marketplace only do a favor to our rivals in Beijing and Europe.” This should ring true to conservatives, as the fight for American global dominance should not be about fighting our own entrepreneurs, but about ensuring that we win against China.
While conservatives rightly criticize cancel culture and woke capitalism, we shouldn’t misdirect our fight against wokeness as more important than our fight against a Chinese century driven by Chinese technology. Given the left’s lack of understanding of this threat and their desire to regulate all businesses into submission, it’s clear that conservatives and America’s tech industry might actually need each other more than ever. I am waiting for the day when both conservatives and Big Tech recognize the real threat to our economic and national security.
Rick Santorum is a former United States senator from Pennsylvania.