Don’t Trust Anti-Trust

How the Democrats Can Lose Silicon Valley and their senses

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That Was The Week, #39


Ben Thompson, in Stratechery, wrote an essay this week. Its title was great – “Facebook’s Missing Monopoly.” In the same week, the House Democrats released a report accusing Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon of being monopolies and abusing their power.
The ignorance manifest in the accusation of monopoly power is striking and, at the same time, astounding. At a time when most of Silicon Valley is praying – or at least hoping – for a Biden win in the presidential election, the assumed winners are signaling the coming war with big tech.
To be clear, Facebook does not have a monopoly in its only market – digital advertising. Neither does Google. Amazon has no monopoly in eCommerce, and Apple certainly has no monopoly on smartphones, laptops, computers, or software and services. And you can’t abuse what you do not have.
These are big and powerful companies and a testament to the Silicon Valley ethos to build the new and disrupt the old.
None of this is to say that these companies are not sometimes self-serving and aggressive. All successful companies are.
So, where does that leave us? Of course, nothing should stand in the way of removing the current government. But that said, it is hard to feel good about the assumed winners.
The future of humanity depends on technology that will be capable of automating much that is currently manual. The ability to reduce the price of food, drinks, housing, clothing, transport, energy, and much more closer towards zero is technology and automation driven. Automation is beneficial to humanity due to its impact on reducing human labor in producing for the needs of humans, animals, and the earth. Ultimately human work itself will be reduced to as close to zero as is achievable. When that happens, the choice of how to spend one’s time will become available to all. Large technology companies are part of the path to that possibility.
The end of the private company is a meaningful goal in that context. It would be hard to imagine a fully automated society owned and run by private individuals. As a requirement of progress, social production can become possible, and surplus itself will probably become social, not individual. Universal Basic Income would be the likely form of the social distribution of wealth. But that is a long time in the future. Until that time, let’s support the ability of capital and know-how to help us get there.
We all require a political agenda that places value on progress and understands that automation is the source of social progress and equality of opportunity. Combining technical progress and social progress is not a new idea. It was the heart of enlightenment thinking. We seem to have lost it,

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