… The American public is right to question the growing power of large corporations, but Congress misses the point by viewing this problem solely through the lens of antitrust.…
Companies like Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon provide consumers with a wider
…Facebook’s social networks and Google’s search engines are free to users. …But there’s a catch: The same companies that have improved consumer access to cheap products are increasingly limiting options in the marketplace of ideas and raising the cost of ideological dissent. This isn’t price fixing; it’s “idea fixing.” And it poses a greater long-term threat to the public than anything dreamed by the robber barons who ran Standard Oil and U.S. Steel.
…On the premise of “social responsibility,” Alphabet subsidiary YouTube recently decided to begin removing political videos it deemed untruthful. The site has taken down videos that were critical of Covid-19 lockdown policies in certain states, stifling discourse about the most important scientific and public-policy debate of the year. Facebook’s decision this year to create a corporate politburo of “experts” to determine what types of speech are acceptable on its site is similarly troubling. … For experts and ordinary folks alike, the past teaches us that many of our current beliefs will be proved false, and that determinations of truth are always conditional and probabilistic. Unfettered dialogue isn’t a liberal-arts luxury; it is a necessity for science and democracy.
…. America’s traditional mechanism for dealing with those disagreements is through open public debate culminating at the ballot box, not by corporate fiat issued from the mountaintops of Davos.
… Google, Facebook and Twitter enjoy a de facto oligopoly over the public debate many Americans witness on the internet, a primary source of political information in the digital age.
While Big Tech and Wall Street are currently pushing fashionable progressive ideas on issues from climate change to policing and diversity, that could easily change in the future. Beijing has successfully pressured American businesses to restrict their employees’ speech about China. …It is hardly a stretch to worry that companies like Apple, Google and Twitter, which have already sought to collaborate with the Chinese Communist Party on regulation of “acceptable” ideas within China, could take those standards of “acceptability” in the U.S. to appease their CCP-affiliated stakeholders. …
This is the poisoned fruit of “stakeholder capitalism.” If society demands that corporate executives use their platforms to improve society, it entrusts those same executives with deciding what constitutes a better society. Yet in the year of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter, this new idea—that corporate leaders should use their market power to implement social and political values—has quickly been ordained as the governing philosophy of American corporations.
America has a strong tradition of separating spheres of society to preserve the integrity of each. Separating capitalism from democracy is no less important than separating church from state. By using market power to exercise undue social, cultural and political power, today’s corporate leaders violate this fundamental American principle. It is time to resist this ideological cartel that now represents a more fundamental threat to the American public than any antitrust violation.
Mr. Ramaswamy is founder and CEO of Roivant Sciences.
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