What does billionaire liberal icon George Soros have in common with your average, rank and file conservative? On most days your answer would likely be limited to something along the lines of the number of limbs they have or similar chromosomal structures. But this week, following some remarks he delivered in Davos, Soros is sounding the alarm against a perceived threat which conservatives have been targeting for a while now… tech giants such as Google and Facebook. (Washington Post)
Billionaire philanthropist and leading donor to liberal causes George Soros predicted Thursday that regulation and taxation will soon dethrone Facebook and Google, describing the tech industry’s major players as powerful monopolies that harm individuals, market innovation and democracy.
In a wide-ranging, scathing speech delivered at a dinner event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Soros applauded the European Union’s heightened enforcement aimed at Web giants. He also called for greater regulation of the tech companies, seizing on a growing backlash against Silicon Valley.
“Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech.
Just from that brief introduction, you can see that while there may be some brief intersection of interests between Soros and conservatives, the reasons for the complaints and the suggested solutions will still be miles apart ideologically. Facebook and Google have done themselves no favors if they wanted to be seen as impartial actors, with too many incidents showing up where they both seemed to want to censor conservatives and promote liberal causes. This is obviously not going to be a problem that George Soros will be going to the mat for.
Soros is more interested in monopoly busting here, and his proposed solutions will be familiar to his left-leaning fans. Call in the government and have them regulate and tax the web giants into submission. That’s going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of small government conservatives right off the bat, but faced with the reality of this particular market space we may be running out of other options.
It would be nice if everyone who didn’t approve of the antics of Facebook and Google could simply vote with their wallets and take their business elsewhere. In a truly free market, that would be all that’s required. But these two giants in particular got out to a huge lead early and have pretty much squelched the competition. It’s not that there aren’t other offerings out there delivering all of the services we get from those two providers, but the public has participated in their accumulation of power. So many people that most of us know, both personally and professionally, are so locked into Facebook and Google that we’d be cutting off our own nose to spite our face if we went off those grids.
And just to play Devil’s Advocate here, perhaps we do need to ask if either of those companies has engaged in behavior which crosses the line in terms of monopolies. You can look at the laundry list of companies Google has bought over the years. Some they incorporated into their own offerings, while others seem to have been simply discarded, sweeping them off the field of battle. Facebook has been a bit less active in the purchasing department, but in their own niche, they still dominate by virtue of sheer momentum.
We have no way of knowing if anything will actually come of this or if Soros is just shouting at the sea. But look at it this way. Next time somebody asks, you might finally be able to say you have something in common with George Soros!