Innovation and success must remain our economic foundation

Innovation and success must remain our economic foundation
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If there is one word that could sum up the current political climate, it is frustration. And that frustration takes many forms.

There are, understandably, many Americans who feel frustrated about being left behind in the internet era, and fearful of being swamped by waves of emerging technologies.

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But we also have many old-economy companies and bureaucrats who view new-economy businesses as a threat to their decades-long dominance of certain markets. And these legacy companies are doing everything they can to protect their privileged position in established markets.

 

Seizing on Americans’ frustration and fears, these old-economy companies have been pumping anti-tech rhetoric into the zeitgeist in order to stifle competition and deliver a dose of “payback” to online upstarts who have disrupted their legacy businesses.

Our political leaders at local, state and federal levels want solutions that help their constituents achieve economic success. Unfortunately, some politicians are being manipulated into thinking that anti-tech policy “solutions” are the answer.

Old-economy companies in the retail, transportation and lodging industries are encouraging politicians to pursue policies that would hurt the very entrepreneurs and small businesses that we ought to be helping.

Political leaders can’t just take the word of entrenched companies and ignore the role that large online platforms play in helping American small businesses to grow, and even to reach customers around the globe.

The latest and most sinister anti-tech “solution” is known as the hipster antitrust movement. It seizes on populist fears to justify dismantling the large online platforms on which we depend. Their favorite targets are Americans’ favorite online platforms — like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Traditional antitrust approaches call for market analysis and a showing of consumer harms. But hipster antitrust blithely asserts that online platforms are becoming too powerful and that government must intervene now to stifle online innovation and growth.

In essence, these old-economy companies are manipulating laws and lawmakers in order to slow-down tech-enabled competition that threatens their market dominance.

You might think this hipster antitrust assault will hurt only the tech industry. But it also harms the millions of Americans and small businesses that find new customers and financial success through these tech platforms.

Consider a small boutique jewelry store in the American heartland. Historically, only local customers would find or frequent this jeweler. Now, online platforms like eBay, Etsy, and Facebook help customers from around the world to discover this jeweler’s unique treasures. And the bigger these platforms become, the better they serve small businesses by increasing exposure and customer reach.

But, you won’t hear those benefits being discussed by those beating the drums of antitrust. Nor will you hear from antitrust advocates about how their proposals threaten the 10 million jobs and trillion dollars in GDP that are enabled by the internet sector today.

Instead, we hear calls to punish businesses for achieving size and success.

Hipster antitrust advocates are using populism and click-bait assertions to push anticompetitive policies. If we accede to this movement we will hurt small businesses and impair the innovation which has given us so many amazing devices and online experiences.

Far better to funnel frustrations and fears towards a more optimistic policy environment that rewards success, supports competition and promotes innovation.

Steve DelBianco is president and CEO of NetChoice, an association of eCommerce businesses and online consumers who share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

Carl Szabo is general counsel for NetChoice. The views of NetChoice do not necessarily represent the views of its underlying members.