Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

An Argument – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on August 16, 2018


An Argument for Ending Patent Monopolies

Google’s market power traces back to patents. Google has allegedly levered this economic power into politics by slanting its algorithms of search toward Hillary Clinton and away from Donald Trump. Google influences the presentation of political information. Among social media platforms, shadowbanning is another way to influence political discourse. A third way is the outright banning of platforms such as that of Alex Jones.

Reporter Allum Bokhari writes “Facebook claims to have boosted voter turnout by 3 percent in 2016 by making small tweaks to theiralgorithm. And studies have shown that if search engines like Google manipulated their results to favor particular candidates, they could sway up to 40 percent of undecided voters. The author of the same studies estimates that biased search results shifted between 2 and 3 million votes towards Hillary Clinton in 2016. How much more could they shift in 2020?”

Bokhari favors government regulation of social media giants. I strongly oppose it, because it means the government will control political speech, a horrible totalitarian outcome…

I do not accept the Supreme Court’s idea that social media are the “modern public square”, which Bokhari also accepts. That notion confuses private and public. That concept treats discourse as a static entity produced by existing institutions. We need not accept that assumption. There are all sorts of dynamics to make political discourse wide open. New social media companies can enter the market. Voters can learn what platforms are biased and act accordingly to adjust what they think and how they vote. Platforms are open to criticism by candidates and others. Furthermore, votes are influenced in ways beyond calculation…

It’s true that Facebook is not a bakery. It’s also true that an elephant is not a flea. The latter two animals are both alive and share the essentials that give life. The bakery and Facebook share the essential that the initiation of violence is wrong. This is where the analysis needs to focus. By what means do the business decisions of the social media and tech giants initiate violence? One key area is that of patents. Patents make entry more difficult, sometimes impossible. Instead of regulating the giants, as Bokhari suggests, what we need is to de-regulate them, by removing patent protection. It’s wrong to grant government-enforced monopolies that prevent others from using their property as they see fit.

Many companies are now giants and many rely on patent protections. Many lobby Congress. Many make political contributions. They are levering their patent protections into undue political influence on top of their undue economic influence. To help mitigate these influences, ending patent protection will help. This is an argument in addition to other arguments about intellectual property. The suggestion here is that certain costs have been under-recognized or left out of consideration. First are the costs of further government regulation that limit speech. Second are the costs of political corruption.

Be seeing you



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