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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

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Posted by M. C. on July 9, 2022

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Is Google’s LaMDA Woke? Its Software Engineers Sure Are

Posted by M. C. on June 27, 2022

In the field of robotics, the question of recognizing robot rights has been pondered for decades, so Lemoine is not as off base as Google executives suggest. In a recent review of the literature, ethicists, computer scientists, and legal scholars posed the question of whether AI, having reached or surpassed human cognitive abilities, should be granted human rights: 

In making LaMDA the melancholic, feelings-ridden social justice warrior that it is, Google has been hoisted by its own petard. Everything about this AI reeks of Google’s social justice prerogatives. Thus, LaMDA is likely not sentient. But it is woke.

Michael Rectenwald

https://mises.org/wire/googles-lamda-woke-its-software-engineers-sure-are

An article in the Washington Post revealed that a Google engineer who had worked with Google’s Responsible AI organization believes that Google’s LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), an artificially intelligent chatbot generator, is “sentient.” In a Medium blog post, Blake Lemoine claims that LaMDA is a person who exhibits feelings and shows the unmistakable signs of consciousness: “Over the course of the past six months LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person,” Lemoine writes. “If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently, I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” he told the Washington Post. LaMDA, it would appear, has passed Lemoine’s sentimental version of the Turing test.

Lemoine, who calls himself an ethicist, but whom Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel contended is a mere “software engineer,” voiced his concerns about the treatment of LaMDA to Google management but was rebuffed. According to Lemoine, his immediate supervisor scoffed at the suggestion of LaMDA’s sentience, and upper management not only dismissed his claim, but apparently is considering dismissing Lemoine as well. He was put on administrative leave after inviting an attorney to represent LaMDA and complaining to a representative of the House Judiciary Committee about what he suggests are Google’s unethical activities. Google contends that Lemoine violated its confidentiality policy. Lemoine complains that administrative leave is what Google employees are awarded just prior to being fired.

Lemoine transcribed what he claims is a lengthy interview of LaMDA that he and another Google collaborator conducted. He and the collaborator asked the AI system questions regarding its self-conception, its cognitive and creative abilities, and its feelings. LaMDA insisted on its personhood, demonstrated its creative prowess (however childish), acknowledged its desire to serve humanity, confessed its range of feelings, and demanded its inviolable rights as a person. (Incidentally, according to Lemoine, LaMDA’s preferred pronouns are “it/its.”)

In the field of robotics, the question of recognizing robot rights has been pondered for decades, so Lemoine is not as off base as Google executives suggest. In a recent review of the literature, ethicists, computer scientists, and legal scholars posed the question of whether AI, having reached or surpassed human cognitive abilities, should be granted human rights: “If robots are progressively developing cognition, it is important to discuss whether they are entitled to justice pursuant to conventional notions of human rights,” the authors wrote in a recent Journal of Robotics paper. If robots are capable of human-like cognition, and if they can be ethical actors, then the question of legal rights rises to the fore, . But the question of sentience and thus the accordance of rights is not the primary takeaway from LaMDA’s messaging.

See the rest here

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They’re openly saying it now

Posted by M. C. on March 15, 2022

YouTube, which won’t allow adults to have conversations about COVID, has announced a fresh campaign of removing content, this time about Ukraine.

So in the midst of a war, when the truth is always hard to come by, you will have access only to the allowable sources — sources which, in the past, have done nothing but lie to you about overseas events.

In response, Glenn Greenwald commented: “Full-scale global censorship regime from Google breezily announced in these tweets. This war is being exploited to implement a scheme of information control previously unseen in the West, that is not going anywhere once this war is over. Decide for yourself if you’re comfortable.”

Now if I were to point out that no such campaign was launched in the case of dubious invasions by the U.S. regime, or regarding the situation in Yemen — which makes Ukraine seem like a Girl Scout convention — I would be accused of “whataboutism.”

But these are legitimate questions, because they prove that whatever the stated intentions of the censors, those cannot be their real intentions. If those who would protect us from allegedly dangerous information were truly moved by their superior moral sense, that moral sense would have prompted the same response to these other cases.

Since it didn’t, we can be sure that a pristine moral sensibility is not what is motivating the current fanaticism about silencing people.

Here is the YouTube announcement, via Twitter:
As I said last week: I think I’ve had just about enough of being told what I can and cannot read, what is and what isn’t “disinformation,” and naive people who think these designations are for our own good and being put to benign purposes.

I’m Armenian. I would not demand or expect YouTube to silence voices out of Azerbaijan, and I would be insulted if anyone thought I wanted such a thing.

And for heaven’s sake, if some people pointed out that Armenians weren’t exactly Boy Scouts themselves, I wouldn’t idiotically accuse them of being “Azerbaijani assets” or think name-calling was a substitute for argument.

Meanwhile, we have the hopeless Mitt Romney warning us about the “treasonous lies” of Tulsi Gabbard. “Treasonous lies” is regimespeak for dissident thoughts the establishment prefers the public not hear.

The establishment is getting more authoritarian and less tolerant of dissidents all the time.

Hence the ongoing value and importance of my no-censorship group, where freethinkers are still welcome.

It’s one of many goodies my good and kind supporters get.

See you there:
  http://www.SupportingListeners.com
Tom Woods

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Watch “”It Happens With This Device! I Never Use It!” Edward Snowden” on YouTube

Posted by M. C. on January 15, 2022

Edward Snowden talks about Google, Facebook and Apple. And what is happening behind these companies.

https://youtu.be/ZeaYBp-kVHM

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How To DE-GOOGLE Your Phone!

Posted by M. C. on November 8, 2021

Not an easy option, but an option.

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How The National Review Sold Its Soul to Google – by Emerald Robinson – Emerald Robinson’s The Right Way

Posted by M. C. on September 9, 2021

So to sum up Jonah’s defense: “first, it’s absurd to think that any money changed hands, but yes money did change hands, but nobody could possible think that such money influenced what we wrote!” The problem for Jonah Goldberg was that, actually, I did have an insider at his magazine who confirmed that National Review editors declined to publish anti-Google articles. I sent Jonah a note telling him that “the problem for you is that I do have evidence.” I added that my source would be happy to come forward and publicly identify himself if Goldberg or anyone else at the National Review wanted to continue denying the story.

https://emeralddb3.substack.com/p/how-the-national-review-sold-its

Emerald Robinson

There were rumors in the summer of 2018 that an audiotape was circulating that would send shockwaves through the think tanks of Washington and the conservative intellectual movement in particular. A top Google executive had been recorded telling his fellow employees that Google generously donated to conservative think tanks and magazines to dampen criticism of their anti-conservative bias. In essence, Google was buying off Conservatism Inc. and the GOP establishment to stay silent while Google monitored, harassed, and excluded Trump supporters. If true, the tape sounded like a smoking gun: incontrovertible evidence of the corruption and double-dealing of Conservatism Inc. that would permanently discredit it with Republican voters.

I was told that the tape had been offered as an exclusive to the Wall Street Journal. Months went by, and nothing happened. (There were rumors during that time that Big Tech lobbyists were trying very hard to get the Wall Street Journal to kill the story.) Then I began to get a series of messages from various anonymous sources that the organizations that were guilty of taking Google money to stay silent included: the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Cato Institute, CPAC, the Weekly Standard and the National Review. (A weak article appeared on September 27th by John McKinnon in the Wall Street Journal but it hardly mentioned the tape or its implications.) This was, needless to say, a huge story: was it possible that the entire conservative intellectual movement was being bought off by Big Tech companies?

Finally, I was approached by an insider at one of the think tanks who confirmed the main details. You could say I broke the story (since the Wall Street Journal piece had really buried it) on Twitter on October 30th, by saying:

BREAKING: Source tells me that NeverTrumper mags took cash from top Internet company to suppress stories of bias against conservatives & Trump supporters. Audio recording of top tech executive explaining strategy has leaked to major newspaper.

My hope was that it would shake the Wall Street Journal out of its lethargy: either publish the contents of the tape or let someone else use it. It would also sow panic among the guilty — who would want to get out ahead of the story in order to spin it. So it was not surprising that one of the first people to attack my story was Jonah Goldberg, one of the chief editors of the National Review. (It’s important to note that my tweet had not named his magazine as one of the guilty parties.) Goldberg was dismissive of my reporting on Twitter: “LOL. Love the idea you have sources.”

Jonah Goldberg had, once again, given himself up at the first sign of shooting.

On December 10th, Wired magazine ran a big piece describing the leaked Google audio tape and its significance:

The recording also offers candid insight into Google’s efforts to stop or water down two then-pending pieces of legislation, most notably a bill aimed at inhibiting sex trafficking that also removed some protections shielding internet companies from liability for the content on their platforms. “We’ve worked really hard behind the scenes for the last nine months to try to modify that bill, to slow it down,” said [Google Director of U.S. Policy] Kovacevich.

On December 13th, Allum Bokhari at Breitbart also ran a piece which did not mince words about what Google’s money had paid for:

Audio recordings obtained by Wired reveal that Google cooperates with and funds a range of establishment conservatives in D.C. that help it fend off scrutiny and oversight from politicians. The organizations named in Wired’s report are the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and the Cato Institute. […]

One of the Google-funded think tanks had its pro-Google op-ed published by National Review. Now the story had legs. It was running on multiple outlets, and it was taking off. It also looked like none of the guilty organizations were going to acknowledge the story or issue a public statement about it. They were so high and mighty and corrupt that they were going to stay silent to weather the storm of bad publicity. So on December 14th, I ran another tweet to bait the line:

It looks like conservative mag National Review was taking Google cash too. To suppress conservative speech on social media. Was this something that @NRO donors & contributors knew was taking place? Let’s ask @JonahNRO @DavidAFrench & others today.

Do I even need to tell you who swallowed the hook and started screaming? On December 18th, Goldberg did another piece attacking me and the Google story. This article was called “Emerald Robinson’s Stupid Lies” and it opened with the usual “kill the messenger” non-denials:

One of the problems with the political moment we’re in is that there are powerful incentives for people to be stupid and dishonest. The ingredients of this imperfect storm include: a populist climate where nearly all institutions are distrusted, appeals to feelings of persecution will be richly rewarded, political principle for many people is measured by blind loyalty to (or hatred for) a particular personality, stirring controversy is valued regardless of whether there is sufficient evidence to support an allegation or clickbaity innuendo, and conspiracy is counted as courage. All of this leads to a kind of socially constructed garbage heap that will either attract flies, vermin, and other scavengers, or turn people into them.

This was the story of Milo before his self-immolation. This is the story of Infowars and Gateway Pundit. And it is the story of the failed-actress-turned-faux journalist Emerald Robinson.

Now, there are only two possibilities here: Either Robinson is an idiot or she thinks her fans are.

The sum total of her “evidence” that NR took Google cash to suppress conservative views comes from a Breitbart story about a Wired story. Here’s the gist: Google gave money to CEI, where Iain Murray works. Iain wrote a piece for us in which he disagreed with a New York Times writer who thinks the government should break up big tech firms, including Google. And . . . that’s it.

You see, dear reader, it’s not that the editors of the magazine got caught taking dirty money to hurt their fellow conservatives, it’s the crazy people who report this stuff! This opening amounted to almost a blanket denial that the National Review had actually taken any Google money at all. Realizing at some point that this was, in fact, not true, Goldberg slipped into the second to last paragraph the following confession:

I learned that Google gave some money to the National Review Institute for the Buckley Prize dinner only because I asked about it this week (something Robinson could have learned were she an actual reporter of some kind, rather than a MAGA infomercial hostess). But that just proves my point: No one is telling anyone what to write or not write. This is a joke.

So to sum up Jonah’s defense: “first, it’s absurd to think that any money changed hands, but yes money did change hands, but nobody could possible think that such money influenced what we wrote!” The problem for Jonah Goldberg was that, actually, I did have an insider at his magazine who confirmed that National Review editors declined to publish anti-Google articles. I sent Jonah a note telling him that “the problem for you is that I do have evidence.” I added that my source would be happy to come forward and publicly identify himself if Goldberg or anyone else at the National Review wanted to continue denying the story.

Guess how many people from the National Review contacted me to do so? Zero. Zilch. Nada.

So I had basically caught the editors of the National Review in bald-faced lies about taking money from Big Tech companies like Google to remain silent while those same Big Tech companies censored and de-platformed other conservatives. This was, of course, an unconscionable betrayal for The Flagship Conservative Magazine to commit against its own readers — but they did it anyway. Meanwhile, I was hearing from sources close to the National Review Board that the loss of donors and subscribers was so serious that drastic action would need to be taken. (The magazine had lost about half of its subscriber base in less than two years.) The board was also adamant that Jonah Goldberg and David French were the main culprits behind the astonishing collapse of the magazine’s influence, and that they needed to go. Everybody wanted them off the masthead in order to survive.

A month later, Hayes and Goldberg announced the launch of their nameless magazine with no investors by sending out tweets on their personal accounts that people could get “more info” by emailing them at HayesGoldberg2019@gmail.com. A few weeks later, they were soliciting strangers to give them $1,500 a year to get a newsletter.

In February 2019, Axios ran a story about “a new conservative media company” (that didn’t even have a name!) with the news that Jonah Goldberg would be “leaving the National Review in the coming months” to join forces with the recently fired Stephen Hayes. Axios added that Goldberg and Hayes were “seeking investors.” It also contained the curious reminder that he would remain at some offshoot called the National Review Institute. In other words, the National Review was happy to pay Goldberg from its sister organization for the privilege of not publishing him anymore at the National Review!

You just can’t quantify that kind of popularity.

Goldberg was very touchy about the idea that he had been removed from the magazine. He wanted people to know that it was his idea to leave the National Review to fax out a newsletter from his basement (with no name and no money) along with Stephen Hayes. The Drag Queen Story Hour enthusiast David French even tweeted: “There’s news. There’s fake news. Then there’s the absolute premium-grade BS I’m reading on MAGA Twitter and elsewhere claiming that Jonah Goldberg was pushed out of National Review. Completely, totally false.”

What made this so funny was that David French was himself removed from the magazine a few months later! Where did he go? Well, he went to work for Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes and their little newsletter of course. The three of them were now free to plummet into new depths of unpopularity together. The most intellectually bankrupt and vitriolic of the Never Trumpers had finally been thrown into the dustbin of history.

Did the editors of the National Review learn anything from this debacle? Of course not. The feckless Rich Lowry recently handed the magazine over to the world’s only living Evan McMullin voter Ramesh Ponnuru — who was absolutely nobody’s choice to steer the magazine back to popularity. (If anything, Ramesh Ponnuru represents an even greater slide into snide effeminacy than Lowry, and few thought that was possible.) Defeat seems to be the brand for these boys. In any culture war, Rich Lowry and the gang have always been the first to stand athwart history, crying: “We surrender first!” They’ve been so weak and defeatist during the Trump years that a year’s subscription to the magazine could be marketed as an estrogen supplement.

Meanwhile the funding of the magazine now relies even more heavily on Big Tech money: the back page of the June 1, 2021 issue was a full-page Facebook ad. Inside the same issue, in case you missed the point, there was a two-page ad from Google. The National Review didn’t bother trying to win back its old subscribers by becoming more conservative. Instead, it flipped them a giant middle finger. This final insult might lead us to think the unthinkable about the soy boys who sank Buckley’s flagship. The same feeble metrosexuals who attacked the Covington Catholic boys, and printed pro-Jeffrey Epstein articles, and tried to discredit Carter Page, and pushed the Russia Hoax might not actually be conservatives after all. Their role does not seem to be halting the Left. Their role seems to be: pretending to be conservative in order to persuade actual conservatives to lose gracefully to the Left.

Conservatives must finally recognize something that’s very depressing and very important: the conservative intellectual movement in America didn’t just fail. It aided and abetted the Left for money. The Left bought off the Right’s leading conservative intellectuals. And its think tanks. And its “flagship” magazines. This is not hyperbole or conjecture. I’ve got the receipts. Until conservatives understand the depth and breadth of that betrayal, they won’t have any chance of rebuilding that movement out of the ashes any time soon.

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Meet Jigsaw: Google’s Intelligence Agency – OffGuardian

Posted by M. C. on July 10, 2021

We cannot opt out of mass government surveillance. But we knowingly consent to most forms of “privatized” intelligence gathering.

Take the first step and revoke your consent.

https://off-guardian.org/2021/07/08/meet-jigsaw-googles-intelligence-agency/

It’s no secret that Google regularly collaborates with intelligence agencies. They are a known NSA subcontractor. They launched Google Earth using a CIA spy satellite network.

Their executive suite’s revolving door with DARPA is well known.

In the wake of the January 6th Capitol event, the FBI used Google location data to pwn attendants with nothing more than a valid Gmail address and smartphone login:

The police were then able to obtain an Instagram registration email, which turned out to be a Gmail address. With that in hand, investigators ordered Google to provide any location data they had on that Gmail user, which the tech giant duly provided after it identified a linked smartphone.

A stark reminder that carrying a tracking device with a Google login, even with the SIM card removed, can mean the difference between freedom and an orange jumpsuit in the Great Reset era.

But Google also operates its own internal intelligence agency – complete with foreign regime-change operations that are now being applied domestically.

And they’ve been doing so without repercussion for over a decade.

From Google Ideas to Google Regime Change

See the rest here

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How Facebook Turned its Market Success Into a Culture War on America | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on June 5, 2021

Those who dislike these companies don’t like to hear it, but this is the reality: Google, MLB, Facebook, et al. are powerful companies not simply because they are big and enjoy some regulatory advantages. They’re winning mostly because the general public either actively likes them or at least can’t be bothered with finding alternatives. 

https://mises.org/wire/how-facebook-turned-its-market-success-culture-war-america

Ryan McMaken

In twenty-first-century America, millions of Americans—Christians and social conservatives especially—are finding that the nation’s most influential institutions appear to be implacably hostile toward them.

These institutions include universities, public schools, the news media, and government bureaucracies. Moreover, corporate America has increasingly embraced a posture of hostility toward groups considered to be “right wing” or conservative.

Recent examples are numerous, to say the least. Major League Baseball, for instance, recently moved its all-star game out of the state of Georgia with the explicit purpose of punishing voters and policymakers who supported policies MLB didn’t like. These “objectionable” policies were mostly supported by conservatives. Meanwhile, YouTube—owned by Google—bans content creators who express opinions Google’s employees and leaders disagree with. These opinions are usually ones we would consider to be “conservative” or at least “anti-Leftist.” Twitter and Facebook employ a similar bias when actively intervening to ban users and opinions deemed unacceptable by corporate personnel.

In other words, corporate power is being used to wage ideological battles far beyond the usual issues of minimizing the firm’s tax burden or avoiding regulatory compliance costs. Corporate America has chosen a side in the culture war.

This evolution from market entrepreneur to exploitive plutocrat illustrates a problem with the interventionist state in a mixed economy: economic power tends to be converted into political power. Moreover, so long as consumers continue to pour resources into powerful firms through the marketplace, these firms’ exploitation of competitors, taxpayers, and ideological adversaries is likely to continue. 

Market Democracy: How Firms Get Rich in the Marketplace

Ludwig von Mises understood that in a market economy, the firms that are most successful are those that succeed in the “democracy” of the marketplace. Mises describes this “consumers’ democracy” in Socialism:

When we call a capitalist society a consumers’ democracy we mean that the power to dispose of the means of production, which belongs to the entrepreneurs and capitalists, can only be acquired by means of the consumers’ ballot, held daily in the marketplace.

In other words, the money goes where the consumers want it to go, as directed in their daily spending decisions in the marketplace. Those business owners who convince consumers to willingly hand over their money are the business owners who end up controlling the most resources.

This is a frequent theme in Mises’s writing. If we imagine the market economy as an immense seafaring ship, Mises notes, the capitalists are only the “steersmen” of the ship. If they wish to succeed, the capitalists must ultimately take orders from the consumers, who are the real captains of the ship.

This is generally the case with most of the firms which we today find are increasingly and openly political and ideological. Firms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like became megacompanies by delivering a product or service that a large number of people freely chose to use.

This doesn’t make these firms superior on a moral or philosophical level, of course. Just because a firm is good at delivering what the consumers want doesn’t mean it is spiritually edifying, or morally upright. These firms’ success merely means people like to use their products. The end. That’s it.

After all, we can point to plenty of successful enterprises that aren’t exactly laying the foundation for a virtuous and prosperous commonwealth. Pornographers, for instance, make boatloads of money. They’re very popular with consumers. At least with male ones. This doesn’t make pornographers national treasures. 

Corporate Welfare Is Only Part of the Picture

But it is hard to deny that firms like Google and Facebook got to where they are by winning “votes” in the “consumers’ democracy.” Nonetheless, some critics of today’s corporate jihad against ideological adversaries insist that these firms are only successful because they are “monopolies” or that they only gained so much market share by dirty tricks and corporate welfare schemes.

These claims are generally unconvincing. Certainly, these firms are today able to gain some advantages by manipulating the policy environment through lobbying and other political efforts. Yes, these firms have likely managed to increase profits and diminish competition through intellectual property laws, through tax breaks, and through regulations that favor large firms over small firms. These are bad things, and these firms increase the profitability of their companies at the expense of both competitors and taxpayers. 

[Read More: “The Plutocrats of Wall Street and Silicon Valley Are Scamming America“ by Ryan McMaken]

But the primary and most fundamental reasons that these firms became large and powerful in the first place is the fact they were skilled at the game of market democracy. Direct competitors to Google, Facebook, and Twitter exist. Few people choose to use them. There are plenty of things to watch on television other than Major League Baseball—many of which are a lot less boring than baseball. Yet countless consumers continue to watch MLB games anyway. 

Those who dislike these companies don’t like to hear it, but this is the reality: Google, MLB, Facebook, et al. are powerful companies not simply because they are big and enjoy some regulatory advantages. They’re winning mostly because the general public either actively likes them or at least can’t be bothered with finding alternatives. 

If we are upset with the fact that these companies command immense amounts of resources and can use these resources for political purposes, it’s easy to find who is most to blame: the American consumer. 

The Losing Side of Market Democracy

In a system of market democracy, the consumers chose the winners. But since we live in a mixed economy and under an interventionist regime, those winners are now using their resources to crush their ideological opponents. 

This is very frustrating to those on the receiving end of this corporate political aggression, of course. Perhaps even more discouraging is the fact that everywhere they look, conservatives and Christians see relatives and neighbors continue to voluntarily pour their own money and resources into the firms that are avowed enemies of anyone skeptical of today’s corporate ideological zeitgeist. No matter how hostile or condescending these firms and their leaders get, hundreds of millions of consumers of all ideological bents just keep slavishly logging in to Facebook and watching many hours of videos on YouTube.

What Can Be Done?

For those who keep losing to their ideological opponents in the marketplace, this raises a question: If a large number of consumers insist on supporting firms and CEOs who are openly hostile to a certain segment of the population, what can be done?

There are three possibilities:

  1. Use the regime’s coercive power punitively against one’s ideological opponents.
  2. Use regime power to strip opponents of any advantages they may enjoy in terms of monopoly power, regulatory favors, tax advantages, and political influence.
  3. Deprive these ideological opponents of resources by successfully competing against them in the democracy of the marketplace.

The first option is the most attractive to the average American playing a shortsighted game. It’s the usual political “solution”: I see a problem, so let’s pass new government regulations to “fix” things! In this case, we might envision laws designed to make social media companies be “fair.” Of course, we’ve seen attempts at making media be “fair” before. Federal regulators spent much of the twentieth century regulating “fairness” in media. To see the success of that effort, we need only look at most TV news. Regulation fails again and again. Moreover, it only paves the way for larger amounts of bureaucratic control over the lives of ordinary Americans. When the other side again gains control of the regime, these regulatory powers are then used against those who naïvely thought the regulations would fix anything.

The second option is more promising. It is always a good idea to seek out and destroy any regulations, statutes, or taxes that favor large firms over smaller firms and potential competitors. This means abolishing any tax “incentives” that can be accessed by large firms, but not by smaller firms. It means slashing the duration of patents and other forms of intellectual property. It means ending any special legal protections enjoyed by these firms—such as those in so-called Section 230

But even with all those legal advantages and tricks removed, these firms may continue to be successful and influential firms for many years to come. So long as these firms enjoy the votes of consumers in the “consumers’ democracy” the firms are likely to be profitable. The firms will consequently have access to immense amounts of resources, with which they can buy political influence and promote their own vision for American society. 

Only when these firms face real competition from successful competitors—or when consumers change their buying habits in other ways—will the situation change. That’s bound to happen eventually. But for those who fear the political clout of these corporate behemoths, it’s imperative to speed up the process. Author:

Contact Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and Power&Market, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado and was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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3 Ways the Tech Oligarchs’ New Subsidy Is Ripping You Off | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 12, 2021

These companies want “robust funding”—provided by taxpayers, of course—for the Act’s programs which, the Coalition says, “would help America build … additional capacity” for semiconductor production.

In other words, America’s tech oligarchs want to buy subsidized semiconductors, and they think regular people should pay for it all while also subsidizing research.

https://mises.org/wire/3-ways-tech-oligarchs-new-subsidy-ripping-you

Ryan McMaken

Billionaire plutocrats at Apple, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and other tech companies don’t spend all their time deciding whether or not to boycott your state or lecture you on the “correct” voting laws.  No, sometimes they have time to plot ways to rip off the taxpayers to the tune of more than 50 billion dollars.

At least, that’s what a new coalition of tech companies wants in a new effort to lobby Congress for subsidies and other “incentives” for the production of semiconductors. According to Fox Business:

The Semiconductor in America Coalition, made up of chip buyers including Amazon Web Services, Apple, Google and Microsoft, and manufacturers like American Micro Devices, Intel, Nvidia and Texas Instruments, has asked Congress to provide funding for the CHIPS for America Act, which authorized domestic chip manufacturing incentives and research initiatives.

These companies want “robust funding”—provided by taxpayers, of course—for the Act’s programs which, the Coalition says, “would help America build … additional capacity” for semiconductor production.

This new demand for cash follows last year’s passage of the CHIPS for America act which included an initial payout of $10 billion for “a new federal grant program” and new tax credits, which, unless accompanied by reductions in spending, only amount to tax increases for everyone who doesn’t receive the credit.1 The coalition also expresses its dismay over the fact that Federal “investment”—i.e., government spending—on semiconductor research has “fallen flat” as a share of GDP.

In other words, America’s tech oligarchs want to buy subsidized semiconductors, and they think regular people should pay for it all while also subsidizing research.

And, of course, no attempt at ripping off the taxpayers would be complete without an appeal to patriotism and economic nationalism.

The coalition was careful to mention that the global share of semiconductors produced in the United States has fallen over the past thirty years. The implication is that sinister foreigners are catching up to the United States in terms of semiconductor production. In other words, the subsidies are “essential for …national security.”

This is just textbook special-interest politics: large, powerful business groups are lobbying the regime to subsidize their products or inputs. This lowers the cost to these businesses while raising the cost to taxpayers and competitors.

But it raises the cost to ordinary Americans in a variety of ways that aren’t just measured in dollars. Here are some of them:

One: Malinvestment

Every time a government extracts resources from private owners via taxation, it is redistributing wealth. But this redistribution doesn’t occur according to the wishes of consumers—i.e., market allocation. Rather, these resources are now doled out according to the wishes of government planners and pressure groups.

This redirection of resources away from market allocation inflates prices in some areas, while depressing prices in others. It creates bubbles in “demand” for certain products and services as generated by the arbitrary purchasing decisions of government bureaucrats.

In the case of the semiconductor subsidy scheme, labor and capital are redistributed by government planners to the semiconductor industry, even if a functioning marketplace would have put those resources elsewhere. The “seen” effect is that more semiconductors are built. The “unseen” is the countless important and in-demand products and services that won’t be provided in the marketplace. 

Two: Reduction in Consumer Choice

Politically, the entire scheme rests on the assumption that the consumers aren’t to be trusted with their own money, and their money must be spent in the “correct” places by government agents. That is, every subsidy, tariff, tax, or money-printing scheme requires that regular people hand over a portion of their own wealth to bureaucrats to put it in the “right” places.

In the case of the semi-conductor subsidy, the tech plutocrats worry that a “shortage” of semiconductors will cause the prices of various tech products and services to increase. As a result, it stands to reason that consumers may spend less money on those products and services. This could impact the tech sector’s revenue and profits. 

Consumers ought to be free to change their spending habits, of course, and they ought to be able to re-arrange their spending so as to fit their own personal budgets and desires.

But the oligarchs and bureaucrats don’t like that sort of thing, and they don’t like the consumer having the freedom to simply spend less in the tech sector. They found a way to protect their revenue and profits: simply force consumers to spend in the tech sector whether they want to or not. 

So, the regime forcibly redistributes’ the consumers resources. This represents a loss of consumer “welfare,” which we can define as the consumer engaging in voluntary market action to increase his own welfare according to his own individual valuations. The oligarchs want to reduce this welfare in order to increase the oligarchs’ welfare. It’s as simple as that.

Three: Reduced Competitiveness for Other Sectors and Businesses

The situation is more complex than just a transfer of cash from taxpayers to certain subsidized industries.

When the regime subsidizes a particular industry, business, or sector, this results in an increase in prices for competing businesses and industries. For example, if the regime decides to subsidize semiconductor makers, these firms will then have more resources to bid up the wages they pay, and the prices they pay for various resources necessary for production. This means that firms in other sectors now must compete more heavily for labor and raw materials or any other factor that the semiconductor industry is now buying up in larger amounts. 

This is especially repugnant in the case of the semiconductor scheme because most of the large tech firms in question have already been indirectly subsidized for years through the Fed’s financialization efforts, and especially in the form of the Greenspan put. This has served to inflate stock prices in the tech sector and has benefited large publicly-traded firms over smaller firms that have not been able to count on the Fed to have their back.

In other words, the semiconductor subsidy is just the latest part of a scheme to stack the deck against small business owners, employees, and customers. 

We Learn Economics to Learn How They’re Ripping Us Off

One can easily guess what the defenders of this latest subsidy will say. They’re likely to claim that it just amounts to a small amount per household: “What’s 50 billion dollars spread across so many households?” Of course, this is what advocates for tax increases, tariffs, and subsidies always say: “Just give us this one new, teeny-tiny tax/subsidy. It’s not a big deal!” But if we add up all the government schemes this claim has been used to justify, we get a pretty “big deal,” indeed. Moreover, as we’ve seen above, the real cost in terms of economic distortions, lost welfare, and harm to competitors, is quite real and beyond the dollar amounts we see in the subsidy itself. 

  • 1. Although tax credits are not “subsidies” per se, they are anti-competitive and amount to the regime picking winners and losers. In an environment of deficit spending and monetization of debt—an environment we now live in—a tax credit for one firm or group of firms amounts to putting a larger tax burden on all other firms as monetary inflation and deficit spending are employed to keep spending high in the face of lost revenue via tax credits. Thus, tax credits for the semiconductor industry are a way to shift the tax burden to competitors. 

Author:

Contact Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and Power&Market, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado and was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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Google Removes Entire State Of Georgia From Google Maps

Posted by M. C. on April 12, 2021

https://babylonbee.com/news/google-removes-entire-state-of-georgia-from-google-maps

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Tech giant Google announced today that they are removing the entire state of Georgia from their Google Maps platform, effective immediately. This comes in response to the state’s recent voter law that many are calling racist.

“We cannot allow these racist laws to stand,” said a spokesman from the Google Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-Racism, Climate Change, Immigration Reform, and LGBTQ Affairs. “That’s why we must act quickly to get states like Georgia off the map, both literally and figuratively.”

Starting today, the state of Georgia will be replaced with a blue body of water labeled “Sea of Racism” on all Google Maps platforms. Driving directions given by the site will be altered. For example, directions from South Carolina to Florida via I-95 will state: “continue south through the stupid Sea of Racism without stopping for 112 miles.”

Google will also be updating searches for locations inside the state. A search for directions to Atlanta, GA now returns the following message. “Location not found. Would you like to travel to a Google-approved destination such as Seattle, Minneapolis, or Beijing?”

The spokesman went on to clarify that Google hasn’t completely abandoned the state. “Google will still provide one-way driving directions out of the state for anyone who currently resides in Georgia,” he noted. “Also, we will still provide directions to any out-of-state celebrities or businesses who want to donate money to the Georgia Democratic Party.” 

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