Big Tech counts some of the largest, profitable, cash rich, and successful companies worldwide. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok are so successful, Congress is compelled to investigate their inability to prevent spreading mis-information, and to warrant data use & privacy. How did the success of these companies necessitate the government to attempt to put the proverbial horse back in the barn? This is nothing new in America.
In 1870, before the fossil fuel industry and legislation to regulate, the Rockefeller family founded Standard Oil. And for the next 130 years, before the government could effectively “price-in” the cost of fossil fuels (pollutants, health-care costs, and climate change) the Rockefeller family created generational wealth and pollution that may last forever. Would that wealth have been created if the costs were priced into Standard Oil products from the beginning? Not hardly.
In 1875, before the tobacco industry and legislation to regulate, the Reynolds family founded RJ Reynolds. And for the next 100 years; before, during, and after government attempts to “price-in” the societal cost of cigarettes – the RJ Reynolds family created generational wealth, and human suffering that continued unfettered. How effective was the government's attempt to price the science into the product during that 100-year period? Not very.
In 2001, Microsoft was taken to court for breach of Federal antitrust statutes. There is a video of Bill Gates being deposed by a Federal prosecutor who possesses a photographic memory. In his defense, Bill was being asked questions that required on-the-fly answers to literally thousands of pages of depositions. Bill Gates possesses many things that most others do not, but a photographic memory is not one of them. Would Gates & Microsoft have been able to achieve a dominant position without implementing a decades long strategy to subvert antitrust law? Much as I like the 60 year-old version of Bill - I know the answer.
In 2004, before Big Tech, and any legislation to validate the accuracy of information distribution or regulate data use on the internet, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook. And before the government could effectively “price-in” the cost of mass mis-information, data use & privacy, Facebook market cap reached $800b~. Would that market cap have been achieved if Facebook bore the cost of verifying information before it was distributed, and protecting user data? Pretty clear answer there.
Uber, Airbnb and many other Big Tech companies have their own “disruptive” story that create significant risk mitigation and resultant operating profits within their business model all at a giant cost – with none greater than Perdue Pharma.
Several weeks ago, President Xi of China shocked the world by announcing its plan to become carbon-neutral by 2060. Time for a United States trajectory reset on existing and emerging companies to follow the same course. We may not be able to agree on how to do that, but at the very least, we can agree that history tells us we must.