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Is BigTech Censorship a Flaw in Capitalism?

Is BigTech Censorship a Flaw in Capitalism?

For many years I’ve talked about capitalism, democracy and free enterprise as the greatest forces on Earth. They have driven America to the greatest society the world has ever seen. Want to argue with that? The fact that you can argue is one of the best signs of how freedom works in America and its greatest strength!

But capitalism has two flaws. The first is at the bottom. Sometimes people fail so badly that they cannot right themselves, they can no longer participate in free enterprise or sustain themselves until they get another job. The cure for this is the social “safety net” which includes unemployment, social security and an array of other services. These are undeniably needed, although one can argue about the levels of support needed and the dangers of making the clients of such services too comfortable to strive for more and re-enter the mainstream world.

The other is a bit more insidious. In capitalism, it is possible to “win all the way,” to become so big that no one else can compete. I won’t go into how this defeats free enterprise and makes society less productive, because a lot of literature already covers this. We have anti-trust regulations to help us deal with this.

But here is the real flaw. When you “win all the way” you get to change the rules. Think about a warlord who conquers and enslaves a city. With that kind of power, the citizens have no choice, no one in power can enforce the freedoms they would have chosen for themselves.

Right now there are a small number of very large tech companies who have “won all the way” and control a great deal of communications in America. They have been shown (and I have experienced personally) a propensity to censor political speech, contrary to what our Constitution guarantees. This means our society no longer has freedom of speech, we no longer have fair elections, our private data is no longer our own.

The impact on our society is potentially devastating. We are being ruled by successful but unelected capitalists (whose agenda is questionable and certainly not America’s) because we do not have the means to protect our freedoms.

Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida has launched an investigation of Facebook for interference in the elections. The results will be very interesting.

Does America still have the power to protect its freedoms?

Please comment and let me know what you think.

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3 Comments

  1. Dan Tyree

    Capitalism isn’t perfect but it’s a hell of a lot better than socialism

    Reply
  2. Joseph S. Bruder

    The results of DeSantis’ “investigation” will mean nothing – he’s starting with his own conclusion, and that’s where he’ll arrive. It will not be interesting either, it will be more Trumpian rhetoric.

    The truth is, the Constitution only prevents the government from limiting speech. Private business can do whatever it wants (and can also get sued if the allegedly cause harm). But they have the right to control their own image – they can fire employees who speak badly of the company in public, they can put any kind of limit on their own products, and they can donate money to anyone they see fit (only limited by what they percieve as good or bad publicity). Businesses have no right to make money, but they do have the right to drive their company into the ground by poor decisions (although if they are a publicly-owned corporation, they at least have to disclose those decisions).

    So, I have no doubt that DeSantis will find some wrongdoing on the part of Facebook, but it will be through the lens of the Church of Trump. For the rest of the country, it will be a big yawn and yet another nail in DeSantis’ coffin. He’s so busy making sure that Florida Republicans do everything they can to catch COVID, and doesn’t seem to realize that he’s culling about 2% of his voters. That and the fact that he’s responsible for a large share of the deaths of 40,000 people isn’t winning him friends…

    Reply
  3. frank stetson

    IMO, it’s better to have elements of both in most sovereign nations and there are a few, pure socialist countries that are OK. Marxist-Leninist States not so much so. And it’s stupid to say: “we’re OK because we’re better than that.” That’s just a nice example of a false equivalency, not that socialism and capitalism are not comparable, but to say one is OK because it’s better than the other. Like saying: I cut my arm off but it’s better than terminal cancer. Both harm to the body, but really, do you feel better with one arm?

    IMO, capitalism is not the free speech issue in this. Censorship versus private enterprise is the issue.

    The law says there are private businesses and therefore customers have no rights to free speech on private platforms. This is the crux of the issue, not free speech in itself.

    What is free speech? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In it’s essence, that’s it. Is any of that infringed upon by social media — of course not.

    Then there’s enterprise where we have decided that businesses can sell what they want to who they want based on: “Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.” where the case asked: does an enterprise have a constitutional right to discriminate based on its owner’s beliefs, a form a censorship. And the case was decided for the baker, based on the first amendment and a perceived hostility towards religion, the owners defense. In other words, it’s OK to sell your product to who you want.

    The more important point is that the first amendment hate restrictions on a number of forms of speech: incitement, incitement to suicide, false statements of fact, obscenity, kiddie porn, fighting words, threatening the President, copyright infringement, and some commercial speech.
    I think we all agree the restrictions make sense, the monitoring and enforcement may be questionable at times. The question for big tech is can they self-censor or should a regulatory effort like what we have for public airwaves be created.

    But the bigger issue is are social media platforms really private airspace or have they become public airspace. One determinate is: are there alternative public avenues of expression and that’s a big rub since alternatives do not have to be equal or superior in delivery. TV and radio are public because the government sells the broadcast channels, they are public domain. The internet is not currently part of a public domain, and thus the rub. Private domain, private companies, for-profit products. That’s why the attempt to have the industry self monitor is the first choice before applying regulation which could be a lengthy court battle to obtain jurisdiction to do so.

    So, I guess capitalism has something to do with it because business owners would rather not be regulated, or be public, since that means less profits, very capitalistic thinking. But really the issue is what is free speech and how does it apply to world-wide private platforms communicating to the entire world in a flash. It’s new tech, new law, 1st amendment, gonna take awhile. Remember, in the scheme of things that baker did not stand and chance. And they won.

    Reply

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