Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has said that further regulation of the tech companies is inevitable – he’s entirely correct in this. The task though is to understand why such further regulation of tech is inevitable and there rational views can differ. It might be because they’re big and important parts of the economy now and therefore they should and must be regulated. It could be because they wield power and as we know, it’s always necessary that there be democratic control of power so that we’ve a monopoly of it. Or it could just be that the politicians and hangers on have spotted the honeypot and therefore they’re going to insist on controlling, thus lifting some honey, themselves. That last being the realist selection between those rational explanations.
Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that new regulations of tech companies and social networks to protect personal data are “inevitable”.
Of course there’s a minor part to this as well. Among the Big Tech companies Apple relies least upon personal data – Google, Facebook etc much more – and also has the greatest technological lock in on its customers. So, Tim Cook gets to point out – however elliptically – that they’re going to get regulated but not us. At least, we’re not in any manner that should worry.
Given Apple’s policy on user data privacy, Cook was then asked by Axios reporters why he was comfortable taking billions of dollars from Google to make it Apple’s default search engine. Cook responded to the question by highlighting the additional security and privacy measures that its Safari browser provides.
A more useful response being that they give Apple billions of dollars. We are talking about someone running one of the great capitalist organisations of our times, aren’t we?
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said new regulations for the tech industry are “inevitable” in the wake of a series of scandals, rejoining a debate that is intensifying along with political pressure on the company’s rival, Facebook.
In an interview aired on Sunday, Mr Cook said “the free market is not working” and politicians will step in.
Sticking with just the idea of more and new regulation it’s still necessary to decide between these viable alternative explanations.
Sure, it could be, the tech companies have power and power needs to be regulated. That does though, rather, fall into the trap of believing that all things do need regulating. That not being a true statement – only those things which need regulating need regulating. Certainly, the universe of things which need to be managed is very much larger, very much wider. But something being managed is not the same as it being regulated by politics and politicians. We could, for example, use markets to manage something. Which is exactly what we do when considering the profit margins made by people making and supplying things.
We don’t have political or governmental regulation of gross or net profits. When we have tried to do so it always ended in failure. So, we leave market competition to do that for us and it’s a pretty good system. Anyone making excess profits finds himself facing competition, the very thing which reduces those margins. Sure, it’s entirely possible for there to be reasons why markets won’t do this – say, natural monopolies – so we regulate to limit those exceptions. But our regulation really is limited to making sure that our other, non-regulation, management system works a competition does work.
But that’s not what the current insistences are. Rather, they’re we’re told that the tech companies must be regulated by politics and politicians. Around here the belief being that such just see those companies as an easy mark. It’ll be possible to gain a few millions here and there for re-election funds by being on either – or both – sides of any regulatory question. Start introducing bills to regulate this or that and gaze in wonder as the lobbying money flows in. Regulation is to politics the fertiliser which produces the income growth.
Or, as we could put it, regulation is the manner in which those who can’t create wealth for themselves get to allocate it anyway through the political system. So, of course, now that the tech companies are large and flush with cash they’re going to get regulated. How else could politics charge them a rent for their existence?