Submitted by Spence Flatgard

Anti-innovation legislation in Congress would handcuff our domestic tech leaders and innovators and be a boon for China.

Dr. Milton Friedman said, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

Friedman was one of the most influential economic thinkers of the 20th Century. He won a Nobel Prize, was one of the strongest advocates for the free enterprise system and was a sought-out advisor to political and industry leaders.

He understood that capitalism is fundamental to our country’s success. He also understood that government could be its own worst enemy when he said, “I think the government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem and very often makes the problem worse.”

Case in point is the misguided antitrust legislation targeting the strongest U.S. sector for investment and growth – our domestic technology sector.

We’re from the government and we’re here to help!

The tech sector has plenty of explaining to do when it comes to censorship and privacy issues, but don’t miss the forest for the trees. The digital economy is our current day “Industrial Revolution” – only bigger.

The digital revolution’s impact is staggering. The U.S. tech sector invested $20 billion more than any other sector in 2018 and generated 25 percent of all American economic growth in 2017. And nothing appears to be slowing down.

Driving this growth are products that make our lives better. Telemedicine. Working remotely. Distance learning. Connectivity with family and friends.

Small businesses are leveraging digital tools to grow their businesses beyond their natural borders, reaching new customers they never dreamt were available to them. Entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas every day to launch new businesses using the super tools of connectivity, and this has been especially true during the COVID pandemic.

Now, back to Congress.

Our leaders in Washington are merrily going down a dangerous path, one that will stifle innovation and economic growth. Unfortunately, politics (particularly the desire to punish big tech firms) is driving this march, not good policy. Current anti-innovation legislation in Congress would radically reshape our antitrust law, create chaos in the digital commerce market and provide an opportunity for China to take the dominant position in the global battle for tech leadership between the United States and China.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a popular conservative leader in the U.S. Senate, has serious issues with big tech firms, but expressed concerns with current anti-innovation bills saying, “What do we gain by giving deep-state bureaucrats control over big tech? They don’t want to break up big tech to protect us, but to control it and use it against us. We can’t hand the keys to big tech over to radical ideologues more concerned with power and control than they are with prosperity and economic freedom.”

And while some of our leaders are handcuffing our domestic tech leaders and innovators, these bills would be a boon for China. The danger goes beyond economic repercussions to cybersecurity and national security, which is especially timely with Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the likely associated cybersecurity warfare that is anticipated by many experts.

When are politicians going to put America’s interests ahead of our foreign adversaries?

These bills would also require U.S. companies to share their data with competitors; can you imagine what the Chinese would do with our data?

When the Internet became an economic juggernaut not that long ago, it was swimming downstream in a free-market sector that encouraged innovation and investment. This led to the digital revolution that has been the major driver of our economy. Good jobs, greater sales, profitable investments, incredible and popular products and growing 401Ks have resulted.

Please don’t sit by quietly while some in Congress sabotage our own economy.

Let’s lean on the wisdom of Milton Friedman again. He said, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

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Submitted by Spence Flatgard. He is a partner at Watkins & Eager, PLLC in Jackson and previously served as Senator Roger Wicker’s Legislative Director.