Category Archive 'Antitrust'

25 Oct 2011

Every Conspicuously Successful Company Looks Like a Monopoly to Washington

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Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google

L. Gordon Crovitz, in the Wall Street Journal, quotes extensively from an interview which former Barack Obama-supporter Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, gave after being hailed in front of a Congressional committee recently to answer charges that Google is a monopoly and guilty of unfair trade practices.

Mr. Schmidt had just given his first congressional testimony. He was called before the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee to answer allegations that Google is a monopolist, a charge the Federal Trade Commission is also investigating.

“So we get hauled in front of the Congress for developing a product that’s free, that serves a billion people. OK? I mean, I don’t know how to say it any clearer,” Mr. Schmidt told the Post. “It’s not like we raised prices. We could lower prices from free to . . . lower than free? You see what I’m saying?”

An absence of consumer harm didn’t stop senators from offering some improbable recommendations. Among them: that Google replace its algorithm with a panel of experts to ensure “fair” search results. As Google tries to improve the relevancy of its search results for consumers, some sites inevitably come up higher and some lower in the results. The losers now lobby Washington.

“Regulation prohibits real innovation, because the regulation essentially defines a path to follow,” Mr. Schmidt said. This “by definition has a bias to the current outcome, because it’s a path for the current outcome.” …

Washington is always slow to recognize technological change, which is why in their time IBM and Microsoft were also investigated after competing technologies had emerged.

Mr. Schmidt recounted a dinner in 1995 featuring a talk by Andy Grove, a founder of Intel: “He says, ‘This is easy to understand. High tech runs three times faster than normal businesses. And the government runs three times slower than normal businesses. So we have a nine-times gap.’ All of my experiences are consistent with Andy Grove’s observation.”

Mr. Schmidt explained there was only one way to deal with this nine-times gap, which this column hereby christens “Grove’s Law of Government.” That is “to make sure that the government does not get in the way and slow things down.”

Mr. Schmidt recounted that when Silicon Valley first started playing a large role in the economy in the 1990s, “all of a sudden the politicians showed up. We thought the politicians showed up because they loved us. It’s fair to say they loved us for our money.”

He contrasted innovation in Silicon Valley with innovation in Washington. “Now there are startups in Washington,” he said, “founded by people who were policy makers. . . . They’re very clever people, and they’ve figured out a way in regulation to discriminate, to find a new satellite spectrum or a new frequency or whatever. They immediately hired a whole bunch of lobbyists. They raised some money to do that. And they’re trying to innovate through regulation. So that’s what passes for innovation in Washington.”

Read the whole thing.


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