Defending Google Against Antitrust

by | May 3, 2015

Google is not limiting competition but creating it, through its own innovations that others are free to try to surpass.

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In a free society, success would bring cheers, admiration, and attempts to emulate or surpass achievements. In today’s statist mixed economies, including the United States and Canada, success of some companies breeds envy among others—and makes them run to the government to ask for “levelling of the playing field” by forcing the successful competitors to “share” with them. In an informative Financial Post op-ed, Terence Corcoran discusses such attacks on Google in particular, stating that “Google, to be sure, is a hard company to love. It is certainly wildly successful and ranks as one of the great innovating corporate giants of all time.”

Corcoran describes the concerted lobbying efforts by Google’s competitors in the EU (under the Open Internet Project) at the European Commission, Europe’s main competition watch dog and antitrust enforcer. These competitors don’t like Google controlling its search results that may favor its own products or services, and want the company “unbundled.” Corcoran also reports on another coordinated anti-Google lobby group, FairSearch.org, which is funded by companies such as Microsoft, Nokia, Expedia, Oracle, Allegro, Hotwire, and Tripadvisor. On its front page, the group’s website features the following statement: “Based on growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition, we believe policymakers must act now to protect competition, transparency and innovation in online search.”

The statement is laughably illogical (and self-serving). As I argued in my previous post, there is nothing the government can do to “protect” competition, or to make it more “fair” but to keep its hands off the economy and let the markets—including the Internet market—be free. Government cannot—and should not attempt to— “protect” (or promote) innovation or transparency, either. Its only role is to protect the rights of individuals, including of corporations, from the initiation of physical force or fraud. The only reason for a government, whether in Europe or elsewhere, to interfere with Google would be deceptive or fraudulent activity by the company. At present, there is no evidence for any such activity.

As for Google’s dominant position in Internet search, the company has not achieved this through government blocking competition or handing it some special favors. On the contrary, Google’s success, and dominance, is based on the value it offers by “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful”—its corporate mission. Google implements this mission through the variety of innovative products and services beyond its Internet search engine: Android phones, Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Docs, Google Wallet, Gmail, to name just a few. As Terence Corcoran and others have observed, the company is legendary for its innovativeness, fostered by its organizational culture and deliberately designed practices such as Innovation Time Off (which encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on any project that interests them). Google is only able to maintain its dominant position because its innovation efforts are continual: should it become complacent in its own success, competitors would be able to surpass it, not necessarily overnight but in time.

FairSearch.org has also suggested that consumers are being “harmed” by Google’s dominance of the Internet search, in that they do not have the freedom to choose because Google’s products and services dominate Internet search results. This claim also falls flat on its face, given that Google’s products and services are not forced on consumers: they choose them freely because they offer a tremendous value. These products—from Google Maps to Google Translate to Google Docs cloud storage to Gmail—are chosen by consumers because they want them; these products make their lives better. Consumers are free to choose competing products, and they would choose them if these products offered them a better value. Google cannot prevent consumers from shopping—or searching—elsewhere. And as Terence Corcoran observed, Google is not limiting competition but creating it, through its own innovations that others are free to try to surpass.

As a consumer, I am grateful for Google and all the multitude of ways it makes my life better. For government regulators trying to hamstring the company by using force to make the Internet more “equal” is immoral. We as consumers would be harmed when inferior products and services by less successful companies are artificially promoted and Google’s innovativeness penalized by government force. The best solution for all, ensuring continual innovation and more consumer choice, is to leave the Internet market free of government regulation and interference.

Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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