A nineteenth-century British song about war with Russia contains a line that is worth bearing in mind as Congress contemplates regulating big tech: “We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do, we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too.”
That final phrase deserves attention. Not having “the money” makes it hard to provide for defense. European countries, after decades of slow growth, are discovering this as they confront Russian aggression. Thanks to its economic growth, the United States has the resources it needs for national security but proposed antitrust legislation could change that.
National security depends on more than an ability to field advanced weapons or large forces. It is based on economic strength. Economic strength creates international influence and power. Economic strength now requires a strong technology sector that includes strong tech companies. This conclusion may be uncomfortable for some, but the alternative, a weak tech sector, and weak companies, is indefensible on its face (despite appeals to pro-competition rhetoric).
No one argues that “Big Tech” should not be regulated, not even Big Tech. There are objectionable behaviors in the collection of personal data and self-preferencing that should be changed. But any regulation should not be done in a way that kills U.S. innovation. This sounds extreme, but if we look at the European experience, it is a real risk.
Tech Regulation Can Harm National Security | Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org)