When Josh Hawley end of news headlines, it’s for spear lead the effort to challenge Electoral College certification in Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6. The chief legal theories behind the oppositions are sad and contradictory; it’s a deep awakening effort. And in The Tyranny of Big Tech, Hawley has produced a deeply engaging book. The Missouri senator raised valid concerns about the technology industry, and he suggested solutions that deserve to be taken seriously. Although he incorporated these ideas into a much broader debate it was more deceptive to call the whole project questionable.
Hawley’s main critics of Silicon Valley are familiar to anyone who watches The Social Problem on Netflix: Smartphones are addictive. Ethical publication is manipulative. Social media is not good for children’s mental health. Most technology companies together spend tens of millions of dollars every year to buy influence in Washington. Facebook, Google, and Twitter have a lot of communication power. And they use it, Hawley said, to discriminate against conservatives. (So did Simon & Schuster, the book’s original publisher, who dropped Hawley after the Capitol riots-evidence, Hawley writes, of corporate America trying to silence him. The book finally finds a house with Regnery Publishing, a conservative imprint.)
Where Hawley’s book comes from the standard anti-tech agreement in his attempt to tie the present moment to a famous theory in American political history. According to Hawley, people like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are the direct ideological descendants of the original Gilded Age robber barons. Their dominance is the culmination of what he calls “corporate liberalism,” a philosophy in which, he writes, the state and big business conspire to deny the ordinary man his freedom and self -government. According to Hawley, corporate liberalism took root a hundred years ago in both major political parties, and today, “Big Tech and Big Government seek to extend their influence to every area of American life. . “
And so Hawley spends a large portion of the book recounting these historical origins. The hero of his narrative is Theodore Roosevelt, whom Hawley viewed as the champion of a little republican tradition from the founding of the country. “He believed that freedom depended on the independence of the ordinary man and on his ability to participate in self -government,” Hawley wrote. “He believed that the concentration of wealth and power endangered the detention of the people and thus their freedom.” Roosevelt built up good strides by bringing a successful antitrust lawsuit against financier JP Morgan in 1904. But his vision of the republic met with its tragic demise in the 1912 election, when it was defeated. Roosevelt to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, whom Hawley called “the nation’s most famous corporate liberal.” Where Roosevelt championed the ordinary man, Wilson favored government over the corporate aristocratic elites. in office, he has already put an end to the anti-monopoly activity, which has instead settled for friendly cooperation in big business. ”This was the Wilsonian settlement, the triumph of corporate liberalism that would dominate America’s politics and politics. a century and reach its apotheosis in Big Tech, “Hawley wrote.
It’s an interesting story, and Hawley tells it well. The trouble is that it gets almost every important thing wrong. In the 1912 election, Roosevelt, not Wilson, favored cooperation between government and business elites. After a showdown in 1904 with Morgan, Roosevelt decided that “good” trusts were fine, as long as he was the only one in control of them. This arrangement is especially pleasing to tycoons. George Perkins, a fellow of Morgan at U.S. Steel, was a leading chief and chief funder of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in the 1912 campaign. Morgan himself donated more than $ 4 million in dollars today in Roosevelt’s 1904 reelection bid. Hawley did not mention these comfortable relationships.
Wilson, on the other hand, was the real counter-monopoly candidate in 1912. His “New Freedom” platform was heavily influenced by Louis Brandeis, who was widely considered the godfather of counter-monopolism; as president, Wilson would elevate Brandeis to the Supreme Court (a connection Hawley only recognized for a short time). To describe Wilson as the pro-corporate candidate, Hawley pulled his words out of context that they took the reverse of their true meaning. He quoted a speech, for example, in which Wilson said, “Big business has no doubt of necessity and natural proportions.” But if you are follow the footnote, you will know that it is about a controversy against monopolies. “What most of us are fighting for is breaking this partnership between big business and government,” Wilson declared. “I certainly stand, where every progressive should stand, on the suggestion that the private monopoly is unreliable and intolerable.”