The Fires of Innovation Under Fire

The American Legislative Exchange Council is clear in its bias: the organization is dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism. These principles work together to provide more options and freedom to citizens with an end result of greater liberty for all. The innovation ecosystem will need political and policy leaders dedicated to these principles if it is to continue to flourish, as innovation has been under assault by populism fanned by pro-command-and-control believers. The populist arguments are often fact-free or grounded in a lack of knowledge, and their proposed solutions result in more government and less freedom.

For example:

  • Populists argue that technology, particularly artificial intelligence, is stealing jobs. Yet industries of all shapes and sizes are pushing tech more deeply into everything even as the need for more workers is rising.
  • Those who play to the crowds want to hold various companies accountable for a company’s data being stolen. Yet awareness and investment in cybersecurity continues to rise. One wonders how many of those critics have ever had to truly understand and invest in defending the data their offices keep.
  • Others critique social media for using information about its customers in delivering its services. But the facts are that the tools do nothing without data provided by the users of social media, who voluntarily giving up greats amount of information about themselves.
  • There have been calls to nationalize the 5G telecommunications system of the United States. Such arguments lack appreciation that to do so would mean seizing hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment or rendering it useless. The economic impact would devastate the country.
  • From the political right to the left come calls for industrial policy, to “break up” technology companies into parts more pleasing to government. The most recent proposal came last week from Senator Elizabeth Warren who has made a presidential campaign promise to break up companies and “reign them in.” With no evidence of economic harm to consumers, she wants to refashion industry the way she would like to see it.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has just launched a new task force solely dedicated to “study” if the technology industry has become “too big.” Apparently, now in the U.S. one can be successful, just not too successful.
  • As some publishers are still leveraging government to stop people from receiving their news from social media venues, an attack on online business models has been peddled by lobbyists. Congress continues to talk of abolishing the Communications Decency Act without realizing that such a move is merely economic rent seeking.
  • As “privacy” has been a hot topic many have called for action. Yet, so far there is not even a common definition of what privacy is, much less how to protect it. What information or activity should be protected? If one voluntarily posts material online for the world to see should use of that information be forbidden? Some even mistake a cybersecurity breach for a privacy “violation.”

If free market, factually based decision making does not prevail, the U.S. position as the global leader in technology will be in jeopardy. Innovation requires risk. Innovation requires failure. Policy makers need to ensure that the space exists for such experimentation and creativity, crafting policy based on facts while resisting the calls of the populists.