by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We’ve seen this play before.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants Congress to regulate him. … This will undoubtedly surprise some lawmakers and many reporters who cling to the facile assumption that Big Business and Big Government are always and forever enemies.
But it’s one of the oldest plays in Big Business’s Washington playbook: Lobby for costly regulation that will drive out smaller competitors and keep out future competitors — and along the way, earn plaudits as a responsible capitalist.
We remember when Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, helped write former President Barack Obama’s bill regulating cigarettes, also known as the Marlboro Monopoly Act. We remember when H&R Block’s CEO joined the Obama administration to write (unlawful) regulations on tax preparers, which were welcomed by the big guys.
We’ve read our history, and so we know that the big airlines loved airline regulation because it protected them from competition.
H.J. Heinz, when he developed ketchup that didn’t require sodium benzoate as a preservative, tried to outlaw sodium benzoate as a preservative.
Zuckerberg is apparently a student of this history. Perhaps he should have just cribbed his testimony from that of Thomas E. Wilson more than a century ago. Speaking for the big meatpackers whom Upton Sinclair had skewered and whom Teddy Roosevelt sought to protect, Wilson said, “We are now and have always been in favor of” strict federal regulation of meatpacking plants.
Zuckerberg, then, joins a long and distinguished line of industrialists calling for more regulation. And we have to assume Zuckerberg understands that regulation is protection. …
… Such consolidation-by-regulation is especially pernicious in this industry in these times. As Democratic politicians, left-wing activists, and their media allies get more and more censorious, the last thing we need is a government-protected oligopoly limiting what can and cannot be said.