Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is that Reardon Steel?

It is all too disgusting how correct Ayn Rand was almost 50 years ago. In this piece, David Boaz tracts Google’s newfound realization of what it takes to do business in America:

But in our modern politicized economy - which National Journal columnist Jonathan Rauch called the "parasite economy" - no good deed goes unpunished for long. Some people want to declare Google a public utility that must be regulated in the public interest, perhaps by a federal Office of Search Engines. The Bush administration wants Google to turn over a million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from a one-week period. Congress is investigating how the company deals with the Chinese government's demands for censorship of search results by Chinese users.

So, like Microsoft and other companies before it, Google has decided it will have to start playing the Washington game. It has opened a Washington office and hired well-connected lobbyists. One of the country's top executive search firms is looking for a political director for the company.

What should concern us here is how the government lured Google into the political sector of the economy. For most of a decade the company went about its business, developing software, creating a search engine better than any of us could have dreamed, and innocently making money. Then, as its size and wealth drew the attention of competitors, anti-business activists, and politicians, it was forced to start spending some of its money and brainpower fending off political attacks. It's the same process Microsoft went through a few years earlier, when it faced the same sorts of attacks. Now Microsoft is part of the Washington establishment, with more than $9 million in lobbying expenditures last year.

Of course Hank Reardon eventually hired himself a “man in Washington” too; and as it turned out, slimy old Mr. Wesley Mouch epitomized the bottom-feeder nature of the political looters. Unfortunately, far too many entrepreneurs and business people cave in and pursue the same course of action, only to be corrupted by the system in the end. It’s a sad state of affairs. Lobbying expenses, regulatory compliance, the federal tax code, Sarb-Ox…. -- the cost of doing business is this land of the free sickens me. By design, the system necessarily encourages rent-seeking (e.g., corporate welfare) and anti-competitive protection in exchange for Abramoff-style quid pro quo. Will somebody please slip the Google boys a copy of Galt’s speech ASAP?