Open Letter Regarding Google
It is risky as a business owner to make a comment that could be interpreted as political. Especially in North America where anything and everything is interpreted as political. This comment is apolitical. If you choose to interpret it as a political comment I can’t stop you.
We have been using Google since we started our business and I have been using it since the days of Altavista and I really like the service they provide. There are some downsides – the way Google Adwords is structured is ‘suspect’ in terms of providing real value for cost. We have used it from time to time and have ended giving money to Google for results that were not great and potentially questionable. So we don’t use Adwords anymore for any part of our business and we are happy.
We don’t let Google place adverts on our website. This is to keep the experience ‘clean’ for our users but it means that we will not do as well as we could when people use the Google search engine, but that is OK. Google provides a lot of useful free services and they have to fund that somehow.
In the recent US presidential election Google has been showing clear political bias which has been confirmed in their weighting of search results and also how youtube videos are promoted and also how monetization is being applied or denied – and I see that as a problem. I understand that the people running Google have strong political preferences. They also have very good reasons to maintain a good relationship with the political establishment. This takes on much more importance as the regulatory reach and the size of government grows. We have all granted the government the power to pick winners and losers (for good or for bad) and Google wants to be one of the winners.
The problem of government overreach is intensified when government selectively applies the legal and regulatory codes based on political expediency. This can be seen with the US federal government non-enforcement of immigration legal statutes (in direct opposition to the government’s legal obligations to the citizens of the US) and tacit approval of restrictions on freedom of speech on many university campuses in the US in open contradiction to the US constitution.
Google taking a particular political position, when it serves a market from the entire political spectrum, means that Google must have decided that the benefits of maintaining a favorable relationship with the political establishment have a greater benefit than the downside created by a negative reaction from a potentially significant proportion of their user base.
This may be a purely commercial decision by Google. i.e. government in the US has such a large potential commercial impact for large organizations that it is, by some measure, more important to have a good relationship with government that the market they serve. They also may be relying on the apathy of the user base and the fact that they do not advertise their bias so much of their market are just not aware of it.
This should worry all people who are not in government. The government has such power that large corporations will choose to side with the government rather than their market. In the past legislation would have to be drafted to force companies to behave in certain ways. Now it is voluntary, presumably for preferential treatment in exchange. Quid pro quo. This has been happening since the beginning of human civilization, but it is a form of soft corruption. The concern is that as government grows (US tax receipts are at an all-time high and the deficit is still very, very large) the level of corruption grows at least proportional to the size of the government.
I do not believe this is a left vs right argument. It is a large government vs small government argument. No matter the political persuasion as government gets larger corporations have to adopt the government point of view or find itself in ideological opposition to the government. When you want that tax credit, grant or interest-free loan from the state, when you want a tweak to the regulations to hinder a new competitor, who do you go to? Once companies realize this they will align their political interests with their commercial interests and act accordingly. It is just survival.
I also don’t think that any of the parties or candidates in the current election cycle represent a political will to significantly reduce the size of government.
As a business owner who pays Google for their services should I stop and find an alternative that is truly apolitical? Will it matter in the end? At this point is there any practical way to escape the matrix of large corporations and government? Do we all just have to play along? Should we all just line up at the trough and wait for our turn? Or do we just carry on giving money to corporations who use that money to consolidate political power rather than serving their market?
I don’t mind politics – knowledge of and participation in the political system is healthy. Where does politics stop and corruption begin?