The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a resolution opposing socialism in all its forms. The resolution was supported by all Republicans plus 109 Democrats. Interestingly enough, the resolution did not define “socialism” much less discuss what forms socialism might take. Instead, the resolution’s “whereas clauses” focused on the authoritarian type of socialism known as communism—complete with references to Lenin, Mao, and Castro.
The resolution probably failed to provide specifics about forms of socialism to avoid embarrassing Republicans who support policies that can fairly be described as “forms of socialism." For example, legislation telling private social media companies how they should treat smaller businesses who use their platforms would definitely qualify as a “form of socialism.” After all, the tech companies are private businesses who own the platforms and should have the right to decide for themselves the terms under which they allow other businesses to use their platforms. Yet several representatives who just voted to condemn all forms of socialism are supporting legislation that would impose these socialistic regulations on private businesses.
The legislation in question, the American Innovation and Online Choice Act, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), is being supported by these Republicans because of their anger at big tech over the deplatforming of prominent conservatives for violating big tech’s content moderation policies. These conservatives, more accurately called “Khanservatives”, clutching their pearls over big tech’s alleged threat to democracy mirrors that of the far-left Federal Trade Commissioner Lina Khan. Like their namesake, the Khanservatives believe the threat of big tech requires abandoning the consumer welfare standard that has dominated antitrust policy since the Reagan years. As the name suggests, the consumer welfare standard limits the use of antitrust laws to cases where a business’s actions harm consumers.
The Khanservative agenda goes beyond abandoning the consumer welfare standard by supporting the Klobuchar legislation. Khanservatives have also suggested that the federal government break up the big tech companies to limit their power. These Khanservatives trust politicians and bureaucrats to know the “right” size of private companies- or at least to be better judges than the company’s owners, employees, and consumers.
Some Khanservatives have joined progressives in calling government to treat big tech companies as “common carriers.” Common carriers are businesses considered too essential to be allowed to sink or swim in the marketplace. Instead, these companies are given a de facto monopoly, along with guaranteed “reasonable" profits, in return for ensuring their services are available to everyone equally. Examples of common carriers include public utilities like gas and water. Designating internet companies as common carriers would freeze innovation and competition in the social media universe—giving big tech companies fewer reasons to be concerned about angering their consumers and making it all but impossible for competitors to challenge their government-protected monopoly status.
The real victims of the Khanservative agenda will not be today’s Amazon, Google, or Facebook. It will be the next generation of big tech innovators whose growth will be stunted by government regulations. The voices who will be silenced will not be the businesses themselves, but rather the users who use their platforms.
Colorado Representative Ken Buck, who is likely to once again be the lead sponsor of the Klobuchar legislation, recently told NEWSMAX TV that “no one needs two-day delivery.” Politicians telling us what do and do not need is a hallmark of socialism, not a free society. Buck’s comment reveals the problem with Khanservatives, who, like their progressive counterparts, have both an excess and lack of faith. They have too much faith in the ability of politicians and bureaucrats to control the market and shape it to their liking, and not enough faith in the actions of a free people acting in a free market to punish any business that takes their customers for granted. If the critics of big tech would pay attention, they would notice that the supposedly all-powerful monopolies are laying off thousands of workers as consumers leave them for newer companies,—companies that explicitly market themselves as friendly to free speech—which is further proof that the right need not abandon traditional conservatism for the socialist con of Khanservatism.