Sunday, March 25, 2018

Government-controlled Facebook? Just think ...

The problem with 'public ownership' of Facebook - CapX - Tim Worstall:

March 21, 2018 - The latest bright idea from Paul Mason is that Facebook must be regulated or changed in some manner to make darn sure it does what Paul Mason wants Facebook to be doing.
Reminder: nobody needs to #Deletefacebook if there is one of a) strong regulation b) breakup c) public ownership
"There are lots of problems with the Corbynista columnist’s idea. They include: not understanding how the internet or corporate law works; ignoring how innovation happens; and the political problem of allowing the government to control a social network, real or digital....

"Let’s start with the question of ownership. That Facebook is a public, listed company therefore owned by the public seems to escape Mason. Perhaps by public ownership, he means government ownership. But that is something he rules out.

"Heavy state regulation of Facebook would be to repeat the mistakes of the 20th century when governments really did try to control the social milieu. As Anne Applebaum points out in Iron Curtain, the first thing every Soviet-imposed government in Eastern Europe did was to make sure that all corners of society were state controlled. The local equivalents of the Womens’ Institute, the chess and jazz clubs, swimming teams, and simply every expression of civil society were brought under the control of the state and Party bureaucracy. People were actually sent to jail for continuing to run Scout troops.

"As to breaking the company up, ... He points to the UK corporate registration as proof that we can control the local bit, or break it off from the whole. Such a conclusion is hard to square with the complaint about the Facebook profits HMRC struggles to tax. The reason Facebook doesn’t pay UK corporation tax on all the money collected from the UK is that the UK company just does some engineering bits, and doesn’t actually run the service. That engineering could be done from elsewhere just as the ad sales are. And the design. And there’s absolutely no one at all who has insisted that there must be a UK company out there before signing up for the service, is there?...

"But there is a deeper reason why we don’t want the British state to have anything to do with the likes of Facebook. The state never does innovate. Even if we accept Mariana Mazzucato’s points about invention — which we shouldn’t — it was still Apple that made the iPhone. There was no state involvement in the creation of MySpace, Twitter, or Facebook. There never is in people using extant inventions to do something new and whizzy, the very definition of innovation. Therefore we just don’t want the state running things in those areas of innovation, do we? For if it did, it would never happen....

"That, in short, is why we don’t want the British state anywhere near something like social media or any other fast-changing technology business. The moment decisions are taken on the sort of societal grounds that Mason admires and insists upon then technological advance will grind to a halt....

"Facebook should be and is subject to all the same sorts of rules as any other business in the country. That is the proper role of government: to set general rules which must be obeyed by all and then we all get to see what happens. If Facebook did indeed break the law then they should, of course, be held responsible.

"But the mere fact that someone is successful within those rules isn’t an argument to nationalize or regulate them further and that, when it comes down to it, is the only real argument Mason is employing. For there’s no one quite as jealous as a statist discovering that an organization other than the state has a meaningful amount of power."

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