The European Union (EU) recently fined Google about $2.7 billion based on claims that the company broke antitrust rules. The decision from the European Commission stated that Google used its search engine to drive traffic to its own shopping platform.
In other words, Google used its own website to promote its own products. How dare they do such a crazy thing?
In a touch of irony, Google is one of the few companies in this world – and probably the only big one – in which its prime function is to drive people away from its website. When I do a search on Google, I am often shown links to Wikipedia, to Amazon, to other news sites, to blogs, and anything else that is out there.
I know that some libertarians will complain about Google because the company executives are a little too cozy with big government. It is perhaps a legitimate complaint, but we should not forget that the success of Google is due to its great value that it has brought to its customers. There are hundreds of millions (maybe billions) of people who use Google as their search engine. Plus, there are many businesses and entrepreneurs who rely on Google for advertising.
If Google had gotten as big as it is because of government favors, then we would have a lot more to complain about. But it doesn’t depend on government subsidies like solar energy or electric cars. Google’s coziness with government came after it became big. And apparently it is not cozy enough with the bureaucrats in the EU.
This whole thing reminds me of what happened to Microsoft in the late 1990s/ early 2000s when the Clinton administration went after it for being monopolistic. Again, there is much to complain about Bill Gates and Microsoft from a libertarian point of view (especially in its use of patents and copyrights), but the whole thing was mostly just a case of extortion. After that incident, Bill Gates became more political. We are worse off for it, but Microsoft is probably better off for it because playing the political game can keep the government off your back.
The whole European Union is an extortionist organization. Of course, there was nothing like a trial that happened. The socialist/ fascist bureaucrats are just trying to suck more money from wherever they can. They are also going after the other major companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.
Google, of course, disagreed with the decision and plans to appeal it. I know that the Google executives don’t want to shoot themselves in the collective feet, but I really wish they would take a harder stand. Instead of arguing that they really didn’t break any antitrust rules, they should argue that these rules are illegitimate. I also wish they would call out the EU bureaucrats and point out that they are a bunch of thieves. I wish the Google executives would point out the total failures of the EU and the bureaucrats. One can always hope.
I know that the Google executives are supposed to be looking out for the shareholders. But if they sit back and take it, they are going to be continually abused, and they are going to find that their business is not very profitable in Europe. It is hard to be profitable in an area that fines you $2.7 billion.
The ultimate revenge would be something out of Atlas Shrugged. Google could release a statement that says it refuses to pay the fine, and if the EU continues to insist on fining the company, then Google will no longer offer its services in their jurisdiction. Since the UK voted for Brexit, Google could still offer its services in Britain. Of course, it can still offer its services everywhere else in the world that is not issuing billion dollar fines.
These antitrust laws are nothing but an excuse for the politicians and bureaucrats to extort money out of big companies. If a company is not receiving government subsidies or using government to prevent competition, then a company will only be profitable by meeting consumer demands. If it has a large share of the market, it is because it is doing a good job of meeting consumer demands. But nothing is ever permanent. Microsoft now has major competition from Apple. For search engines, there were other companies that dominated the sector before Google. In a decade from now, it could still be Google, or it could be some other company that we have never even heard of.
The only monopoly we should worry about is the monopoly over the use of legal violence. That is held by governments (states) around the world. The bigger and more powerful these monopoly governments get, the worse it is for human liberty and prosperity.