90 Miles From Tyranny : Josh Hawley Takes On The Tyranny Of Big Tech

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Friday, May 14, 2021

Josh Hawley Takes On The Tyranny Of Big Tech

The strangest part is that everyone knows this is true—the compulsion, the manipulation, the discord, the data extraction—but no one seems to care enough to stop it.

The American Dream is made possible through free enterprise, representative government, and individual liberty. That balance was upended when a handful of tech companies seduced the populace into giving up their right to privacy. Their schemes produced so much capital, Big Tech just bought off any resistance and repackaged these stooges as the #Resistance.

While we were distracted by buzzing smartphones, global corporations intruded into every aspect of our lives. As a result, Sen. Josh Hawley writes in his new book The Tyranny of Big Tech: “Our republic has never been more hierarchical, more riven by class, more managed by an elite than it is today. That is corporate liberalism’s legacy. But it need not be our future.”

The Tyranny of Big Tech unfolds in three parts. In the first, Hawley sketches a brief history of Gilded Age monopolies. In the second, he details the 21st century’s techno-capitalist takeover. I never thought I’d read a Republican author who’s grasped the work of tech-futurist Jaron Lanier, but Hawley’s full of surprises. The final section lays out the senator’s ambitious plan for antitrust legislation.
The Original Robber Barons

Hawley opens with the robber barons who consolidated railroad, steel, and oil monopolies at the turn of the 20th century. His story tracks two divergent philosophies: constitutional republicanism and corporate liberalism. The former is credited with defending the rights and dignity of the common men and women whose voices, he argues, the latter is crushing.

Hawley holds up Teddy Roosevelt as a defender of original republican values. He celebrates Roosevelt’s heroic efforts to loosen the robber barons’ stranglehold on America, even if that struggle failed to halt the wheels of “progress.”

He presents Woodrow Wilson as the face of corporate liberalism. First as a university professor, then as president, Wilson espoused a grand evolutionary vision of American society. Just as nature moves from simplicity to complexity, human society naturally progresses toward higher levels of cooperation. In this view, the international corporation emerges as the inevitable heir to earthly power.

Countering this arrogant elitism, Hawley advocates the original republican philosophy. His stated goal is to protect the ability of the working class to speak their minds and govern themselves.

Corporate liberalism, on the other hand, sold the public a new way of life based on personal choice. Ironically, corporations would leverage the fulfillment of individual desire to erode the common man’s right to self-government. Hawley points to Big Tech as the culmination of this process.

The Emerging Dystopia

The second part of Hawley’s book lays out our current problem. Through the miracle of digital technology, we have become app-dependent, easily manipulated, atomized, and mutually hostile. Our personal data is mined, and our souls sold back to us in digital form. As usual, our elected leaders have been too busy counting their campaign contributions to do much about it.

Without any meaningful consent, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Twitter probe the inner lives of every person within reach, then sell that data to...

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