Facebook's Libra is easily and probably rightly criticized by crypto purists as a halfway house that makes too many concessions to legacy systems and plays too nicely with the existing regulatory system. All true. But that’s not where the story ends.
Crony capitalism comes in different shapes and sizes, with policies like bailouts, trade barriers, tax credits, and subsidies all benefiting certain companies at the expense of their competitors.
These easy-to-assemble retail kiosks aren’t just a great example of the market’s ingenuity, they are also proof that the market provides an answer to customers’ needs, even if these needs are the product of artificial barriers imposed by the government.
When companies are allowed to compete openly, without resorting to the government for special protections that keep competitors at arm’s length, some firms may even suffer as they try to adapt to better serve their customers. But in the end, it is the consumer who benefits the most as more companies means more options and more affordable prices.
The firm has been in the business long enough to notice that certain users just don’t like to chat with their drivers. In order to keep these users happy (and prevent them from using another service in the future), Uber is rolling out a new “Quiet Mode” feature that gives the passenger the ability to pay more for a peaceful and undisturbed ride.
Private enterprise has long provided the government with efficient solutions, even if the government itself undermines private efforts by using technology ineffectively.
If we truly had a fully free market economy, this type of reaction would always be the norm. It is when crony capitalism reigns supreme that we have instances of companies knowingly pushing products that hurt consumers — with the support and blessing of the government.
We need a vision and set of principles to fight back against neo-Luddites and their proposals to slow or stop technological change.
Today’s neo-Luddite tech critics suggest that we should just be content with the tools of the past and slow down the pace of technological innovation to supposedly save us from any number of dystopian futures they predict. If they succeed, it will leave us in a true dystopia.
Government regulation isn’t just bad because it ignores the unintended consequences that restrictions produce over time. Regulation is also bad because it invites cronyism.
Social media companies like Facebook obviously want to comply with the law, but they would also like to stay in business. That business depends fundamentally on targeting based on some demographic grounds. If a consistent application of non-discrimination law means that advertising has to become completely random to be compliant, Internet economics will experience the fate of countless public housing units in the past: it will be completely demolished.