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Sen. Warren’s Tech-Bashing Populism Misses the Mark

The last time we checked, the United States was locked in a high-stakes race with China to lead the world on digital innovation.  So we’re mystified by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s call today to break up Google, Amazon and Facebook. These are not only America’s most creative companies, but they and other large tech platforms have pioneered a global digital revolution.

They’ve grown big because they’ve been successful. That doesn’t make them perfect and, like any private enterprise large or small, they need strong public oversight and regulation. But breaking them up, absent compelling evidence that they are systematically gouging consumers or stifling competition, would be an act of stupendous economic folly.

To be sure, business consolidation and concentrated market power are real concerns.  But as PPI economist Michael Mandel has demonstrated, such worries apply less to the dynamic and fiercely competitive digital ecosystem than to America’s older and more static physical industries.

Perhaps Sen. Warren is jockeying to enter a very crowded populist “lane” in the 2020 presidential nomination contest.  But if she believes that anti-tech populism is broadly popular with U.S. voters, she’s mistaken. In fact, as a recent PPI poll makes clear,  most Americans have a favorable view of the big tech companies, and oppose breaking them up.

Our poll found that 67 percent of likely voters view the tech companies positively, as shown in Figure 1, and 55 percent oppose breaking them up. While 60 percent of voters acknowledge they are concerned about tech companies’ handling of privacy and data protection, 71 percent of voters view tech companies as “a sign that the American economy is working.” In contrast, just 32 percent view Big Tech as “too powerful.”

Sen. Warren’s call to break up America’s tech leaders may go down well with her party’s “democratic socialist” faction. It will no doubt be applauded by European regulators, who have also drawn a bead on U.S. tech companies. But to most voters, they symbolize American ingenuity and entrepreneurial prowess. Are those qualities progressives really should oppose?