Where Are the Left’s Modern Muckrakers?

Where Are the Left’s Modern Muckrakers? By Victor Davis Hanson.

Facebook and Google run veritable monopolies. Facebook alone controls an estimated 40 percent of the world’s social-media market. It has more than 2 billion monthly users. Google controls about 90 percent of the world’s search-engine market.

Apple earns $230 billion in annual revenue and is nearing a market value of $900 billion. Microsoft controls about 85 percent of the word-processing personal and business markets.

Amazon alone was responsible for about 45 percent of all online sales of any sort last year. It has huge contracts with the Pentagon and owns the Washington Post.

When competitors to Big Tech arise, they are offered billions of dollars, cashed out, and absorbed. Facebook has bought more than 50 rival companies. It acquired former competitor WhatsApp, the world’s leader in messaging platforms, for a staggering $19 billion. Alphabet/Google has bought more than 200 companies, YouTube among them. …

Each year there are about 330,000 injuries caused by drivers texting — all of them in a sense preventable. One out of every four automobile accidents in America is said to result from texting while driving. Indeed, texting is six times more likely to cause a car accident than driving while intoxicated. Yet there are few consumer activist groups demanding products that cannot be misused by drivers, much less safety devices that automatically shut down texting when the user is moving at automobile speed.

None of these tech giants are held to the same oversight that monitors rail, drug, oil, or power companies.

Why is that?

The companies provide cool 21st-century products. People are mostly happy with the way they word-process, search, email, post, and buy online — at least until they butt up against the power of these monopolies and find their social-media accounts arbitrarily frozen, their private habits and data sold to other companies and operatives, their Internet use constantly interrupted by ads and messaging, or their providers using their patronage to massage the larger culture and law.

Unprecedented capital and revenue matter — both the fear of governments’ losing it and the hope of acquiring it. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, is the world’s richest person, worth $112 billion. Bill Gates of Microsoft is second, at $90 billion, Mark Zuckerberg ($71 billion) is fifth. Civilization has never seen such Croesus-like concentration of personal wealth, and we are dumfounded by it.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, our tech masters of the universe dwarf the 19th-century so-called robber-baron fortunes of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fords, and Mellons that once prompted a cultural revolution of muckraking and trust-busting. Such huge amounts of capital, coupled with monopolies over the way much of the world communicates, gives just a handful of people never-before-seen political power. …

High-tech companies have managed to thread the needle between the two political parties. Democrats, the traditional trust-busters and hyper regulators, appreciate the progressive politics and West Coast culture of corporations such as Facebook and Amazon. Why would they regulate entities that are a cash cow for the Democratic party and that push progressive agendas insidiously through daily Internet use? …

The worst-kept secret of the modern age is that big corporations are mostly run by leftists and are far more politically correct than independent small-business owners who lack the clout to enact social change by fiat.