The potential market is measured in billions of users. Next to that, the bizarre stories about Google that broke this week may sound like small potatoes. Google has bought a stake in a wind-farm project. It is working on a driverless car. It has a “Google price index” that measures inflation. But these are not publicity stunts or pet projects engaged in by “playful” employees in their spare time. They are at the core of this innovative and troubling company’s mission. It is no longer possible to think of Google the way we used to – as a competitor of the Yellow Pages or to the operators who answer directory inquiries. Google is coming to compete, along an ever broader front, with government itself.
Hallelujah. Finishes by throwing this snark on the fire:
The line between Google and government is destined to blur… One way or another, the result will be a closer union between power and specialised knowledge. If the Tea Party movement is enraged at being bossed around by experts, wait till they see what technology has prepared for them next.”
But Caldwell is wrong. Small-government types object to being bossed around by self-interested individuals who couch their power-grabs in high-minded terms like ‘public good’ or ‘concern’. Google doesn’t bother with such pretense. They exist to serve customers, not to win elections, not to curry favor. Their businesses live or die by delivering results, which benefits everyone. No one at Google would ever approve a driver-less car that frequently crashes, because no one would buy it. The DoT might approve one, because the president, an influential senator, or a politically connected company wants to sell it.
But the reason we have government to do so many of these things, like track employment and inflation, to map the spread of disease or predict stock market movement, is because no one else can. If someone can, and can do it better, more efficiently, and faster, than what do we need government for? As someone who thinks politics exists mostly for politicians, I submit: not much.