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Google Critic Ousted from Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant (nytimes.com)
793 points by runesoerensen 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 447 comments

I think Google's lobbying overall is the result of being punished early on by regulatory capture of competitors. Look at the threats:

* Microsoft funded number backroom whisper campaigns in DC (http://www.businessinsider.com/what-an-anti-google-whisper-c...) * Microsoft and Oracle funded their own Astroturf lobbying groups and think tanks, to tie up the company in lawsuits and investigations (e.g. FairSearch) * Oracle funding numerous shills like Florian Mueller * Carriers and Cable Companies lobbying to demolish net-neutrality * Bills like SOPA.

Google used to spend very little on lobbying, and as a result Verizon, Microsoft, Oracle, Comcast, had the undivided attention of Congress.

Now to be fair, Microsoft was attacked by its competitors with similar campaigns in the 80s and 90s. It just goes to show you that corporate lobbying can play off people's populist tendencies and weaponize them against competitors.

So when you ask, "How could Google give to ALEC", a question Googlers themselves ask, or contribute to conservatives who deny client science, you have to consider that Congress has the industry by the balls. They can threaten regulation or punishment, and then hold fundraisers on pledges to block said regulation. It's a shakedown: "nice business you have there, shame if I'd have to regulate it. By the way, I'm having a fundraising dinner next week" Why would Silicon Valley serve on Trump's advisory councils when many of the members revile Trump on a personal level? Because there's a huge risk making the executive branch an enemy.

This is the key reason.

Its the market at work - at some point the marginal advantage of investing even a little in lobbying results in more X, (where X can be anything from power to profit).

And in a competitive scenario, SOMEONE will do it.

Not to mention Even a unhappy incumbent can initiate a lobbying strategy.

People in the comments seem to focus a lot on google itself, but this is the way the game is played.

Its just that tech is realizing that they can't create utopia because the laws of complex systems still apply.

> People in the comments seem to focus a lot on google itself, but this is the way the game is played.

Just because something is commonly done does not mean that behavior is right. A reason this post is so popular is because people are becoming increasingly aware of the power & capital concentration occurring in this country.

Google has for years successfully gave an image of a company capable of rising above the typical sociopathic behavior of other large multinational corporations, and this story helps expose Google for what they really are: just another large corporation.

The world isn't black and white. The fact that large companies have to engage in lobbying because they are either threatened into it by unscrupulous politicians, or they are attacked by their competition by using the state for regulatory capture, doesn't make them all the same.

The problem that technolibertarians/utopians have long had was that they imagined cyberspace as a completely separate dimension, that would not be sullied by the ordinary concerns of politics and buying influence. And perhaps for a short time, when the internet and web was new, and politicians mostly ignored it, there was good reason to believe you wouldn't have to worry about it, but after the 90s when the Web/Net was mainstreamed, with billions of people on it, and trillions in money up for grabs, the idea that the normal corrupt politician process would leave its participants alone is naive.

I mean, take net neutrality. Verizon, Comcast, and the ISPs have clearly won. They've got their guy as head of the FCC. The fossil fuel industry has won, they've got their guys running the show now.

Would you call sustainable energy companies lobbying congress and buying politicians "same old typical sociopathic behavior", it would you recognize that this is how the game is played, and they've go to fight to prevent the government from distorting the market and letting fossil fuel companies crush them.

I'm not a libertarian, but one of the reasons libertarians don't like government regulation is that if you want to "get money out of politics" it is literally impossible as long as small investments can yield huge benefits via regulatory capture.

This is not to disagree (or agree) with any of the points you made. It is more of a side note:

Tech -- including "energy tech" -- has one important distinction from other industries: there are potential technological solutions that can move faster than the legislation.

For instance, the ISPs may seem to have won, but maybe some kind of wireless technology will bring true competition.

An energy company may have someone in the government, but Solar is already cheaper (batteries have to catch up), and behind the meter solutions are ever more popular.

Sometimes the legislation just fattens the target by staving off other competition.

You mean legalized racket. When companies compete on basis who pays for the protection racket or extortion racket. This seems criminal.It is legal only because government personnel providers levers on informal individual basis.

    > Its the market at work
Sounds like an example of Market Failure

How's it a market failure (markets not working properly) when bad regulation/ regulator regime is to blame. One should properly term it as 'Government Failure', don't you think so?

Agreed. It's institutionalized crony capitalism.

> Its the market at work

It's economics, sure. I don't know what qualifies as a "market" here, though. There aren't standard shares of "lobbying" that people buy and sell.

Any market in which a company sells products. If lobbying is a cost effective way to increase revenue then it's almost guaranteed that at least one company will engage in lobbying. The companies that don't lobby fall behind in competitiveness and sometimes shutdown and therefore leave the market in which they were selling goods.

If you are interested in investing in lobbying then all you need to do is buy shares in companies that engage in lobbying.

You're thinking investment markets, not philanthropic giving markets. Any think tank is competitively attempting to gain funds to stay afloat. Some do this by lobbying for grants, some by soliciting private donations. But there's a finite amount of capacity to fund think tanks regardless of the source of income.

Google can certainly find other think tanks they like better.

I can get behind this description. Though it does mean that even the most communist and/or totalitarian governments have internal markets if source-agnostic-budget counts. I'm not sure how people with an anti-capitalist ideological bent would respond to that framing.

They probably wouldn't like it, but a market is a good way to describe those types of transactional backroom deal.

The key point of the article is this:

“Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings,” Mr. Lynn said. “People are so afraid of Google now.”

Honestly, the only thing shocking about any of this is that people thought Google was "special". The reality is, when its revenues are threatened, it's going to reach like any other corporation, which it should.

Google has its tentacles into almost everything, and you should be concerned/cautious about lock in, abuse and market competition challenges that go with it.

I personally find it a challenge every day to avoid using Google Services. I use Bing instead of Google, but I'm locked into Gmail (which is a great product), Google Drive (A great product), Google Maps (a great product), etc.

Are you actually locked into those services? I decided to switch away from Google when they mixed up my inbox with someone else's and started sending my email to someone who quickly used the mistake to issue password resets on many of my accounts, and it was easier than I thought.

With Gmail, I just forward my mail to my Outlook.com account, and I switched my email address on as many sites as I could to use my Outlook.com email address. Works just fine.

Office Online with OneDrive is a fantastic product. Sure it costs money, but if you're not paying for a product, you're not "locked in". Download your docs in Office format and save them to OneDrive, done.

I actually switched to Bing Maps a long time prior to this because Google Maps has such poor performance on every computer I use it on. Google Maps has the far superior place search, but Bing Maps works better as an actual map in my experience.

The only Google service I use regularly is Google Translate, because there really is no comparison.

> The only Google service I use regularly is Google Translate, because there really is no comparison.

There is one, since yesterday. Try https://www.deepl.com/translator

Impressive. I tried it on a couple comments in the thread as well as paragraphs from news sources, translating English<->Polish and back, and it indeed produces much more readable (I might even say: natural) translations, than Google Translate.

Unfortunately that appears to only support western European languages.

It only supports _some_ western European languages.

And YouTube, where the competition is not even close as far as content. It's really the one irreplaceable Google product.

Like the Play Store/Android. In a space where content is king, monopolies win big.

FWIW, YouTube is actually the only Google product I allow to store my history and recommend me stuff, because it's the only place I find it actually helpful or valuable, and the privacy risk of that data is of low value to me.

If you are considering no longer using Google or one of their products: they offer an easy way to export your (signed in) data for archival, or even wholesale delete your account and take all your data with you: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3024190

Not trying to encourage anyone one way or the other, but a good FYI to keep in mind.

I don't think Google is bad. But with my engineer hat on, I choose to diversify my risks. In particular, if Google chooses to disable my account, I don't want my email, my phone (and phone service), my ISP, my calendar, my documents and slides, my navigation, etc., all to instantly drop dead at the same time.

Just say yes to diversity! ;-)

I've actually found FastMail wholly superior to Gmail, HERE Maps refreshingly good at working without a data connection, which is a lifesaver while traveling, and I use Sandstorm.io over Drive, which is capable of a lot more as well.

I started with an attempt to leave Google products for political/moral reasons and ended up finding superior products on the way.

That has been my experience too.

The hardest part about moving away from Google around 4 years ago was migrating all my account email address to new providers.

That basically took me an afternoon. No big deal.

Same (ish) here. I switched to Runbox and also use HERE Maps. Very happy so far.

Note, Here Maps doesn't seem Asia proof yet, just seems to use English everywhere.

I like most Google products but I think that Gmail is the wost email client that was ever created. The default way in which it groups emails is terrible:

1. They have three tabs for emails, so to check if I have any new emails, I literally have to click through 3 different tabs.

2. When I have long email threads, new emails get lost under the clutter instead of showing up at the top of my inbox like a rational human being would expect.

3. When I actually click to open an email thread; 99% of the stuff is collapsed and I keep having to expand it out which is really annoying.

With a lot of modern web-based email clients, I always feel like the company is trying to hide my own emails from me which is creepy - That's why I like the simplest layout possible. New emails should always appear at the top and highlighted as unread.

When Marissa Mayer came to Yahoo, she changed the Yahoo email web client so that it would group emails in the Google way. I lost faith in humanity that day. I almost quit the service but thankfully at least they had a setting which allowed me to revert back to the correct way.

Maybe Gmail has a setting to display emails correctly (like Yahoo) but I haven't heard about it.

> Maybe Gmail has a setting to display emails correctly (like Yahoo) but I haven't heard about it.

There is. I ended up setting up my Gmail where unread and read emails are in separate accordion-like sections. The 3 tabs thing makes for horrible UX

1. Agreed it's a horrible design. Luckily you can turn tabs off and go back to a normal inbox.

3. This IMO is good design and you can expand all (although I almost never need to do so myself).

You can disable the tab thing in your first point. I did that almost as soon as it rolled out. No idea where the setting for that is though (I suppose somewhere in the gmail settings screen).

I don't like Gmail either. But inbox.google.com is awesome.

In what way are you locked into maps? Are you using that phrase to mean you're unable to switch or just that you like the product too much to switch?

I have ditched google almost entirely. The only two google services I use are search (via duckduckgo bang encrypted searches) and maps. Honestly...OpenStreetMap and Apple Maps simply do not compare. It is very hard to not use Google Maps. I also use Waze but it is my understanding that the two are of the same. Even so, I prefer to use Google Maps.

Tried Here maps?

I will give it a shot.

People like to talk about the great employee environment, open source contributions, and philanthropic work of Google, but what projects will get cut when Google finally has a bad quarter? Is Google at it's core actually different - or is it more of the same, merely enjoying a circumstantial utopia period for its first two decades?

Google will sell off divisions before sacking staff I think.

In tech right now, if you fire any people, all the other good people will leave too.

Then you have a crowd of mediocre engineers and have no hope of competing in the future.

Switch to protonmail. The only downside is spelling out the domain when giving it to people over the phone.


The Intercept reviewed the full termination email sent from Slaughter to Lynn that was cited and quoted in the Times report and found that they were reported and characterized with complete accuracy. The full text does, however, show that Slaughter threatened to make Lynn’s firing more difficult for him and his team should it generate any negative publicity for New America.

> “We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points,” Ms. Slaughter wrote in an email to Mr. Lynn, urging him to “just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others.”

That was a real kicker for me. This seems like pretty blatant corporate censorship. Unfortunately, it's hard to make the public care about a situation like this that's so out of view.

It needn't be corporate censorship to have the exact same outcome. If Google is upset with an article, or thinks it's not fairly representing all sides, they are going to contact the organization and say so. They don't have to threaten removing funding, the indication that they were unhappy could have been impetus enough for Slaughter to act proactively. Even if Google was thinking of removing funding, there's nothing wrong with that either (they have the right to fund or not fund what they want). The problem is if Google dictated Slaughter's actions, which we don't know for sure, but she says they didn't (but she would say that anyway, as saying otherwise would imperil her position and the organization as a whole).

Truthfully, I'm not so sure that this isn't being played up and portrayed a specific way by the media. I was going to say the problem was that the New America Foundation had accepted too much funding from one source, but since Google has only funded them to the tune of about 21 million since 1999, unless the vast majority of that has come in recent years, that funding probably accounts for fairly little of their operating costs on a year to year basis, since they employ more than 200 people. Even if Google had given all 21 million in the last yea alone, that would basically fund all the employees at $100k salaries and pay for building costs. I suspect quite a few salaries are much higher, and there's a lot more costs than that, so I'm not sure Google's funding really amounted to a huge amount when spread over many years.

> there's nothing wrong with that either (they have the right to fund or not fund what they want)

There is a limit to this.

For example, I have the right to ask you for money. I have the right to report or not report a crime I saw you commit. But if I tie those two activities together, it becomes blackmail and is illegal, despite no single action being wrong on its own.

Google has a lot of power, and they are abusing it. It may not be illegal under current law, but they cannot hide behind the defense that each micro interaction is their right.

> > there's nothing wrong with that either (they have the right to fund or not fund what they want)

> There is a limit to this.

Yes, that would be why the words immediately following what you quoted were "The problem is if Google dictated Slaughter's actions".

> For example, I have the right to ask you for money. I have the right to report or not report a crime I saw you commit. But if I tie those two activities together, it becomes blackmail and is illegal, despite no single action being wrong on its own.

No,it becomes blackmail when one action is dependent on the other. Two actions occurring in proximity to each other do not mean they are linked. It's entirely possible the crime wasn't known about until after someone was asked for money.

This is part of the problem. People are stuck in the "if there's smoke, there's fire" mindset, and we aren't sure if we're just seeing fog.

Yeah, she's talking out both sides of her mouth.

First, she says his work is imperiling their funding (referring to Google's complaint about its positions not being represented). Then, she says his work has nothing to do with his firing.

When combined it averages out to a coherent honest message. That you are being let go because the content of your message puts a funding source at risk.

It sounds like, "I think this person is good at their job. Unfortunately we can't afford to have someone else with these views in our organization. I would recommend another organization hire this person."

And we are shown again that Google is now large enough and has enough enough influence that it's only serious opponent is the EU. A continent.

Do no evil indeed.

If corporations are sociopaths (http://politicalloudmouth.com/why-publicly-traded-corporatio...), imagine the fun when one becomes too powerful for a merely national government to check.

The EU has no chance, as does any country in the world. Google will simply buy one nation at a time just by offering services to people through governments, which will turn into more exposure (votes) for the politician in power who makes the deal. That politician will of course never bite the hand who feeds him/her.

"Thanks to our last deal with Google, now we have fresh water and comfy chairs in every public transportation bus, and the ticket price was cut half!".

"Thanks to Google Books, now all kids whose family income is under X will receive a free ebook reader and free school books".


[pedantic] the EU is not a continent: it's a trade bloc.

There's also politics involved, all of my country's laws (including the non-trade related ones) had to comply with the EU-wide laws before my country was permitted to enter the union. One such famous non trade-related example is that if you want to be part of the EU you're not allowed to have death penalty as a punishment in your penal code.

To be more pedantic, it's more than just a trade block, it's also a political union.

The trade union is just one part of the EU, it is much more than that.

The reality is that thinktank as corporate patronage is a trend that extended long before Google -- it's a problem we have to face where money can buy ideas. It just so happens that it's Google or Facebook who has the overwhelming share of money as opposed to Exxon.

If U.S or E.U would want to break up Google, how would it realistically work?

I hope we see that happening, the company has become a monster and can literally tell the world what to think and how to feel.

OT: I agree Google has become monster-ish. But when this talk comes up, I can't help but think Amazon is just as if not more of a monster.

Especially the employee horror stories and now slashing Whole Food prices. While its awesome for it's customers, I'm worried about long term effects.


But Google has much more global power. Amazon is in Europe and other places too, but nowhere strong as in the United States. Google, on the other hand, has most of the world under its arm, besides China and maybe Russia.

I can easily choose to avoid Amazon - they aren't seeding the entire internet with sly tracking technologies. They are a logistics business that makes money by moving stuff from warehouses to customers.

Similarly Apple wants to sell you an iPhone and a laptop and Microsoft wants to sell you an office suite and a database. Real companies with real products and services. But Google's ONLY business is stealing and selling personal data.

Really? Go ahead and avoid anything hosted on or using AWS.

Might be a bit difficult, and you may reconsider Amazon's scale relative to Google.

A fair point but I've not seen even a hint that Amazon themselves are tracking me across AWS hosted services. Do you have any evidence or links?

I'm pretty sure companies would not be happy if they found out Amazon was tracking those companies' customers. If it got out, it would probably be huge. Not worth it for Amazon to do this.

The only practical way to do such tracking reliably would be to inject html into every page loaded from one of their CDN's. That would be visible to everyone, and they don't do this.

Hence, either they have fairly ineffective IP address based tracking, or no tracking at all.

Immediate seizure with lethal force to any who resist. Same way they treat the average citizen who they think is involved in profiting off of illegal activity. I really with this happened more (there is at least one major bank that knowingly laundered drug money who should be fully seized). This should include any and all legal and PR assets, they'll be given a single public defender who will take on the case for them.

Well, bear in mind, the US and the EU effectively can only mandate how Google operates as long as it does business there. So both the US and the EU have the ability to demand Google be broken up, but it will be up to Google, as an international entity, whether they want to leave the territory that orders it or comply to the extent that the regulator in a sovereign territory is appeased.

See also, the recent Canadian decision: Canada can order that Google do something worldwide. But the extent of enforcement ends at "Canada decides what happens with businesses that operate in Canada. Google's free to leave."

You have to remember, though, that these aren’t small national governments.

If Google really pissed off the EU, or US, they could simply force all banks to freeze Google’s assets, and seize them. This has worked in the past, and can be used again.

They aren't being a genuine, credible anti-corporate voice either.

These are nation states. They can start arresting Google's employees too. "Officer of the company" is not just an empty phrase.

What happened here? My original comment about Trump is gone and replaced with the body of another comment I made.

If the EU and US really pissed off Google, imagine the things that would start appearing in news centers all over the world that Google has stashed away on storage drives in some backroom server.

This might cause issues in many countries, but there’s equally many stories about Google that can quickly be on the front page of all German newspapers, and would cause a rioting mob to lynch Google’s developers.

That is not really a valid option. No source, but I'm sure a very very large proportion of Google revenue comes from the US and EU. They would comply if required to. There is no way they would leave those markets.

It depends. Being forced to split into multiple companies which can't collude would also crater their revenue. Presumably, the amount of revenue loss from being split into different companies would be weighed against the amount of revenue loss from losing a continent. Either one would be devastating.

While I knew Google would never sacrifice the EU market to avoid this fine and some changes in search behavior, Google might sacrifice their EU business if it meant the end of Google as we know it. (Aka, they were ordered to break up.)

Of course, the main reason they functionally can't leave the US over a policy decision is that their headquarters and the vast majority of their senior talent all live there, and they would have very little left if they tried to move out of the US.

The response from new america seems to indicate there's more to this story: https://www.newamerica.org/new-america/press-releases/new-am...

I don't find this very shocking or offensive. Pragmatic people don't bite the hand that feeds them. That means that every think tank will have at least one blind spot in the form of its major donor. This is also true of many media outlets. Bloomberg News is very careful when it reports about Michael Bloomberg. The same could be said of many other publications' relationship to their owners. If you don't like the people paying the bills, it's time to start hitting up their rivals for funds...

I don't find corruption (to a certain degree) shocking, but it is offensive and should be minimized and we should find ways to reduce it over time. Murder isn't shocking - it happens all the time - but absolutely should be minimized.

Do you think it's not a story, that the NY Times shouldn't have published it?

It is a story. But it's a predictable drama, and the story is just as much about the researcher's naiveté as Google's inevitable reaction. A lot of outrage was circulating about this, and I'm incapable of sharing that outrage in this case.

Google might want to look at the history of Standard Oil and the old US wide singular Bell Telephone. If you get so big that you can abuse your power, you will probably start to do so (power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely ...). They tend to get broken up into less powerful pieces. How you break up Google, I don't know. They are an ad tech company with the best search engine and a bunch of money loosing ancillary activities.

If I had to take a quick pass: Search/Gmail/Drive, Android/Play, and Chrome. The largest monopolizing power Google has is it's control of platforms, which can drive it's services. Between setting up defaults to their own products and including tight integrations nobody else can match, this is Google's biggest advantage today. Chrome and Android also actually each have ways they could independently be monetized, Chrome via search placement auction like Firefox, Android via licensing from OEMs.

Gmail and Drive and such predominantly need to be ad-funded to survive, I suspect, and I think allowing an online services company to run ads is fundamentally okay. The monopolizing power of losing Chrome and Android would over time relegate them to losing monopoly status by default.

> Google might want to look at the history of Standard Oil and the old US wide singular Bell Telephone.

Those companies made their owners very, very wealthy, and the companies' decedents remain extremely wealthy and powerful. The CEO of one of the decedents, Exxon, is now the U.S. Secretary of State, for example.

Google may think that's a very acceptable downside risk.

Turn their platforms into utilities, take the other bits and scatter them into different companies.

Market competition had greatly reduced Standard Oil's monopoly by the time the government broke it up...

These are different times.

This isn't a problem with Google, it's a problem with the establishment left in the United States.

There's no genuine, credible anti-corporate voice in American politics. The reasons why are many, but of course they typically distill down to the incredible power of money to influence people, of which this is an example.

The side-effects of there being no credible labor party in our political system manifests, in part, in the extreme volatility we see in electoral politics.

There's one anti-corporate idea that I've always thought was interesting but AFAIK isn't discussed by anyone: small-corporation libertarianism. In general libertarians are too concerned with government but almost all of them (plus neoliberals and many financially conservative folks) can agree that competition is at least one of their most important economic tenants. Competition is balanced against economies of scale etc. but those are totally level after you're making millions of a product.

It's just weird that there aren't at least some voices arguing strongly that super-large companies (not even conglomerates) like google or apple should be split up for economic growth.

That was the norm up until IIRC reagan, Bush 1.

The reason we switched off of it, was around that time, the idea was the allow more consolidation at the expense of competition.

The rationale was that the American marketplace was already significantly competitive, to the point that market growth was labor constrained, as opposed to today, where it is capital constrained. So by allowing more merges and decreasing overall competition, you could achieve multiple simultaneous goals. You could lessen the labor constraint on the market, allowing faster growth and more capital accumulation at the expense of labor, but without significantly impacting quality of life for the laborers. Additionally, the decrease in competition and increased allowance of outsourcing and international IP enforcement was expected to (and did) lower the cost of goods for many American products.

The end result was: The rich got richer. Everyone saw the price of goods drop (or the quality of goods increase, or the rate of inflation drop). And big companies became larger, faster, with minimal impact on quality of life for everyone.

The problem, is we've been doing that for 40 years now. We're back to a capital constrained economy, but capital interests have been keeping us pursuing the above agenda as if nothing has changed. Its absolutely a ripe time to go back to the pre-70s ideas about trust busting and etc, in the name of increased, local competition, as opposed to the current ideology of increased corporate merger in order to achieve greater economies of scale.

At least, this is how it was explained to me. I'm just a dev : )

Who explained this to you? Do you have any books, research papers, or documentaries I could look at on this topic?

This has to be one of the most insightful comments I've read on the topic of large conglomerates and the American economy.

Not OP but here is an overview of the (now deceased) architect of current US antitrust policy, Robert Bork. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/12/20/antit...

Interesting, I never thought of antitrust as a scale, or that it should adapt to the state of the economy. I just thought monopolies are bad.

Monopolies are bad but "perfect competition only exists at the point of collapse" [1]

A benevolent monopoly can be OK but both of the extremes of competition come with instability.

[1] I put that in quotes because I thought it was a famous well-known quote but I can't find the original!

And excessive competition creates stagnation at local maxima. If you're engaged in a price war you have no profits to invest in R&D.

One of the things that works really well for this is to split monolithic national regulatory codes into less complicated region-specific ones.

California needs earthquake rules, Florida needs hurricane rules, Colorado needs altitude rules, etc. If you have one national code containing all the rules, you give the advantage to huge conglomerates that can navigate them all at the same time. A small company in Colorado has to comply with all the irrelevant rules covering earthquakes and hurricanes, which puts them out of business.

But if they each have only their own regulations, smaller companies can survive the ones in their home state -- and have more power there to address them if they're oppressive. So you get a different company in each region instead of one big national one. They put competitive pressure on each other because any who charged too much would make it worth it for one of the others to pay the regulatory cost of expanding into that region, but not so much pressure that everyone is locked in a price war and no one has any surplus to invest in the future.

I think the 51% attack of bitcoin is a similar phenomenon. If someone owns 51% of the market, trust from outsiders/customers is basically destroyed. At that point the dominate player can systematicly destroy the competition through pure economic power.

It may have been accelerated by the fear of global multinationals besting American firms. NTT, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, RDShell, etc. American firms were being challenged by bigger international firms --and WTO/NAFTA encouraged firms to get bigger and compete overseas rather than just protect the home country from foreign competition as it had been up to that point.

It's weird in a larger historical sense, but in a contemporary sense not so much. The US has moved radically rightward since the 1980s, and that only got kicked into higher gear since 9/11/2001 once 'patriotism' or 'security' could be tapped any time to shut down critics. It's not just a difference of opinion when you can claim it's some sort of existential threat.

From my perspective, it looks like we're in some respects in a similar situation as we were 100 years ago. Huge advances in technology have made individual workers radically more productive. Assembly-line manufacturing then, computers and Internet now. And just like back then, while everyone predicted a future of shorter work weeks and less work, employers drive employees harder, and pay them less, while society says "the machines do the real work." There is one big difference though. Back then it got solved by the New Deal stepping forward and forcing companies to essentially give their workers a 600% raise basically overnight. Going from employing a whole family, children included, 16 hours a day 6 days a week and paying them barely enough to feed themselves... to 1 person working only 40 hours a week and being paid enough that the entire family could be comfortable on just that one income. Suggesting such a socialist solution back then would elicit discussion. Nothing of the sort can be discussed today. One whisper of the word 'socialism' is followed by 'communism' and all discussion is aggressively ended.

> Suggesting such a socialist solution back then would elicit discussion. Nothing of the sort can be discussed today. One whisper of the word 'socialism' is followed by 'communism' and all discussion is aggressively ended.

Indeed. That's because the specter of "Communism", aka Dictatorship was the eventual downfall of Marx's idea of Capitalism->Violent Overthrow->Dictatorship->Stateless and Classless Communism. The problem has always been, that when people get power, they don't want to relinquish it. Therefore, all Marxian applications of Communism end in this failure mode.

There are other ways to apply Communism. I type this on a Communal Operating System. Linux. There are no gulags of forced developers making all the code I use to type this. It's all voluntary, and free for all to use and partake. The only rule is to respect the community- in that if you use code, it has to be under the same license.

I could see a Benefit Corp do something similar - taking the ideas of ownership and lock them in a public trust. That way, people know what they're "buying into", but it's also not the prior forced dictator knowing what's 'right'. The Story of Manna by Marshall Brain puts this idea eloquently in his short short.

Perhaps it's time to quit using the word "Communism" because, frankly, Marx guessed wrong and tens of millions died in furtherance of that specific ideal. But the underlying ideas that we are stronger together is something that many of us understand. But it all has to do with preserving the individuals' and the groups rights. And, that's a hard balance to keep.

> I could see a Benefit Corp do something similar - taking the ideas of ownership and lock them in a public trust.

And a regular corp do something similar to "communist" dictatorships. Planified economies, highly specialization and a charismatic CEO as the ruler.

Well on the left they get silenced when they get too loud (evidenced by the post) I'd bet the same happens on the right. Lots of the biggest funders of libertarian think-tanks are also big corporate donors or individuals who made it rich on the back of a big corporation so I'd expect what happened to Barry and his group here is liable to happen to libertarians of the same mindset.

>all of them (plus neoliberals and many financially conservative folks) can agree that competition is at least one of their most important economic tenants

Note that this isn't true. Lots of free-market mindset people (libertarians and otherwise) believe that if a monopoly can provide a lower price then that's all that matters. That's part of the reason we're in this mess in the first place.

Er... I'm not sure why anyone would believe that monopoly could provide a lower price. The only problem a monopoly solves is whether the good or service is to be continuously available in the market or not.

You might allow a monopoly if the alternative is periods of competition interleaved with periods where there are no firms left in the market at all. If you choose to grant a monopoly, prices will be higher, and supply more constrained, but the good or service will always be available to the highest bidders. You're never going to get a lower price out of one, unless the owners are impossibly altruistic.

Many people think a monopolist could provide the lowest possible prices. However, anyone who thinks a monopolist would provide the most consumer surplus has an opinion that's at odds with the consensus.

Wow. That's a really polite and diplomatic way to describe "completely crazy". I might just re-use that wording myself.

It may be that multinationals long ago exceeded soveign states as dominant political powers. As in the days of the East India Company.

So it's not a question of reigning them in, that horse has bolted.

It's complicated in a global economy. Our companies are competing against massive corporations in China, India, Russia, not just against each other. It makes sense for local things like telcos, but less so across the board.

> should be split up

It may be weird that no one is arguing that (maybe it's just no one you're listening to, or being allowed to listen to, though?), but it's not weird that it's not libertarians. The notion that some people shouldn't be allowed to form voluntary associations with others because they got "too large" is anti-libertarian.

That said, "libertarianism" and "anarcho-capitalism" are becoming too synonymous. As a libertarian (but not an ancap) I have no love lost for big corporations; I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments that monopolistic corporations are bad for society in general. However, because we must stand on principles instead of feels, the relevant principle here is that we have no right to interfere with others' affairs simply because they've chosen to pool their resources into free association, massive or otherwise (assuming they are not interfering with others' liberties, and I don't think there's a genuine argument now that they are).

All hope is not lost, however: there is reason to believe that these monopolies derive much of their monopolistic power through the state (e.g., via regulatory capture) and thus by reducing the power of the state we will actually achieve the desired benefit (breaking up monopolies) without infringing on anyone's liberties.

>All hope is not lost, however: there is reason to believe that these monopolies derive much of their monopolistic power through the state

How has google derived monopolistic power through the state?

Google can afford to break the law, small businesses can't.


Google broke the law because it was profitable to do so and I'd wager that google came out ahead even after the fine.

To the extent that we make it lucrative to break the law, we favor those who can afford the punishment over those who can't.

I have been assured by innumerable statists that the government invented the internet.

But I'm not sure in what market exactly Google is a monopoly? I'm pretty sure there are plenty of advertising and big data companies doing just fine.

You're not sure in what market is Google a monopoly? Searches, for one, internet video as well... If the trend continues, web browsers as well (Chrome is fast approaching the level of usage share as IE at its peak).

Those aren't products. Google's main products are advertising and user data. They can't be monopolists in markets they're not even participating in.

Google doesn't participate in the search engine market. Got it. Makes perfect sense.

Anti-trust laws are about leveraging your monopoly in one area of the economy in order to gain an advantage in another.

There is nothing wrong with having a monopoly per se as long as it was gained and maintained fairly.

And by "fairly" you mean literally any business tactic which does not rely on the government?

Why must we stand on principles?

>It may be weird that no one is arguing that (maybe it's just no one you're listening to, or being allowed to listen to, though?), but it's not weird that it's not libertarians. The notion that some people shouldn't be allowed to form voluntary associations with others because they got "too large" is anti-libertarian.

Libertarianism as a moral structure is a belief in economic freedom for it's own ends. Like you said that really describes ancaps better. 99% of the time that's not what people mean when they talk about libertarianism, they mean libertarianism as an economic structure. That's still essentially a belief structure, but it's the very specific belief that economic freedom is the best way to create economic efficiency. The anti-authoritarianism comes from the fact that the government has special privileges (derived from enforced unionization of citizens) and is overwhelmingly powerful (derived from police power + spending comprising 21% of GDP). ANY large corporation will have that power- including Walmart (if its revenue was 10x higher), Apple (20x) and google (50x). Even a small corporation can, in a company town. Any libertarian should be against those things just on the principle that the rights available to any corporation should be equal. Having more money shouldn't "unlock" rights any more than having very little (welfare, progressive taxation, etc).

I think the primary reason this is ignored is just ignorance of the methods and power wielded. Anarcho-capitalism is significantly less popular than libertarianism exactly because the moral beliefs are significantly less palatable. Very few people think that the poor should starve- I believe that most libertarians do honestly think that in an ideal world, livable work would be available for anybody with anything to contribute.

>However, because we must stand on principles instead of feels, the relevant principle here is that we have no right to interfere with others' affairs simply because they've chosen to pool their resources into free association, massive or otherwise (assuming they are not interfering with others' liberties, and I don't think there's a genuine argument now that they are).

That's... not admissible in any libertarian philosophy I'm aware of. That definition admits governments in their entirety, or close to.

>All hope is not lost, however: there is reason to believe that these monopolies derive much of their monopolistic power through the state (e.g., via regulatory capture) and thus by reducing the power of the state we will actually achieve the desired benefit (breaking up monopolies) without infringing on anyone's liberties.

That statement is in opposition to history (monopolies were larger when there was less government involvement), economic theory (noncompetitive practices are econ 101 and happen without any government), evidence (increasing amounts of money pretty clearly give a disproportionate amount of power) and common sense.

"There's no genuine, credible anti-corporate voice in American politics."

I note that you said "corporate" vs "capital(ism)". Thank you for making the distinction.

Most liberals I hang with favor a Sander-esque version of capitalism meets socialism. Balancing capitalism (ready access to capital), competition, open markets with a strong safety net and democracy. Balancing rewarding achievement and merit with ensuring fairness, not abandoning people.

What does that look like?

I think it looks like more democracy. Every where.


I've used democratic decision making in the workplace. It's very effective. Think of it as better governance meets social cognition.

Although probably not original, I just kinda made it up, mostly modeled after the USA's Constitution (balance of power) and Demming/Ford quality circles (empowerment, joint decision making).

Since, I've been keenly interested in any effort swimming in the same direction. Co-ops, worker owned companies, the political philosophy of the Occupy Movement, whatever I can find.

I recently read this book. It's good survey of our current pickle (winner takes all economy, chaotic boom/bust cycles) with an okay primer on worker self directed enterprises (WSDE). The "more democracy" prescription is the closest I've found to my experiences. But being rhetoric vs a howto, it lacks actionable steps.

Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism



Related link dump

Bernie Sanders and the Nordic countries are Social Democrats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

    Social democracy is a political, social and economic ideology that supports
    economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the
    framework of a capitalist economy, as well as a policy regime involving a
    commitment to representative democracy, measures for income redistribution,
    and regulation of the economy in the general interest and welfare state
The "democracy everywhere" which you describe sounds like Democratic Socialism, which is a bit further to the left. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_socialism

    Democratic socialism is a political ideology that advocates political
    democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production, often with
    an emphasis on democratic management of enterprises within a socialist
    economic system. Democratic socialists see capitalism as inherently
    incompatible with the democratic values of liberty, equality and solidarity;
    and believe that the issues inherent to capitalism can only be solved by
    superseding private ownership with some form of social ownership [in the
    form of democracy].
Even more related concepts:







You could also call it "Free Market Socialism" which is my person favorite term for it.

Although "Democratic Economy" is also apt.

That term is an oxymoron.

The most well-known socialist economies were central command economies, it is true. But "socialism" isn't synonymous with central command. It's supposed to mean the economy is controlled by the workers, rather than by capitalists/shareholders.

In the USSR, the economy was controlled by the communist party on behalf of the workers. Under democratic socialism, enterprises are democratically managed by the people who work there.

  ...on behalf of the workers
That is debatable.

Ha, well. That's what they said they were doing. In practice it was much more of a plutocracy.

This will just end up being a discussion about definitions, but lets dip into it.

We can define a socialism government to be one that have the goal of having social ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

We can define a free market to be one in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.

Thus a Free Market Socialism would be socialism which achieve social ownership and democratic control of the means of production by having a government that prevents price-setting monopolies.

Free markets allow monopolies. Actually it is the dream of all producers, but in practice they cannot live long. Reason there are monopolies or very high barriers to enter some industries is the state granted rights (eg. IP rights), regulations and restrictions.

Also you are avoiding the actual "social" side of the Socialism. In Socialism, there is always a forced redistribution mechanism in the name of "exploitation of the labor class". Which makes the "free market" impossible.

monopolies and a free market is a oxymoron because at that point the monopoly has become a authority that intervene in the forces of supply and demand. Such authority can exist without government, and given enough capital and positioning it can be very stable. In history we can find examples of companies that through pure size and weight can solely influence the forces of supply and demand, with no need to get help from governments.

The state can naturally also create monopolies. patents are explicit in this, granting an entity a "limited" timed monopoly.

> there is always a forced redistribution mechanism

And now we enter the definition of terms. Forced redistribution is mechanism, not a goal in itself. Historically there have been governments that have tried it, through to be honest there hasn't been a country that have not had events of forced redistribution, and if the book Debt - The First 5,000 Years is correct in the historical data, the elimination of debt through violence was a recurring event that happened in all cultures. Forced redistribution happens all the time in history when the ability to repay get too impossible low compared to the amount of money being owned.

No, What I said is, monopolies can exist for a short time in a free-market system. But they live much longer in state controlled-restricted markets. And I doubt there is any example in History a real monopoly lived as long as patent expiration time (no, Standard oil was not a monopoly.) even in a "mostly" free market economy. Examine the Phoebus cartel for an example. Patents are indefensible in my eyes after witnessing the damage it gave to the development of human kind (pharmaceuticals, tech, software etc.). Besides, IP rights is only one of state's monopoly generation tools.

Perhaps my wording was not correct. What I mean by "forced redistribution" is getting money from producers by force (via taxation) and distributing it to a arbitrarily selected people. This is required in all forms of Socialism and it violates the rules of free market (capitalism).

monopolies in a free-market system is an authority. One can claim that they should expire faster or exist with less frequencies, but an authority is an authority, and with it it can exert pressure on what would be a balance between supply and demand.

If we look far enough into the past, large enough monopolies are indistinguishable from governments. The Hanseatic League had their own armies, their own laws and even their own cities. Under their rule they fully controlled supply and demand, including price, which no longer makes it a free-market system. Still, they aren't what we define as a state (definitions...).

Taxation don't violate a free market. A free market need laws, which in turn require police and military, which in turn need to be paid (which distributes money). If everyone has to have their own police, military and laws, everyone becomes small islands of states. Those states then violate the supply-demand market, and thus you no longer have a free market.

There is no free lunch here. One can try to redefine what a free market is, what socialism is, what a state is, what a authority is, what taxation is, what interferences is, but it will just ends up arguing definitions.

What do you mean by "social ownership"?

The traditional definition of socialism is that it has public ownership of the means of production (i.e. shared by society as a whole). What you describe wouldn't achieve that, because, even with market regulations that prevent monopolization, means of production would still be privately owned - there'd just be more such private owners. But the basics of private ownership of the means of production - the ability to extract economic rent from them - wouldn't change, and that basic ability is what defines capitalism.

I like the term precisely because it causes that double take moment that catches people's attention. It's not actually an oxymoron when you more carefully examine it.

Socialism just dictates that the workers own the product of their work. A free market socialist economy would be one in which employees owned and democratically controlled businesses and in which it was illegal to sell equity in a business (the stock market simply wouldn't exist).

It could be structured as "one employee one vote" or it could be structured so you earned equity and vote over time (perhaps in proportion to your salary). Capital financing in this economy would happen through bank loans (which wouldn't confer any kind of control), crowd sourcing, and through public means.

This economy isn't centrally planned. The government doesn't own the businesses, the employees do. The government doesn't dictate how they operate, the employees do, democratically. You can still start your own business, and when you're the only employee, you call the shots -- it's only when you hire your first employee that you have to start sharing decision making in some way.

It's free market, because there's still a free market for goods and services. Businesses still compete in a competitive market.

It's a really, really interesting idea. When you dig into it, you find all kinds of fascinating and promising potential side effects of a society and economy shaped this way.

For just one example, it would incentivize innovation and the finding of efficiencies even more powerfully than a capitalistic free market -- because the worker making the innovation would ultimately own and control the business benefiting and so would directly benefit. If a worker came up with a innovation that increased efficiency, that worker would then get a voice in whether the increased efficiency was turned into more wages or more free time. That's a huge incentive. Right now, there's no guarantee that any particular employee will benefit directly from their innovations, so many aren't incentivized to really try very hard at their jobs.

There are many other possible effects of a society structured like this. Among them: - People who get more practice at operating democratically and would thus get better at it. - It might discourage growth after a point - because large democracies get unwieldy fast. - It would naturally resist the concentration of wealth and power because the system would more evenly spread the profits of business. - It would encourage businesses to stay in and be more respectful of the communities they operate in because the people who are calling the shots also live in those communities. - Similarly there might be less of a need for regulation around externalities (like the environment) because the folks calling the shots are the ones living in the communities in which the businesses operate and are directly effected by the externalities.

But it's also an idea that's really hard for a lot of people in our current economy and society to wrap their heads around. The idea that "Free Market Capitalism" and "Totalitarian, Centrally Planned Communism" are the only two systems available is really heavily ingrained in most people. And the concept of a business that operates democratically is totally alien to most. We're just so used to hierarchical, authoritarian businesses that it's hard for many people to even imagine it could be another way.

Belated response. Thank you for the links, excerpts. Been pondering.

My issue is inequity, not capitalism. So I don't think I'm a Democratic Socialist.

I'd even be okay with corporations if they were put back into their place. Corporations are not people, natural or otherwise. They should only exist by charter, in the service of society. The current corporatism idealogy (Freedom Markets[tm]) is nutty making.

Check out the platform Zephyr Teachout/Tim Wu ran on. They were pretty close to you albeit without co-ops. Actually the whole Open Markets program which just got removed has some really good stuff in this vein. On youtube you can find several talks they've given (not sure how long they will last.)

The Next System Project is a similar think tank doing a lot of investigation into what this idea (and others) look like when implemented on the scale of a whole economy.


Why is this not equally a problem with the establishment right in the United States? They aren't being a genuine, credible anti-corporate voice either. Or do they get off the hook because we just assume that there's no chance they would ever be that?

I don't think they meant "establishment left" as in "left-leaning" but possibly more as "establishment remaining". I think they were trying to make the point that "the establishment" is crumbling in around itself because of all the corporate intervention and there's not really anyone remaining in the establishment that can fix that. I may be wrong, but that's what it seemed like to me...

They aren't being a genuine, credible anti-corporate voice either.

Yes and no. Trump was elected on a platform of tearing up TPP, TTIP, NAFTA etc, all of which are loved by large corporations looking to offshore work and evade taxes. There are a lot of people who voted for that anti-corporate message, and against Hillary who was obviously in Wall Street's pocket.

I mean, the guy has been in the public eye since what, the 70's? He has been photographed socialising with people of all races, he employs plenty of women in senior roles in his companies, he married an immigrant - yet the big, corporate media conglomerates are determined to paint him as a racist sexist etc etc - they all loved him while he stayed out of politics - doesn't that seem a little odd?

That's why he stacked his administration with Goldman Sachs and Big Oil types, right?

I consider myself pretty decently to the left, and from my perspective the difference is that the establishment left feigns to be for the people, while still being 100% for corporations. So in a sense, I consider it "false advertising" if that makes sense, when voters vote left, they get something they didn't actually want.

That's some false dilemma nonsense. There are ranges of corporate pandering from the left, anywhere from near 0 to almost entirely. Part of the problem is you have to buy elections for the most part, and in order to do that you have to make promises.

We have a broken system and refusing to play the game may get you a Senatorship in Vermont, but not much else.

In your estimation, are you placing the very active and loud anti-corporate voices in this country outside of American politics, or merely denying that they are genuine?

By active and loud anti-corporate voices do you mean the pro-corporate liberal party, the pro-corporate conservative party, the corporate-owned TV media or the pro-corporate mainstream newspapers? There are anti corporate voices like e.g. Chomsky, Sanders, and they all have a couple of characteristics in common: they are ignored by the powers that be. They are without platforms, and they are without power.

The trick is to narrow the circle of actually "acceptable, reasonable" opinion down to near nothing,and declaring that inside sane- and all other outside free (aka nuts). Both of the partys even tryied that trick upon one another.

> There are anti corporate voices like e.g. Chomsky, Sanders, and they all have a couple of characteristics in common: they are ignored by the powers that be. They are without platforms, and they are without power.

Thankfully in the US the people have a lot of power, and Sanders is active in politics no matter how much the "powers that be" attempt to dismiss him.

Warren is also anti-corporate, though I'll admit I don't know the extent, and I think she is easier to see as a mainstream democrat than Sanders is.

My point being Sanders may not be accepted by the mainstream, but this is an unprecedented (since the 50s) level of acceptance of a class perspective. I'm not sure why you would explicitly ignore this change of events.

It's easy to ignore because even Sanders proved himself a sellout in the end, and the people who control the purse strings similarly don't pay him or his ilk any real attention, because they have the power to stop him or anyone like him from doing anything substantial.

If you aren't loudly hearing anti-corporate voices in the modern American political conversation, you aren't listening.

They're making noise but they're not being heard. No one with any ability to instigate change is listening to them. Just because they're talking doesn't mean anyone is taking them seriously. For the record, I definitely think they should be taken seriously.

Bernie Sanders (who is currently a United States Senator) nearly won the Dem nomination in the last election.

Something, something....horseshoes....hand grenades....

I strongly believe that the people listening to them right now, will be the future leaders of America. I hope to be one of them.

Or are serving as an Emmanuel Goldstein from 1984.

Those are not the only two options. I believe there are anti corporate forces in American politics, and they are genuine, but, by and large, they are far too small and disorganized to have a a significant effect on American politics. This is in large contrast to anti-corporate forces in much of Europe.

Bernie has/is changing that, but even then I would argue the main power structures haven't changed.

> Bernie has/is changing that, but even then I would argue the main power structures haven't changed.

Bernie isn't / hasn't changed anything and won't. Sanders comes at the problem from a position that is considered Socialist (even though he's only a Socialist in name for the headlines), which will keep him forever in a cordoned off box. The last force in US politics with any influence in that regard, was Ralph Nader. He accomplished greater than ten times what Sanders has or will (and given his age at this point, the clock is ticking) when it comes to anti-corporate power checking. The Democrats lit Nader on fire and buried him politically for opposing their establishment one too many times.

Actually Bernie is a self-described Democratic Socialist to a certain extent, but he seems quite pragmatic rather than dogmatic.

Pragmatic enough that he bought a third home with all of that tasty donation money....

Presumably CPLX means the anti-corporate voices aren't part of the 'establishment left'.

Certainly, the people in control of the Democrats (such as superdelegates) did not choose an anti-corporate message in the last presidential election.

> the very active and loud anti-corporate voices

Could you clarify which voices you mean?

Occupy Wall Street wasn't that long ago, most of those people are still around, and the message definitely creeps into the mainstream regularly. Just look at how many people voted for Sanders in the primaries last year

Bernie Sanders isn't anti-corporation, he just doesn't think they should have as much power and influence in our society as they currently do.

It's a benign argument. I wonder why his opponents hyperventilate and exaggerate his positions...

Er, I supported Bernie Sanders... Don't know why you would think I was an opponent

Corporations have moved left in part because they realize that they've won already with the Right. The Right hates government so much they will never vote for anyone with more government control. I sometimes think thats why corporations have moved more left on social issues, so you can have the NeoLiberal globalists overshadowing the workers-rights left.

You've made a very interesting delineation between globalism and workers' rights. I'm guessing that by "workers," you mean "workers who were born in the correct country."

Globalization is great news for many people in the category of "workers," just not those in high-cost-of-living countries.

> The Right hates government so much

I'm not sure which Right you're talking about. Perhaps on taxes & redistribution the right doesn't like the government, but they will always support expansion of the military and police. And many politicians (on both sides, unfortunately) never saw a war they didn't like, because it brings home those sweet, sweet procurement contracts.

Well, yeah. There's no substantial anti-corporate voting bloc.

Most substantial voting blocs are pro- something. Pro-union, pro-environmental, and pro-privacy voters may support positions which some corporations oppose, but the voters themselves aren't by-and-large anti-corporation; as long as corporations behave they don't have any problem with them.

> There's no genuine, credible anti-corporate voice in American politics.

Ralph Nader? Noam Chomsky?

These people have no voice because people refuse to turn off the TV.

> Ralph Nader? Noam Chomsky?

They are 83 and 88 years old, respectively. Where are the Naders and Chomskys of the next two generations? Do they have any influence?

America's business is business.

> This isn't a problem with Google, it's a problem with the establishment left in the United States.

Why not both? The root problem is the system, yes, but Google could choose to not take a part in that system. They both deserve blame.

There's no genuine, credible anti-corporate voice in American politics.

There are plenty, actually. They just don't get a lot of airplay in the... corporate media.

What's the difference between what they said and what you're saying?

Obligatory Taleb comment:

"Think tanks are natural lobbies w/a facade of "research" Their cover allows them to censor dissent from monoculture"


OT: I'm curious how many hours will this post survive on the front page

In Denmark we have two major economic think tanks, that are respectively self-declared right wing and left wing and they continually release results supporting expanded welfare and the other expanded free trade / lower tax.

It is ridiculous that either is taken serious.

People have confirmation bias. They love when there is a "credible" source putting out results that are in agreement with the position they already hold. They can then use this "evidence" to justify their position. Everyone is guilty of this to some extent. The only way to mitigate confirmation bias is to be willing to entertain the idea that it affects you too.

They aren't though. They are used by the political parties but no one takes them seriously.

Given how much space in newspapers that CEPOS' press releases gets, I'm considering it as being taken serious.

I couldn't put out press release on my amateur research and expect to get articles printed in several national papers, simply because they wouldn't take me seriously.

> I couldn't put out press release on my amateur research and expect to get articles printed in several national papers, simply because they wouldn't take me seriously.

"Expect?" No.


- Write a press release with a sufficiently "useful" headline. Ideally add some research with a conclusion that supports the headline, too, but that's really optional. Write well, and offer lots of both clever "sound bytes" and entire copy-pasteable paragraphs. Journalists are busy and/or lazy.

- "Useful" means that it fits a narrative being advanced by the part of the press you're interested in. However important your story is, without that hook it goes nowhere. With the right hook, a story about goats in Siberia can end up on the front page. These days, a novel edge on the ways that tax cuts shockingly benefits people who pay a lot of tax ("the rich") more than people who pay less or no tax ("the poor") is a shoe-in.

- You'll need some sort of credential, but not much. By the time anyone figures out your PhD is in marine biology and not economics or tax policy or Siberian goats, or the think tank or NGO you're chief researcher of operates out of your kitchen, the world will have moved on.

- Finally, you need a bit of luck, ingenuity and cheekiness getting the release in front of a journalist. Most of them are on Twitter and Facebook, and that seems to be where they do most of their research anyway, so that's a good start. You're going to want to offer them an exclusive.

Incidentally, this is basically how all of these "think tanks" operate, except with a few established press contacts and a sort of short-circuited credentials loop.

CEPOs and AE get approximately the same airtime. I don't like any one them but claiming that somehow CEPOS gets more simply isn't supported by evidence.

Furthermore they get less and less time because they do more and more lobbying.


I'm claiming CEPOS get more airtime than me, because unlike me, they are taken seriously :)

Well Linse gets more airtime than you (and me) hardly a useful metric.

We might have to make sure the upvotes are stronger than the downvotes :)

Posts don't have downvotes anyway. Only comments do.

The real "fight" is upvotes and substantive comments vs. people blindly flagging articles they disagree with.

I did my bit.

>OT: I'm curious how many hours will this post survive on the front page

Not long. HN heavily censors any criticism of Google and yet any blog post from one of the official Google sites stays on the front page for a whole day.

I've come to recognize over time that HN itself is not really censorship-heavy. But it relies heavily on ranking based on community effects, and for certain types of articles, that leads it interesting places.

For sure, Googlers downvote a lot of critical comments and surely flag posts they feel are inaccurate. There are a LOT of Googlers and quite a few of them are very active here. Some are even vocally opposed to disclosing their employer.

The other thing is that many posts critical of companies are extremely controversial here. HN is a weird mixing pot of startup folks from the Valley and hackers and code enthusiasts, so there are some very pro-business and very anti-business voices.

Where this plays in is that HN tends to push threads with a lot of argument and debate off the front page much faster. Announcements of new products aren't nearly as controversial as a post about say... James Damore's memo.

I haven't noticed heavy censorship. Who do you think is doing the censoring and how are they accomplishing it? Are there a few specific examples you can point to where that's happening?

Check out this story for example:


It was censored by HN admins as a dupe.Even thought it's different from the other Google story about firing of a critic.

The content of that story and especially the HN discussion of that story was 95% similar to an already much larger and very active discussion on HN about the New York Times version of that story. In case you missed it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15131370

The WaPo article adds nothing materially new to a conversation about Open Markets and Barry Lynn's firing.

Dozens of stories daily are marked as dupes to keep related conversations under one roof. I completely support marking the WaPo story as dupe and directing folks to the NYT discussion.

Or if this site was written properly, the moderators could merge the two together and edit in a note as to why.

Isn't this more the effect of Google employed engineers downvoting criticism of their beloved Google, and upvoting the Plex approved propaganda?

The thing is that Google has absolutely gone down questionable path from their early days.

It is a little unfair to think this problem exists only within Google. Time and time again we are reminded why corporations will evolve to become as greedy and as protective of their turf expansive of their power and monopolistic as they can get, even if good people are running them. It is the system itself that does this, corporations evolve to survive and to thrive. That in of itself isn't a bad thing but you need checks and balances. Things like the Supreme Court saying that Corporations are people or all the money pouring into our political process those are things that have to change.

Even the best of them will eventually become the worst of them. Google is now evil for sure, no doubt about that, but there have been and there will be many others.

Schmidt was pretty clear in his book that he believes his business success is an indicator of virtue, and that he believes he should use Google and his wealth to intentionally seek to manipulate modern culture. It's a disturbing notion and I've never understood why people weren't more concerned about it.

If every significant avenue of communication used by people is controlled and censored by a group, no matter who it is, there is no option for progress. Any attempt to change social values will inevitably run up against a wall of not being able to actually express proof that societies values have changed. Imagine if tomorrow every human being on Earth woke up realizing nudity is a strange thing to get worked up about. What would happen? The idea would die, isolated, because even if people said they thought nudity was fine, they could never prove it as the communications networks they use would censor out anything containing nudity, stultifying culture and freezing it to whatever was acceptable in the early 2000s.

> and that he believes he should use Google and his wealth to intentionally seek to manipulate modern culture. It's a disturbing notion and I've never understood why people weren't more concerned about it.

Because they're pushing the progressive agenda, so who in the media, government, or academia is going to stand in their way? As far as those parties are concerned, Google is doing what corporations "should" do.

> Because they're pushing the progressive agenda

I would say Shmidt's agenda is more neo-liberal than progressive. Not that I endorse it, but corporations pushing an agenda is not new[1] and not limited to the left[2][3], so not even conservative media will stand in their way either since that has been happening for a long time on the right.

1. http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/12/12338/shilling-profit-ca...

2. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/hobby-lobby-wins-contraceptiv...

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick-fil-A_same-sex_marriage_...

Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A aren't out sending hundreds of millions financing think tanks and lobbyists in Washington, they are just trying to run their own business with their own agenda. And the scale of the companies are orders of magnitude smaller than Google, both are medium sized family owned businesses.

> Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A aren't out sending hundreds of millions financing think tanks and lobbyists in Washington

Why would they? Washington is already controlled by people who share their ideology.

Clearly this is just "business" [1].

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/28/hobby-lobby-...

It is ok not to like Hobby Lobby or their owners, but explain how you think that is relevant to "corporations pushing an agenda."

Chick-fil-A is much smaller than Google, but they were funding think tanks and lobbyists, until boycotts convinced them to stop.

Where are these praise Google for its liberalism stories? Prior to Trumpism and the breakdown of modern politics, the only time I really heard people talking about how wonderful it was that Google was liberal was the occasional fluff piece about their solar programs.

So where are the stories of senators saying, "those guys at Google, they're what we should be striving for." As opposed to senators raking them over the coals (rightly) for tax avoidance.

What's so progressive about censorship and why are you glorifying it?

I wouldn't ask what's so progressive about censorship, but why have progressives seemingly embraced it? or at least distanced themselves from a more firm defense of free speech.

Which progressives have embraced censorship?


I think this article is a good encapsulation of the progressive ambivalence on free speech, which has provided a rationale for violence against speakers like Charles Murray (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/middleb...), the violent protests that have followed Milo Yiannopoulos, and "safe spaces" on college campuses.

parent poster is likely referring to the right to sit in your office all day spouting pseduoscientific essays on why 20% of your coworkers probably should not be working in the job they have.

Or antifa which is keen on violence to make nazis stop spreading their ideology.

> Because they're pushing the progressive agenda, so who in the media, government, or academia is going to stand in their way?

Well, the media largely only cares for agendas that fit their advertiser's preferences. Their advertiser's preferences are dictated by what they think will help their business... they're not particularly concerned with the nature of any particular agenda, only whether an agenda benefits them.

The government is the largely similar, but rather than advertisers it's political parties balancing appeal to their donors, lobbyists and other powers. To a minor degree also to their base, but hand-waving and obscurantism tends to limit this need.

Academia increasingly does seem pretty screwed up (STEM isn't free of issues, but the really nutty stuff is mostly in the 'humanities'). I suspect firing Damore will probably sate their blood-lust for a while.

> Schmidt was pretty clear in his book that he believes his business success is an indicator of virtue, and that he believes he should use Google and his wealth to intentionally seek to manipulate modern culture.

Which book, and could you perhaps share some excerpts, or a link with more information?

As to your first paragraph, many companies and founders would say the the same thing, no? "We want to change the world by doing X (through their business)". Also, what other metric for success is there in the current culture of the USA other than business success? Not that I'm saying that's bad or good...

I think you're correct, but the scary thing in this case is that Google/Alphabet might actually be able to do it, for better and worse.

>Schmidt was pretty clear in his book that he believes his business success is an indicator of virtue

Quote the relevant parts so people can see how hyperbolic you're being.

> Schmidt was pretty clear in his book that he believes his business success is an indicator of virtue, and that he believes he should use Google and his wealth to intentionally seek to manipulate modern culture. It's a disturbing notion and I've never understood why people weren't more concerned about it.

Google proved that all you need is a colorful logo and a stupid catch phrase ("Don't be evil") to get people to treat you as an infallible, altruistic entity - regardless of the fact that your actions tell a completely different story.

Like Apple, Google has become a religion for their fans. As with all religions, inconvenient facts are dutifully ignored by members of the Holy Order of Goog. I find the worship of corporations even more difficult to grasp than Scientology.

> Google proved that all you need is a colorful logo and a stupid catch phrase ("Don't be evil") to get people to treat you as an infallible, altruistic entity - regardless of the fact that your actions tell a completely different story.

I don't think the logo or catch-phrase have much to do with it. Google's search engine was orders of magnitude better than anything else when it came out (that's how they won the market) and they've used their dominance of the web to improve their search to the point where the search box can read your mind. That is why people treat them as good -- because "morally good" and "usefully good" are difficult to separate.

You see Apple users (and maybe Linux users?) as religious zealots and assume they must have been tricked by a pretty logo or some CS hazing ritual. What's actually going on is that they're reacting to one very positive experience (maybe along some dimension that you don't care about) and following the human inclination to extrapolate that experience to the whole product/company.

I think you're mostly right. After all, the most hated companies tend to be ones with poor customer service, not ones who do the most harm.

I do think Google cultivating an image of being just a quirky group of nerds (rather than a profitable and influential company) contributed to them seeming benign, and their logo and slogan are part of that.

> the most hated companies tend to be ones with poor customer service

At Google, they avoid this by providing no customer service at all.

Which is why freedom of assembly is lumped in with freedom of speech. As long as two people can congregate together, they can communicate with one another.

Except they're not. And these platforms (Google, Facebook, CloudFlare, Twitter, Youtube, Berkeley, Patreon, Namecheap, etc) are all daily indicating, to varying degrees, that they are willing to step in as a third-party between two consenting individuals "congregating" and "communicating" in order to censor them.

Such individuals, if they choose to say things that the platform doesn't like at an institutional level, then they don't have that right anymore because they get removed/de-listed,banned/de-platformed. Generally, I'm a free-market person, and I'd advocate that entities should have the right to deal with their own platform how they see fit. But in this case, they're collaborating with traditional media, learning institutions and social-agenda groups in order to create a giant echo chamber. We're watching that play out right now in that certain non-left and non-pc speech behavior is condemned and those that wish to express them are de-platformed.

We may not always agree with those points, or find them palatable, but up until now I think we've been navigating a middle-line where general public opinion ebbed and flowed between the two sides. It's tipped incredibly to one side on numerous issues, and I'm afraid that a specific set of viewpoints are now pervading our society. Once it gets to a point, it's only a matter of time before entire generations are raised believing only the accepted-viewpoint. It may be a bad example, but you see it happening already in public-schools where teachers are actively pushing social-agenda issues onto their kids. It happened with anti-Trump attitudes, with transgender-activism, gender-gaps, race-activism, etc. One side is accepted, and debate is silenced, and teachers are forced or encouraged to teach those things to impressionable young minds instead of encouraging free debate.

Further, if you ask most conservatives, they actively disagree with a lot of those things even if it's from the perspective of government-meddling. Conservatives are generally half the population, so something is definitely skewed and going wrong.

> The thing is that Google has absolutely gone down questionable path from their early days.

This is the price for being a public C-corp. There are very few people in history who can withstand the short term mob mentality of shareholders - in my mind only Jobs, Bezos, and Musk could do it... and survive. (imo Not even Bill Gates or Edison could do it) Maybe for other companies this can be mitigated by becoming a B-corp instead i.e public benefit company

Larry and Sergey own super-voting shares and can outvote all other shareholders combined.

Sure, but is Google's motto still "don't be evil"?

They may be able to potentially wield a big stick, but what's its use when they'll never use it and push back? they've been strong armed by Wall St to the point where they've kowtow enough to drastically change Google in not so great ways. In their defense, very few people can do better

Why do you think Wall Street strong armed them into dropping the motto? Isn't it more likely that the people in charge simply changed their minds about the best way to run the company? And, given the lack of formal control, what mechanism did Wall Street use?

Are most leaders of publicly traded companies immune from wall st analyst quarterly estimates and projections? Do they not greatly affect the company's share price?

The leaders of most public companies are indeed influenced by analysts and investors. The reason is because the leaders of most publicly traded companies can be fired by the board, and the board's perception of leader performance is influenced by analyst opinions and the opinions of large and/or influential shareholders. In Google's case, Larry and Sergey hire and fire the board, not the other way around. There is a meaningful difference between the corporate governance dynamics at Google and most other public companies.

The thing is, these sort of situations (creating dependence) are very hard to pick apart and point out who is at fault.

Say an organization 'A' funds another organization 'B' (maybe non-profit, maybe not), and over time 'B' becomes very dependent on the donations they are getting from 'A'. Then say they start to have a conflict of interest, and 'A' drops funding(which probably kills 'B').

Who's the bad guy here? How should've 'B' known there might be a conflict of interest in the future if not immediately?

It's a simple issue, bar entities that should not have conflicts of interest from accepting gifts/investment/etc that could create a conflict of interest.

It is appalling how US senators are allowed to receive gifts or be compensated in creative ways by companies.

But we're talking about a think tank, right? It's a private group of people that write about their opinions. Why shouldn't they have conflicts of interest?

Or you can limit the percentage of funds you can get from certain types of entities in order to reduce or prevent dependence. My current employer (a research no profit) has this limitation in its basic rules

Afaik, us senators can't. Their campaigns can.

A second question then: how do you define a conflict of interest?

Those prohibitions are in place. I think you are confused...

But others didn't start with "Do No Evil" motto (transformed now into "Do the Right Thing").

Google's still is "Don't be evil", Alphabet's is "Do the Right Thing"

> Alphabet's is "Do the Right Thing"

For the shareholders, of course. Does anyone else even matter?

Isn't this, like, cynicism completely decoupled from reality? Google invests a lot of money and time in a myriad of projects with altruistic motivation. Google summer of code, $100 Million per year for non-profits, OSS releases such as tensorflow or Chrome, google.org and on and on.

Of course you can say that this is motivated by PR objectives. But then you're creating a situation where they couldn't do anything right.

Many of their regular products also straddle the border to altruism. Google Scholar doesn't seem to bring in much money, yet it's one of the most important tools for research. Electric, and self-drivings cars seem to be obvious wins for both the shareholder and humanity etc. etc.

They've also created the model for the modern workplace: rooted first and foremost in trusting people to do the right thing, and letting follow their interest to a degree previously only seen at Bell Labs and similar institutions of a lost era. And where Bell Labs was possible because Bell was raking an incredible amount of money, Google has turned the causality around: their free-wheeling embrace of creativity is seem the world 'round as a reason for their success.

> Google summer of code

Trains and evaluates young engineers either for them to hire or to work in their ecosystem

> $100 Million per year for non-profits

PR, taxes, and as the article describes, leverage.

> OSS releases

Giving things out for free helps pull everyone into your ecosystem.

> Of course you can say that this is motivated by PR objectives. But then you're creating a situation where they couldn't do anything right.

This is true. The only way for a company to be truly altruistic in a capitalist system is to be irrational: donate anonymously to organizations that oppose it, buy commercial time and then air white noise to block other groups from political ads. No company is going to do that (or if they do they won't last long).

There's no real solution that involves "tsk"ing at Google or trying to shame them into "doing the right thing". That has to come from outside.

At worst this looks like enlightened self-interest. You don't have to be a fan-boi to see there's there's a difference between Google and companies like Massey Energy (29 dead after flagrant safety violations [0]) and Enron (massive accounting fraud [1]). Making it a binary choice between altruistic/not erases any differences in corporate behavior when in fact there are practical distinctions with direct effects on the lives of employees, customers, and society at large.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massey_Energy

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron

And then you have Bill Gates going: this year, I'm going to eradicate disease X from the planet for all humanity because I have the money.

That's altruism.

Research into self driving cars, on a closed platform, is a PR move.

> Research into self driving cars, on a closed platform, is a PR move.

Google has the largest contribution in advancing the state of the art in AI. That benefits humanity in many ways, SD cars being just one of them. They are also working on healthcare, robotics and reasoning agents. All these things will be a boon for humanity. Discoveries are discussed in the open.

Yes that's true, but that doesn't mean they're being performed with ulterior motives.

Whilst we can appreciate the benefits that have been brought forth, we shouldn't be blind to consequences both short and long term and potentially hidden. A very blunt and hyperbolic analogy is giving infection ridden blankets to indigenous populations in the depths of winter.

They're not going to invest in things that might disintermedate themselves.

Google's motto was never "do no evil". Previously, it was "don't be evil".

> Google's motto was never "do no evil". Previously, it was "don't be evil"

They should probably use a motto that derives from Dungeons and Dragons' lawful/neutral/chaotic good/neutral/evil alignment system, just so we can be sure.

Google would be lawful evil whereas Uber would be chaotic evil.

What's "evil" here?

In D&D's alignment system "evil" is close to "selfish".

A lawful-good company would try to promote better security for all users. A chaotic-good company would tank the search-rankings of anyone who didn't implement better security. A lawful-evil company would track your every move and offer an opt-out system. A chaotic-evil company would have the opt-out form do nothing.

"Don't be chaotic".

That's a common misconception. It was really "do know evil".

At first I chuckled. Then I recalled few stories.

It really should say: "Lay with the dogs, wake up with the fleas"

To be fair, it doesn't say for whom it is the right thing.

Soon to be "Just Do It" with "It" for unspecified moralities.

This is Schmidt acting thru one of his private foundations. It is his money. This isn't Google.

Didn't the article say Google, not Schmidt, gave $21 million to the think tank?

I wasn't responding to the article. I was responding to fowlerpower's comment:

> The thing is that Google has absolutely gone down questionable path from their early days.

And as for the article, it says:

> The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999.

So yes, Google did contribute. But so did Schmidt and his family foundation. I think this is mostly on Schmidt personally rather than Google as a corporation.

I think they are indistinguishable here. Google and Schmidt both gave money, Schmidt is the executive chairman of google, so there's no distance between them.

It's pretty disingenuous to consider Schmidt's personal conduct and wealth as separate of Google. As Alphabet's board chairman, he's the third in charge of the company, and is usually the one conveying Google's political position to the leadership of various countries. And a significant portion of his wealth is either cash from Google or stock that's still invested in Google.

The primary difference in it being his personal action, is that there's a lot less regulation governing his use of it.

Google was never good. They only ever did what they thought fit their strategy at the time, to allow them to grow and make more money.

Google was fantastic and contributed greatly to breaking the iron grip Microsoft had on the industry. They also completely changed the way we use the Internet, pushed network and security technologies forward and to the end user, and made sure iPhone/iOS have a worthy competition in the smartphone market.

It is very sad that they went down the censorship path. Especially since the open web made Google Search a viable business in the first place.

Anyone remember when they bought DoubleClick, one of the most reviled companies on the net?

One of their competitors?

Are you referring to http2? The binary standard they pushed to help them crawl better and make things less debugable for the rest of the network community that's mostly small entry developers?

> Google was fantastic and contributed greatly to breaking the iron grip Microsoft had on the industry.

Now Google has the iron grip instead, and over the entire internet.

Tell me again how this was an improvement.

Whatever may be happening now, this is super-revisionist history.

Google fought a large number of very lonely fights in the early dates, all in the name of consumers, the industry, and doing the right thing. It took a very large number of lumps and made a lot of enemies for doing so, but did it anyway.

I was there, in the DC office, working next to the policy director (I started the engineering side when he started the policy side. It started out as just the two of us).

I know what the strategy was, I know why it did it, because I was in the meetings to decide those strategies, and know what leadership wanted and approved.

What, precisely, is your source of information to contradict this?

Because it neither accords with history or reality, as far as i can tell.

(I left DC in 2012, so i can't speak to anything that happened afterwards)

Since you were there, what are some examples of lonely fights that Google fought for consumers, that weren't in their own business interests?

I found Adwords for Domains a pretty questionable way to make money, as it subsidized the domain grabbing industry, and I find it hard to find the value for either advertisers or users that they otherwise claim for search ads.

I don't think your experience contradicts my comment. At the time, they thought that was something worthwhile for them to do. They definitely did a lot of things that helped their reputation in the past. Google could do no wrong. Then their priorities changed and they did different things.

I'd be wrong if Google actually went out of their way and did things that were contrary to their business interests.

So if you were there, please explain why google supports ALEC and conservative republican senators like Inhofe?

Google doesn't share anything in common with people like him, other than not wanting to be sued by the govt. When I was at Google, there was a lot of complaining about this support and no explanation.

That's revisionist and silly.

Seems perfectly accurate to me.

They are no different than any other company and claiming that they are somehow exceptional is what seems silly in my opinion.

Can anyone who needs to say 'don't be evil' really be trusted?

It betrays a certain disingeniousness, an implicit assumption of unaccountable power and a conscious decision to adopt a strategy of placating the public with platitudes up front and maybe doing something altogether different behind the scenes. Power always concentrates itself and does strange things to people.

Google, Facebook and a lot of the SV culture is beginning to look sinister, they don't seem grounded to human values and present a future vision that is cold, alienated, soulless and totalitarian in an techno-elitist way.

You can't wish away people, and unemployed people create instability and an unviable system. Whether it is robotics or AI and keeping aside whether these are possible in any realistic way, for the people who accept this the only way to keep the system stable will involve evil.

If folks want to join the movement the staff is building, you can get involved here: https://citizensagainstmonopoly.org/

If you want to do more than that, here is some more information on the staff, story and other action items: https://goo.gl/9a7KkC

Using URL shorteners here in general is inappropriate.

Choosing to use Google's URL shortener in this context is beyond ironic.

The target of the link is actually something hosted on Google Docs as http://checkshorturl.com/expand.php?u=https://goo.gl/9a7KkC will tell you so in this particular case it does not make a difference.

> Time and time again we are reminded why corporations will evolve to become as greedy and as protective of their turf expansive of their power and monopolistic as they can get, even if good people are running them.

Because if they didn't, they would be replaced by organizations (or people within the organization) who will. (I want to say that's Stanslaw Lem's law of bureaucracy?)

This would matter if think-tanks were independent academic research organizations. They aren't. They're basically mini-PACs or mini-ad agencies. You pay them to publish research that supports your corporate positions. That's how they make money.

Calling them "evil" is like calling a customer "evil".

I've never seen anything like the censoring by Google and Youtube over the last few weeks. Ron Paul of all people got all his videos demonetized for being "controversial". The most disgusting thing to me is that they don't delete the videos because they don't actually break any policies but they instead remove them from search and remove the ability to comment or share the videos, stifling any potential discussion.

I think the only reason people aren't yet as afraid of Google as they were Microsoft circa 1996-2000, is that Google has yet to fully flex its ability to abuse its monopoly (not to mention there are a few other equally powerful juggernaut companies roaming tech now). That appears to be starting to change. No question the anti-trust hearings come next, the DOJ will pursue them over the next five years.

The supposedly business friendly Republicans now view them as a left-wing enemy, so a party shield (regarding anti-trust intervention) will not exist going forward. Obama kept them from DOJ interest during his time in office because of how close they all were, that's also not likely to be seen again in a future Democrat administration. Should be easy to carve them into pieces, with search + adsense + adwords on one side, and one or two other companies getting everything else. The new Search Co would then be put under a ten year government dictated operational agreement that would limit some of its abusive behavior.

Let me see, the title reads "Open Markets Applauds X" where X is a court verdict against those who're funding the think tank that produced the article.

Regardless of the content of the article or the fairness of the court's decision, the title itself is inflammatory and nothing less than indicative of someone having a beef and thumbing their nose at Google.

The lack of self-awareness on part of whoever came up with that title is astounding.

I disagree that the title's author wasn't (self-)aware of Google being one of the think tank's sponsors; I think the author was indeed aware but somehow deluded themselves into thinking that the think tank could live up to the ideals of being truly independent while taking corporate funds.

What title do you suggest could have been less inflammatory but still convey the same message?

Think tank is just a more palatable way of saying lobbyist group with integrity. Lobbyists have always pushed the interests of their donors.

> I disagree that the title's author wasn't (self-)aware of Google being one of the think tank's sponsors; I think the author was indeed aware but somehow deluded themselves into thinking that the think tank could live up to the ideals of being truly independent while taking corporate funds.

Let me take it to an absurd extreme and suggest the following title:

"Google Lost and Can Go Suck My D"

Last I checked it still qualifies as "truly independent thinking".

> What title do you suggest could have been less inflammatory but still convey the same message?

Was something like "Open Markets and European Commission's Finding Regarding Google" too hard?

edit: nitpick, but "Finding Against X" sounds incorrect. Finding is about something, not for or against. Verdict could be for or against. Given the title itself, I don't exactly have high expectations about the quality of the article which I haven't read yet.

It's a think tank, not a newswire. It has policy positions and opinions. It's completely expected for them to write articles and titles applauding or "regretting" policy moves.

Applauding and regretting and whatnot are both leagues more respectful than your outlandish example.

> Applauding and regretting and whatnot are both leagues more respectful

Oh, now you're favoring "respect" over "truly independent thinking"? How odd.

Would you please stop posting inflammatory and uncivil comments to HN? Especially on divisive topics, where they act as flamebait.

We're hoping for a higher quality of discussion here and that requires maintaining a slightly artificial level of self-discipline when annoyed, regardless of what we're annoyed by.


I didn't say that, and you're (probably intentionally) misreading my post.

Your original complaint was that they insulted Google by taking a policy stance against them, and that they might as well have made a title regarding sex acts. I was telling you that is ridiculous.

Please don't post uncivil or unsubstantive comments to HN. This one is unfortunately both, even if your underlying point is correct.


What? Wait! I can't follow...

The article doesn't even say that Schmidt called for the guy's head. It seems to have been the Foundation's decision. That's arguably a spineless move, but then again it's probably in their interest.

And what, exactly, would be ethically wrong about stopping funding for an institution you no longer agree with? After all, every single donation to charity is based on the principle that those giving agree with the organisations' aims. If the ACLU started a large campaign arguing for the extinction of puppies, would I be ethically wrong to quit?

If you want research isolated from such pressures, your best bet happens to be government, by the way. There are layers upon layers of isolation between the funding decision and actual scientists that, apart from the occasional right-wing propaganda misrepresenting individual projects, you're measured by the only yardstick that should count: how many papers you get into high impact journals.

Are you being oblivious on purpose? It strains credibility to think that Schmidt and Google didn't like a blog post by a think tank they funded generously to criticize them. I'm pretty confident they acted to get it taken down and wanted him gone. Suppose that wasn't the case, what conceivable reason would there before for kicking them out? The tank says: "it was a shared decision to kick them out". The other side: "they kicked us out because of this".

I'm not actually disagreeing with you. I just consider it somewhat possible that Schmidt simply complained, and the administrators got cold feet and made that decision. The people being fired are unlikely to know what Schmidt may or may not have discussed with the administration.

Anyway, that's not the point. The question is: why should someone not be allowed to change their funding decisions when the organisations they're funding go down a path they disagree with? Why should anybody be forced to continue to finance people after they've become the opposition.

Note also that Schmidt used to be the Chairman at this think tank, meaning that he is not just providing funding, but part of the academic community in its orbit, with a legitimate stake to disagree on the merits of the science.

Is there any way one can find the list of organizations that Google (aka Alphabet) has been funding? Annual investor reports?

Google's NetPAC is kinda amazing, as a thing, I'm still stunned our political system allows something that just straight up feels like money laundering. (From a "we need to route this money through someone else so it is legal" standpoint.) This isn't a thing unique to Google, it's just a thing that amazes me is considered okay.

Corporations can't directly give money to candidates, but Google pays it's employees, who 'donate' it to NetPAC, which is a Google-controlled entity which can give money to candidates.

I have read so many baseless hostility toward Google, especially in France at a time where governments were fighting Google over taxes and newspapers realized they had lost income from advertisements for good, that I now distrust any newspaper article painting the firm in a bad light.

In a tweet, New America claims this is false, and will release a statement soon:


Here's their statement, which doesn't actually dispute any of the facts in the article:


In a subsequent tweet, Slaughter (the head of New America) claims that the quotes were accurate, "but quotes are taken way out of context and interpretation is wrong". She hasn't yet said how the interpretation was wrong, or in what context the leader of a group of independent scholars could properly say "We are trying to expand our relationship with Google ... just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others".

Prediction: strenuous (truthful) denials that Google/Alphabet were in any way involved with this. Left unexamined: the role Eric Schmidt played in his personal capacity. For people to argue about: whether there is a difference between Eric Schmidt working in his personal capacity to benefit Google/Alphabet vs Eric Schmidt acting as an official representative of Google/Alphabet

Pretty solid prediction.

Of course they do. Their credibility is on the line, and much has already been lost; they will forever be that group who is beholden to Google.

Maybe wait until after the announcement to judge its veracity.

Ah usually I'd give the benefit of the doubt, but look at that email sent by Slaughter. Besides it's not just Barry Lynn departing, it's the whole Open Markets program aka anyone in a position to question Google's market dominance. The statement by New America is going to be sufficiently vague to avoid saying that there was any connection between Google's funding and the cutting of this program but the email lays out quite clearly that's exactly what it was. Sometimes it's better to ignore the PR.

As expected, Slaughter's statement doesn't challenge any of the facts ("false") reported. It is, however, a textbook non-denial denial.

Personally, I'm glad Google is behaving this way: it is tiring to tell people over and over again that one should not put absolute trust into any company and be met with bewilderment and references to the "Don't be evil" motto ( the one that they finally got rid of).

>( the one that they finally got rid of )


The only evidence given that the firing was due to pressure from Google is Lynn's statement (which seems to just be his assumption, because he's a critic of Google). There are at least two official statements that it was in fact not Google's pressure.

I don't think Google is an any more moral actor than any other corporation, but why would they do something like this, which has basically nothing but downside to them? Despite Lynn's fantasies, I doubt that Google is particularly worried about his voice of criticism, nor stupid enough to think this would silence him.

Shouldn't the "disgruntled employee dismissed for cause" theory, which has at least as much evidence as the "lonely voice of criticism silenced by corporate behemoth", be at least entertained?

He's not silenced, they just took away the podium that says "sponsored by Google".

Google is like a reasonable run utility. MS with Office became something like that and did the job too well with XP. Legacy media companies today hate Google, FB or even Craigslist taking away their messaging for dollars relevance. We have been consolidating wood behind legacy family arrows for decades. Google serves global markets efficiently. Here is Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller explaining pump-dump wagon circling local American economic problems. Younger people forget how NYC and SF attracted educated talent pools when they were relatively CHEAP. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/real-estate-pri...

Title looks like something generated by a Recurrent Neural Network.

I'm inclined to agree with the way the article was written. It was very poorly edited.

> “There are simply fewer groups that are available to speak up about Google’s activities that threaten online privacy,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “The groups that should be speaking up aren’t.”

Google has been doing strange things for a long time and despite that there actually are a good amount of groups speaking out against them, they stick to their guns and oust or bribe anyone in their way. The first time ever they've stumbled on a worthy opponent is when they started getting sanctioned by the EU.

> bribe anyone in their way

Do you have a source for this claim?

Eric Schmidt set up a data company for the sole purpose of getting Hillary elected. Google also had 427 white house visits during the Obama Admin. Not sure what your definition of bribe is but they are as tight with DC as any wall street bank


> Not sure what your definition of bribe is

Well, if it's the actual definition[1], then you didn't exactly prove anything.

1: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bribe

it's not a very convincing argument to quote the dictionary at someone who is clearly trying to make a more sophisticated point about political and cultural attitudes w.r.t influence peddling and interaction of money and politics.

The supporting evidence of their argument was two separate items, that Eric Schmidt set up a data company for the sole purpose of getting Hillary elected, which is entirely unsupported by the reference they provided, and that Google visited the white house a lot, which while supported has nothing to do with bribery when taken by itself.

I took "depending on your definition of bribery" to be implying that these visits indicate some behavior akin to or equal to bribery, and quoting the definition as a succinct way to note that they aren't equivalent at all as currently explained. I thought that was sufficient because unlike you I did not interpret that comment as clearly trying to make a more sophisticated point, but as trying to allude to misconduct from facts which have entirely benign explanations. It's possible there was misconduct, but assuming so from the information presented is not a way to have a rational discussion on the topic.

quite a lot of perfectly legal behavior, that would not be called misconduct by a prosecutor or investigator, can still be on shaky ethical grounds for various reasons.

surely Google does not visit the white house just because they enjoy the breakfast buffet. they're lobbying for their business interests. this isn't necessarily unethical at all, but when you look at the pattern of campaign contributions and think tank funding (and various other kinds of pulling of influence levers) you start to find the grey area.

I probably wouldn't go so far as to call it bribery, but it's not a clear cut thing. I'm nearly certain that is why the poster said "depending on your definition of bribery". He/she was (in my interpretation) intending to discuss that grey area. Shutting down that discussion by throwing the dictionary at him/her is both rude and unhelpful. There might really be an interesting discussion of ethical grey areas in political lobbying activities to be had, but not if you're gonna shut it down with that kind of reactionary literalism.

> they're lobbying for their business interests.

Yes. But some visits could also have been the White House soliciting information from the industry, or from multiple industries, since Google is in many markets. Indeed, Google's own response called out the many different subjects discussed.

Asked to respond, Google spokesperson Riva Litman referred The Intercept to a blog post written when the Wall Street Journal raised similar questions a year ago. In that post, Google said the meetings covered a host of topics, including patent reform, STEM education, internet censorship, cloud computing, trade and investment, and smart contact lenses. The company also claimed to have counted similar numbers of visits to the White House by Microsoft and Comcast — but it did not explain its methodology for parsing the data.

You've let the initial description of the visits already influence your assessment of what they were about. Were some traditional lobbying as expected from large corporations with interests? Undoubtedly. But that doesn't mean every visit was, especially for a company that has been very open about investing into research in forefront technologies, the type of thing the White House might want to keep abreast of, or about increasing certain types of educational outcomes, which is also a subject often addressed by the White House. Also note, in the referenced article their numbers they appear to be including state dinners and white hours tours in their numbers, as they had to distinguish why their chart doesn't actually show the same number they quote in some instances.

> I'm nearly certain that is why the poster said "depending on your definition of bribery". He/she was (in my interpretation) intending to discuss that grey area.

Then they should have discussed that grey area more specifically rather than case allusions.

> Shutting down that discussion by throwing the dictionary at him/her is both rude and unhelpful.

The only way it shuts down the conversation is if they didn't have anything valid (such as a larger discussion about corporate influence in politics) to respond with. Given the actual response I got from the author, I don't feel particularly sorry that I came down a little harder than I usually do. At this point I can only assume that if they had more interesting, sourced, or nuanced points they would have brought them forth at that time. Instead we get more conflation of Eric Schmidt and Google, and the appeal "You think Google wasn't trying to influence the Obama white house during those 427 visits?", to which I think I've adequately explained my thinking here.

There are many useful conversations to be had about Google's influence on the government, and the referenced article actually does a good job of bringing them up, and providing a measured interpretation of what they mean, and why the pure numbers are not a smoking gun without context. That it's used in this way doesn't do it justice, nor does it do justice to those of us that might see numbers referenced from it without context in this way, which was to make an allusion such as "lots of visits equals bribery".

Definition from your link

1. "money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust"

2."something that serves to induce or influence"

Eric Schmidt spending millions to create groundwork isn't a favor? You think Google wasn't trying to influence the Obama white house during those 427 visits?

from wikileaks

"He’s ready to fund, advise recruit talent, etc. He was more deferential on structure than I expected. Wasn’t pushing to run through one of his existing firms. Clearly wants to be head outside advisor, but didn’t seem like he wanted to push others out. Clearly wants to get going. He’s still in DC tomorrow and would like to meet with you if you are in DC in the afternoon. I think it’s worth doing"

Do you consider every political donation to be a bribe? You may very well be correct, but a definition that includes nearly every corporation or wealthy individual may not be particularly useful as a term.

Unless the subject is a rare individual ( mother Teresa, spirituality ascended personalitie etc), rarely who shelves out resources not hoping to get something in return.

Especially not a corporation in a field heavily regulated to prevent that.

We've banned this account for using HN primarily for political battle (and ignoring our request to stop). That's against the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

I think the big problem is the ad bubble not Google itself at this point, though these kind of problems still needs to be traced.

Do 'Open Markets' have any kind of Web site or portal? A quick search (Google, Bing &C) reveals little

There is really very little content in this article. It reads like a classic case of "Write an essay in N words" and you find yourself finishing at M << N words, and just add random fluff to fulfill the requirements.

The whole premise is a bit flawed - it's putting most of the blame on Google. When an "independent" organization takes on average $1M/yr from any entity, and structure themselves such that losing that money is a big concern, then they've played an equal role in this mess.

It's almost as if the article is trying to make it Google's obligation to continue funding, which is a ridiculous proposition in itself.

>This year, it has donated to 170 such groups, according to Google’s voluntary disclosures on Google’s website. While Google does not indicate how much cash was donated, the number of beneficiaries has grown exponentially since it started disclosing its donations in 2010, when it gave to 45 groups.

I could equally well call it linear. Two data points does not an exponential growth make.

>The whole premise is a bit flawed - it's putting most of the blame on Google.

The premise is that Eric Schmidt's displeasure lead to some people getting fired. I don't know how else you could make that argument without blaming Google when the entire argument is about blaming Google.

>The premise is that Eric Schmidt's displeasure lead to some people getting fired. I don't know how else you could make that argument without blaming Google when the entire argument is about blaming Google.

I'm not saying Google is not culpable. I'm saying they're no more culpable than the folks at the think tank who are dependent on Google.

If I run a business where I take in huge chunks of money from a company every year, and adjust my spending and budgets to rely on said money, then I stopped being independent.

In the business world, no one would have any sympathy for me if the company I relied on suddenly decided to stop supporting me. I put myself into this hole. Why is it any different here?

The think tank stopped being independent long before any of this happened. They are equal partners, and deserve an equal amount of blame. They are definitely not the victims here.

The problem isn't that Google is making negative overtures to them with an implied threat of defunding them in the future. The problem is that they shouldn't have been funding them in the first place. As such, it can easily be argued that dropping funding is the right thing to do.

Hmm, so leftist ideas are OK to be supported, except when they are applied to the said corporation. Fun. :)

Would you please not post unsubstantive comments to Hacker News, and especially not on divisive topics?

If you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; otherwise please don't comment until you do.


Left and right ideas are just stepping stones to profit.

After all, the 'left-leaning' Google sure isn't pushing for unions, only for what will benefit them.

The conflict of interest here was caused by the think tank accepting money from Google in the first place. Google does not have to do or say anything after that and still they will exert influence. The New Yorkers complaint seems to boil down to Google is too big.

LoL, this "Think Tank" is literally a propaganda office; but since NYT largely shares their political biases, they're not willing to admit that it was a dishonest venture before it was directly influenced by Eric Schmidt.

this "Think Tank" is literally a propaganda office

Is that really different from any other think tank or the NYT itself?

NYT's David Brooks is on their board of directors so not really. Might want to see the other members as well.


I rarely hear the NYT described as sharing the political biases of David Brooks, their employer-employee relationship notwithstanding. Brooks presumably has some influence on New America with that position, so I'm curious how this squares with microcolonel's assessment.

Wow, the CEO is the son of George Soros. This think tank is like the reincarnation of the devil.

We've banned this account for violating the HN guidelines and ignoring our request to stop.

That's not a "think tank". It's a lobby.

The spinoff is at "https://citizensagainstmonopoly.org/".

The omitted context here is that the lobbying against Google is much larger than Google's countermeasures.

Lobbying against Google? I would be interested in looking at your sources.

There are couple of organizations such as http://fairsearch.org and http://i-comp.org/ that some consider to be (or have been) lobbying vehicles of other major IT companies against Google, especially in the EU.

Can you elaborate just a bit? For example, do you mean in the EU?

“Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab”

Is it a joke?

Slightly terrifying

I just spent the better part of a week getting myself off of GMail. I'm still using Chrome at work for development, but have Brave browser for personal use now. I'm using DuckDuckGo for searches. I have an iPhone, but honestly, I don't trust Apple to not act like total dumbasses and so I am now lamenting the consolidation in the smart phone space.

Google and these other companies are blowing themselves up over idiotic politics. It may be a trickle today, but it doesn't take much for a trickle to become a raging river of people migrating off your ecosystem. Are you listening Google? Or are you so tone deaf and smug that you can't hear anymore?

Maybe it's time anyways--Google and Facebook are so lame. They are so anathema to what the original Internet was all about. Hint: It's about humanity and open access to ideas, not closed plantations with no diversity of thought allowed.

There's a lot of us, apparently, who independently came to the same conclusion at the same time. My YouTube account is deleted, my Google+ page is deleted, my emails are wiped.

There's an anti-trust suit against Google looming. The only possible challenge to Google's power is nation states; not individuals, not startups, and not even other large tech firms. Like any corporate entity (i.e. a sociopath), they'll inevitably start using their influence on the public to avoid any kind of regulation or anti-trust legislation. Therefore it's certain that the total politicization of Google is imminent.

There's an impending and complete certainty Google will begin: subtle manipulation of news feeds, outright censorship of opposing viewpoints, backdoor deals with politicians in pay-for-play schemes, insincere attempts to integrate Google services with the state (would you like to ride the Google self driving bus to work for free?)... and most ominously, given their massive ability to psychologically profile everyone on the planet (to the point of being able to infer IQ, political opinions, emotional tendencies, income, social profile) -- targeted, tailored manipulation of the human mind to suit Google's ends.

In fact they've started all of the above.

I switched to Protonmail (paid account). Then I started going through my password vaults and removing or modifying every account that had been tied to a Gmail address. Then I sold my new OnePlus 5 because just thinking about supporting Google keeps me up at night, now... and I had that Gmail account since 2004. It's good to know that I'm not the only one.

They already perform censorship of materials. Even if you don't take child porn/"Pirate Bay" type stuff into account, Google removes/blocks/filters out an enormous amount of content in the forms of images, videos, audio, and printed words.

Unfortunately for me, I am tied into their ecosystem in such a way that I can't remove myself, because too many work-required and other accounts use Google-provided solutions, and it is required by clients or whatnot. Even my tv and blu-ray player are powered by Android.

The original Internet was about connecting military and academic institutions via physically-secured machines and infrastructure decentralization.

We're at least two major iterations into "What the Internet is about" now.

Yes, my segue into all of this was 1991 if that helps. SMTP, FTP, Gopher, Usenet--protocols, not platforms controlled by psychotic billionaires.

What email service did you switch to? I'm thinking of doing the same.

You may want to take a look at the list here https://www.privacytools.io/#email for alternative email providers with higher privacy standards.

Just switched to Fastmail and so far has been very easy and simple.

I personally switched to ProtonMail, but I lament there's no IMAP access.

If you don't mind paying you can use FastMail

Big fan of FastMail. Roughly $50 a year to control my email destiny? No brainer.

Protonmail. I can afford the $50/yr. for better email and it's something I should have done a long time ago. I was a GMail user since GMail was a thing, though. It breaks my heart to see Google do this stuff, but I just can't morally stay with them. I don't know what they are, I don't know how compromised they are by the intelligence agencies that run this country, I don't know a lot of things.

It was a chance to raise the flame of enlightment. To reflect and discuss, what can be done to rejuvenate competition- if necessary within a company, but instead the bureaucracy within google acted in a self-perservation reflex.

I recently picked up a book called, "No Wall Too High", the translated man who escaped from a Chinese labor camp under Mao Zedong. In this book, during his time in a re-education camp in Lijiang, the author relates seeing the story of Yang Shukang -- a man whose crime was simply writing a letter to the central leadership in Beijing saying that two thousand people had starved to death in his town of Jiuhe during the great leap forward.

The author tells the story of seeing Shukang stand up in front of the entire prison and refuse to "confess his crimes" -- and was summarily spat on and beaten to near death by a group of party zealots. Tortured this way for three more days, Shukang hanged himself on the fourth day after writing characters on the wall, among which -- "The victims of the Great Leap Forward will live forever in the hearts of the people!"

We must not forget the victims of the past, and we must remember that we are less than two generations removed from men being killed simply for telling the truth when the facts do not align with political convenience. The intolerance of dissenting voices and contradictory information is a dangerous slippery slope on the fall from a free and healthy society.

Give me a break. Nobody is even censoring anybody's speech here. The real evil here is the lobbying organization itself. Corporations and billionaires buying our politicians and distorting the public debate is a much bigger threat than some lobbyist's freedom to argue against his boss's interests.

Since the think tank has tax exempt status, it is indirectly subsidized by the government both in terms of their operating expenses being lower and in Google's tax offsetting writeoff. Which is why churches and think tanks occasionally lose (or are threatened with losing) their tax exempt status if they make political/commercial statements.

I think a case could be made that the firing reveals the org for what they are: more of a PR firm than a think tank.

I'd guess all their messaging on the guy's "separation" was around avoiding triggering an IRS audit more than anything else. Although losing Google's patronage might actually cost them more than losing tax exempt status, losing the status would likely mean Google would stop funding as they'd lose the tax write-off. So, losing tax exemption would basically be a death knell.

The government subsidy issue also implies a degree of actual 1st Amendment speech implications. The power to tax is the power to kill/silence/stifle/etc. I don't want to overstate that point, but this may be one of the rare instances where the "censorship" cry carries at least a little validity.

The real evil is people willing to pivot any discussion to whatever topic they think is more important, destroying a platform for open discourse.

Castigating someone else's opinions as the destruction of open discussion is the height of irony.

It's condescending to plainly try to change the topic to what the poster thinks the issue "really is." As a bald assertion, it's threadshitting.

Whether or not it's condescending, it's not "destroying open discourse", that's absurd hyperbole.

I said destroying a platform for open discourse, not what you quoted, and I'll stand by what I said. After a certain noise threshold is reached the platform becomes unusable. I've seen this happen on other sites, sometimes purposefully as a way to influence public opinion but shutting down certain topics.

"The comments I don't like are noise".

Sorry, but I think that sentiment sounds more hostile to the platform than the assertion that one should consider a different point of view on a subject. ballenf's comment was made succinctly and without any personal attacks; just because you disagree with it doesn't mean its noise. I think it's fair to criticize the comment as striking a dismissive tone, but at least it's addressing the substance of the OP's comment, you, on the other hand, categorically dismiss ballenf's comment as noise without taking the intellectual effort to address its substance. That seems a lot closer to noise than anything else up to that point.

Wow that's disingenuous. No, comments that are off-topic are noise. You want to debate something else (like you're doing now!), go do it in a different thread.

> No, comments that are off-topic are noise.

All you're doing here is begging the question. What i'm telling you is that the comment does not meet the definition of "off-topic" and I've explained my reasoning for that, all you've done is repeat the same sentiment that "off-topic comments are noise" which is a completely non-controversial statement that nobody is arguing against. Absent of any further reasoning I am left to assume that you simply do not like the comment.

For someone with such a self-righteous attitude regarding the tenants of appropriate discourse, you're sure lacking in respect for fellow commenters by your refusal to provide any justification for flippantly dismissing others comments as "off-topic noise". Normally I expect others to provide reasoning for blanket dismissals, but I suppose you must be the definitive authority on what is and isn't off topic, so everyone who disagrees will just take your word for it and move on.

> You want to debate something else (like you're doing now!), go do it in a different thread.

Haha, this entire subthread is a direct branch off of your explicitly off-topic comment, yet you're suggesting that I go away because I had the audacity to push back on your blanket dismissal... yet somehow I suspect you don't consider your own replies in this thread to be off-topic noise. I have to respectfully conclude that you're at least twice as disingenuous as a person who will gladly expound on the reasoning behind their arguments.

Honestly I'm very confused by this whole sub-thread because I can't tell if kobeya was talking about my comment or ex3xu's. In my opinion ex3xu's comment was completely off-topic from the original article, and that's what prompted me to respond to him.

I think he's definitely referring to your comment, he even mimicked your "the real evil is" phrasing. Either way, I don't think either of your comments (you or ex3xu) are off topic, they're both commentary that reflects on the events described in the article.

I agree, but that's in a bad-faith reply to guelo, who was the one trying to tell us "how it really is." Presumably because we're all dumb or watching the wrong news sources or something.

> a bad-faith reply to guelo, who was the one trying to tell us "how it really is."

Please explain to me how the argument is made in bad faith. You're characterizing their comment in this way because you disagree with their statement, you even go so far as to speculate on a cynical internal thought stream regarding their motivations for posting. To me, it reads like they are making an earnest argument, even if the rhetoric is dismissive.

root_axis' reply is what I was calling bad faith:

"Castigating someone else's opinions as the destruction of open discussion is the height of irony."

This is putting words into kobeya's comment, which was about discourse, not discussion.

You wrote: "I agree, but that's in a bad-faith reply to guelo,". I'm confused as to how that's meant to refer to my comment when I never replied to guelo.

> This is putting words into kobeya's comment, which was about discourse, not discussion

I will admit I misquoted, but the words "discourse" and "discussion" have a nearly identical meaning in this context unless there is a definition of discourse I am not aware of. Can you explain what you mean?

"platform for open discourse" would seem to support that, but this is all so far afield now that I can't muster much energy to continue the thread. I just hate it when people reply like they have the only window into reality. "let me correct you on how things really are."

Well... they were speaking to a behavior. It's a bit murky whether `dislike for changing the subject` is accurately or usefully reduced to `castigating someone else's opinion`.

It is their opinion that the OP's concerns are overshadowed by larger concerns, that's not "changing the subject", it's a disagreement about where priorities should be directed with respect to the events discussed in the article, the subject remains unchanged.

It's like someone saying "the senate always votes to raise its own pay whenever republicans are in power!" and someone else replying "they only raised it to match inflation, the real problem is that senators are charged with determining their own salary", then, someone responds with "stop changing the subject". If anyone is "changing the subject" it's the person that instigated a contentious meta-discussion about what is and what's not on topic.

It is literally changing the subject. Even supposing the new topic is more important, and priorities were misallocated, the topic is still being changed.

Do you mean that analogies are evil?

Corporations (like Google) and billionaires (like Eric Schmidt) buying our politicians (by influencing them with sponsored think tank studies)

Yea sure. I know that it is now popular among some people to hate on Google, but hate on them in a logical and consistent way.

Or, first you buy the politicians through lobbying, then you buy academics by attaching strings to donations to their organizations.

That's rich, considering Google just fired a guy for an internal memo full of apologies and facts backed by citations.

Great story but I fail to see the connection. This is a case of don't shit where you eat. If you want to speak out against Google then don't belong to an organization funded by Google.

That organization doesn't say on it's website "we are a Google PR firm", or "we will never criticize Google", they imply they are an "independent think-tank not influenced by money".

And this isn't a Google-created group where you'd dig into their founders/records a little and be able to see that they're a Google PR firm. It's just that Google (among other companies?) has successfully given them funding to a degree where they can no longer afford to annoy Google.

Said another way, the organization has become successful enough in their messaging for Google to become annoyed.

That's exactly how we got to the situation we're in with climate change. The fact that corporate money can hold so much influence over what we research, what we say, and therefore what we know and believe, is and has already proved itself to be dangerous.

Thought provoking comparison. But it illuminates a key difference in assumptions. Climate change is objectively bad, and one of the greatest problems society faces. It is wrong for corporations to silence the truth about climate change.

OTOH I don't think Google is a clear and present danger to the world, and I don't think criticism of Google is objective truth; hence I don't think this is an evil act from Google.

I do believe that corporate money should not even be in this equation. Unfortunately, the strong governmental influence necessary for that to be true is an unlikely reality in the US.

Could just as easily be restated: If you don't want to speak out against China then don't live in China. Increasingly these transnational corporations have become in some cases more powerful than states, recording our every movement online and offline, curating what news we read and pushing their agendas and biases.

I didn't have any trouble choosing not to buy Echo/Alexis/whatever.

Yet. First it will be extra features and conveniences to miss; after some time (cheaper hardware etc etc) it will become feasible that all nontrivial Amazon interactions must go through Alexa.

Alexa is never going to reach the market penetration necessary for that to be plausible.

Its becoming much harder to be an organization that in some way does not benefit from larger corporations. Asking anyone to first get their funding right then get their free speech right is not the right order IMO although in an ideal world it would be great. What if the funding takes a long time to sort out? Don't do free speech until then?

Pray tell how this is a free speech issue. Open Markets is free to go say their piece elsewhere. Why are they entitled to speak freely under New America?

I get what you are saying, but the problem is that writing under the auspices of that group increases your audience quite a bit I'd imagine.

How is this a free speech issue?

If Google cannot handle some criticism from a "supposedly friendly entity" (since they are bank rolled by Google), this shows their level of arrogance and the unwillingness to change their ways.

You need to evolve with time. Especially a tech company like Google failing to understand that is rather sad.

Now Google has set precedence that they will not tolerate anything critical. So, the consultants & advisor will just praise Google till the day it sinks.

To me it seems mooching off Google while criticizing their policies is not tolerated. It is not too dissimilar than Damore's firing from Google which was unsurprisingly justified as policy matter.

The only difference I see is last case was of some hated conservative chump but this time it is of "independent intellectual"

what counts as funded by Google?

if you have a media product that is monetized through ads and you put Google ads on your site, are you funded by Google?

if you are a member of a political party that Google made contributions to, are you funded by Google?

This is exactly the opposite of the lesson here.

Communist repression (and fascist for that matter) WAS of the brute force variety, like in 1984, but what we are seeing now is something completely different. Not quite Brave new world, but definitely with aspects of that. Giants like google don't use violence, very likely they never will. They don't need to. They can nudge leaders and populations in the direction they want, and achieve their goals, through entirely legal and voluntary means.

Looking back at what abuse of power looked like in the past is very dangerous, we will miss the signs of the novel ways that the powerful move their positions forward.

What has political discourse become that everyone is either Hitler or Mao? It is possible to say "free speech is important" without also saying "Google is a lot like this person that killed some 50+ million people."

Was not aware that 2000 people starved to death at Google.

They are starving because they refuse to eat Kale.

You meant cabbage.

Way to miss the forest for the trees in the analogy.

Google is removing people that have views that differ from the progressive narrative.

It's not just about Google, it's about people who hold progressive beliefs seem to think that it is ok to remove people who express differing opinions.

There is a large number of politicians who hold progressive beliefs. The Google incident can be interpreted as a warning that progressive politicians would remove citizens that express differing opinions if they could.

The ops anecdote about China is a reminder that humans are shit and have the capacity to murder people for expressing differ in views.

It's a warning that progressive are only tolerant to surface characteristics such as skin color and extremely intolerant to anything, even the truth, that contradicts their utopian world view.

This is ridiculous. Not everything needs to be twisted into a slippery slope. This is not about "removing citizens that express differing opinions," it's about Google not wanting to fund people that criticize them. Is that good? No. Is it evil? I don't think so. They are free to criticize Google without benefiting from Google's money.

> Google is removing people that have views that differ from the progressive narrative.

Good for them. If you don't like the culture nobody's holding you there at gunpoint and forcing you to work. This isn't China under Mao. It's a free market economy.

> The Google incident can be interpreted as a warning that progressive politicians would remove citizens that express differing opinions if they could.

A private company is not the government. First amendment is still intact and nobody is suggesting otherwise. Save your panic for actual threats.

You really need to open your filter bubble.

> victims of the past [...] slippery slope

Would you please not take HN threads on generic ideological tangents? It's against the HN guidelines.


90 points in less than an hour. This guy's fight for his right to be wrong is surprisingly energising to this community.

I'm even sympathetic to the criticism of Google. But for the life of me I can't figure out why this particular employment dispute gets this sort of billing... Arguably the US government (an entity endowed with something literally called "the monopoly on violence") just pardoned someone who build an actual concentration camp (his words) in the middle of the US. And had his goons start criminal investigations against journalists. And, you know, continued actually killing people after being told by a court that he should maybe not do that.

Now the victims were mostly brown and did not have enough stock options to coast for the next decade, so it maybe somewhat hard to relate to for the community. But no matter how hard I try, I can't see reason why one story is running to the top every second day, and others are nowhere to be found.

This article is not about the memo guy.

Indeed. It's yet another poor sob Google tries to silence by getting him onto the New York Times front page :)

I stand corrected, and pledge to actually read the article next time around,

Maybe because here's a technical community. I'm much more interested in news about leading tech companies than some local crime lord in a foreign country.

I suppose Maricopa County could in some ways be considered foreign territory, but bastard Joe was an American county sheriff in an American state...

You do realize that "foreign" depends on a perspective? What is "foreign" for me isn't necessarily "foreign" for you. HN readers are from all over the world, and I'm sure much more of them knows what Google is and thus more interested in related news than some "bastard Joe from Maricopa County".

The cynical explanation:

1. We work in tech, and some of us have already developed opinions on Google. We have small worlds and in them some things seem disproportionately large.

2. Most posters are American. Examining how the US state uses violence is never going to be comfortable for them.

3. Decades of misinformation have created a layer of innuendo and whataboutism around acts like whistleblowing and certain kind of political protests. Google is under fire because it simply hasn't yet operated the kind of propaganda machine available to other organs of our economy.

4. People have already been 'primed' to respond to this story by a slow buildup of other stories. Your story hits a blindspot. The good news is that continued messaging, continued posting can gradually overcome that effect if it's targeted at the right people.

I think you're the first person I can ever tell that you're not actually as cynical as you may think :)

The cynical explanation–and this is just purely hypothetical–is (for a pathologically cynical mind) that a Google engineer who gets fired after circulating a call for unionising, or complaining about the lack of day-care options on campus, wouldn't even register within this community.

I don't follow you on making a connection between Joe Arpaio and the story in the linked article. In what way are they connected?

> There's no genuine, credible anti-corporate voice in American politics.

That's because politics in the US requires money and no politician can rise to the mainstream without money. Not only that, if the capital interests saw you rising in local/state elections, then they could fund your opponents and whittle you down.

We are a nation ruled by money/capital. NK is a nation ruled by the kim family. The chinese are a nation ruled by the communist power. Someone in the US going against corporate interests has as promising a political future as a north korean politician railing against the kim family or a chinese politician going against the communist party.

Everyone, including the politicians, have to play by the rules of the system.

Look at the past election, both trump and clinton were pro-corporate/capital politicians. Hillary was probably even more pro-corporations/neo-liberalism than trump. But democrats will argue that hillary cared about the lowly workers.

But can you really blame the clintons, trumps, obamas, bushes or any other politician in the US? They are just playing the game within the system.

Ultimately, in the US, both the republican and democratic parties serve one master - the capital owners. The US is really a 1 party nation if you look beyond the silly social issues that the republican and democratic play off of each other to distract the masses.

Would you please stop posting political boilerplate to HN? It's tedious and not what this site is for.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15131729 and marked it off-topic.

First, Trump was completely outspent by Clinton and won. Money follows the likely winner and this weird political betting market usually gets it right. It's also hard to say that he served the GOP. It very much looked like the elephant reluctantly did what Trump told it to do.

Second, Trump campaigned on lowering immigration and tariffs, by far the most anti-corporate policies American president supported in the living memory.

Both of your points are seriously weakened by the 2016 elections.

The 2016 election is a extreme outlier for many reasons, so it's difficult to look at it and make any meaningful conclusions in this regard.

Outlier with regards to what? It was an exposure of the extreme discontent bubbling under the surface in America. If anything, it was completely rational. The election did not happen in a vacuum and it was not random. I personally believe that it was just the start of things to come in America and shows cracks in the status quo.

I'm not a professional statistician but basically the only thing I remember from my stats class in college is that if you have an extreme outlier, even if you think it might be indicative of future trends, you have to adjust for it. Just like electing a single black man after electing 43 white men as president was not an indicator that racism is over (since an openly racist man was elected following that) nor is it an indicator that minority groups are now going to be elected in higher numbers (since a white man was elected immediately after).

There's also the fact that Trump cannot actually be anti-corporate since he is a billionaire owner of a multi-national corporation. He is the definition of corporate because his name is literally a corporation.

And now to get political (so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want get into politics), there is the serious question about how much influence foreign nations had during the election. It's an open question whether or not Americans consciously elected Trump on his own merits, or if the propaganda from Russia swayed the vote enough to change the outcome. Then there are less well-sourced questions about hacking of the voter rolls, hacking of the voting machines, etc. I'm not sure if you've seen the news about how this guy is hiring a bunch of high-priced lawyers to investigate if the president actively colluded with a foreign power in order to win the election, but long story short, the president actively colluded with a foreign power in order to win the presidency.

And now I just read your username and realized you're the same guy who thinks Western Europe is failing because they're socialists and who has said Obamacare is literally Hitler, so god damn it why do I waste my time arguing with extreme right-wing trolls.

That's why I wrote : "Hillary was probably even more pro-corporations/neo-liberalism than trump. But democrats will argue that hillary cared about the lowly workers."

> Second, Trump campaigned on lowering immigration and tariffs, by far the most anti-corporate policies American president supported in the living memory.

Sure. If a NY billionaire is the "most anti-corporate" president, then does that prove what I'm saying?

> Both of your points are seriously weakened by the 2016 elections.

No. It confirmed it as far as I can tell.

Trump was:

Anti globalization in all of its manifestations (immigration, tariffs, taxes, trade)

That was what he ran on. How can you say he was pro corporation?

The interesting thing about Trump is that, in spite of what he ran on, quite a bit of Trump's advisor picks ended up being from the business, banking, or investment side of the equation. (Prominent examples include Rex Tillerson of Exxon; Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs; and Wilbur Ross of Rothschild.)

It's hard to say that Trump is "pro corporation" though, because his cabinet also includes anti-globalization nationalists (most prominently Steve Bannon who is now gone, but there are others). The policy conflict between these groups (and others) actually has, in my opinion, been one of the strongest defining features of Trump's presidency so far.

I agree that Trump campaigned as an anti-corporate and (along with Sanders) showed that there is current popular discontent with the state of business in America.

He is also very pro-deregulation and anti-oversight.

> Anti globalization in all of its manifestations (immigration, tariffs, taxes, trade)

He wasn't anti-globalization. If you listened to what he said, he was anti-"terrible" "free" trade deals which he claimed benefits other nations but not the US.

He was pro-globalization where the US wins - according to his definition.

> That was what he ran on. How can you say he was pro corporation?

Because he is? The guy is a "corporation".

You think a NY billionaire is "anti-corporation"?

The fact that people are even claiming that a NY billionaire is anti-corporations just proves my point. If Trump = "anti-corporation", then "anti-corporation" is meaningless.

Why is there no SJW outcry over this like there was for James Damore?

Why are google employees not threatening to quit their jobs over this? Are the progressive employees at Google only progressive when it comes to gender?

Would you please not post generic ideological rants to HN, or unsubstantive comments in general? Those are not what this site is for:


If Google is paying for this think tank I dont see what the heck is the problem. Its their or partially theirs to do as they wish.

I've been saying this for about 15 years, but the moment Eric joined google the phrase "Don't be evil" mostly disappeared from almost every location they used to publish the phrase.

I can't believe Schmidt is allowed to be kept around. The dude is clearly evil.

It's early so not sure I'm reading this correctly, but it appears Google funded a group, then one of the members posted a statement applauding the recent 2.7 billion dollar fine against Google and that member was subsequently removed from the group?

Well duh!

Criticize Google all you like. But does anyone really think companies have an obligation to fund their critics? Or that groups receiving such funding have an obligation to retain critics?

The article wasn't suggesting that Google has to fund its critics. The article was describing how a theoretically independent think-tank was compromised by Google. First Google offers you money for the work you're already doing. Once you become dependent on that money, they can threaten to take it away.

The problem is that the only way to be truly independent is to take no money from corporations. But any group that does that will be crushed by similar groups who _do_ accept corporate money (and are thus compromised).

Have I awoken in an alternate universe?

Once 21 million dollars was accepted there isn't an "independence" theoretical or otherwise. It's ludicrous to existentially attack the company giving this money and expect not be removed from the group.

If you want true independence it has to be something like citizen grass roots funding. And even that probably has a bias. But it would be a start. Expecting anything but special interest once corporate money is involved just is unrealistic.

Eh, I don't know why you're being hammered for saying this. Both your comments seem pretty accurate. And it's not like you were being crass or something.

I wonder if the idea simply bothers people?

> I wonder if the idea simply bothers people?

This idea bothers people because it calls in question everything that they believe in -- in the West the so called educated population believes in the idea of abstract "good" and idea of people/entities being "good" compared to the extreme cynicism coming from say Eastern Europeans.

In my, not very humble, opinion it is caused by Western population of the last sixty years living a rather easy and lazy life, which breeds a total disassociation with say possible drivers other people. So they want to destroy everything and anything that pierces their bubble. In HN it means flagging/downvoting such articles/opinions.

It's similar to a newspaper shilling out to advertisers and refusing to publish any bad stories about them.

It's not illegal, but it's bad practice, and puts the integrity of the publisher and the sponsor into question. I think that's all people are saying.

then don't pretend you are a think tank. you are a pr firm, paid to say whatever benefits your clients.

Well, as others have pointed out, it's not hard to read "think tank" as "pr firm".

You ought to love the amount of money the $POLITICAL_ALIGNMENT_YOU_HATE spends on "think tanks"; they consume vast piles of money and to a first approximation accomplish absolutely nothing. (A bit closer look and I wouldn't say they are completely achievement-free, but it's still a terrible way to spend money.)

Well, as others have pointed out, it's not hard to read "think tank" as "pr firm".

Sure, but it raises the question why there's a separate "think tank" term, even more why think tanks refer to themselves as such.

Oh, that's easy; neither they nor the people donating to them want to think of them as pr firms. Think Tanks are so much more, you know, Think Tanky. I think such wonderful, glorious thoughts that people pay me just to think of these things, and write them down. That's way better than being in grubby PR. That's, like, a middle class job. This is a real job, that's, like, hard & shit, and I'm uniquely qualified on account of the rare and distinguished quality of my thoughts.

It's not an either/or situation.

Less like a PR firm, more like not sawing off the branch you are standing on.

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain

I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of History will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy. - Stalin

I'm not normally a grammar pedant, but i had to reread the first two opening paragraphs several times before I understood what was going on:

> The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999.

Semicolons aren't glorified commas. Stop it. Bad! Bad! :-p

The comma in the second element allows—I would even say requires—one to separate elements of a list with semicolons. I don’t have a copy of the NYT Style Guide, but I just consulted my Chicago Style guide, and it is explicitly permitted.

Grammarians have spoken!

You have to admit that it's a confusing sentence though!

I absolutely do. I probably would have worded it differently.

Semicolons are valid (especially) when the list items themselves contain commas - such as "its parent company's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt".

The Oatmeal isn't necessarily an authority, but explicitly lists "use semicolons as a super comma!" as one of their uses:


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