Conservatives are waking up to the threats to freedom posed by Big Tech. But current debates center around questions of censorship and monopoly power. While these are vital issues, conservatives must grapple with the full extent to which digital technologies have transformed the basic patterns of our social and economic life.
Digital technologies have revolutionized existing markets and extended market logic to new domains by reducing or eliminating barriers to entry and transaction costs, allowing buyers and sellers to find each other, negotiate, and conclude their exchanges with once-unimaginable efficiency. The benefits are enormous: cheaper, better, and more tailored products; greater competition and faster innovation; new opportunities for entrepreneurs and greater convenience for consumers.
But greasing the gears of commerce to whirl unimpeded, in the process sweeping aside norms, institutions, and relationships we often take for granted, has costs as well. Prosperity requires markets to deliver enough efficiency and disruption to produce growth but not so much as to risk disintegration of society.