Will Hutton’s basic shtick is that the world would be a better place if everyone just damn well got on with what Will Hutton damn well tells them to damn well get on with. Everyone other than Will Hutton has a problem with this idea. For we’ve no actual evidence that Hutton has any ability – nor even insight – into what it is that everyone else should be doing. His business experience is having been an editor (note well, managing directors at newspapers handle the money, editors only the words on the page) and taking over the Industrial Society, renaming it the Work Foundation and then driving it into a particularly messy and silly bankruptcy.
Hutton might not be the best person for us to be gaining our economic and business advice from. But, still, he persists. Today’s offering being that we’ve got to regulate Apple as the monopoly it isn’t while also censoring the entire internet.
Yeah, right Will:
The more awesome our technological progress, the more our politicians take refuge in the familiar ideological categories of the 19th century. Last week, Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar corporation. It, like Amazon and Google hard on its heels, offers products and services that have transformed our lives. These companies’ financial and market powers are staggering. They are the new technopolists. But how are the great things they do to be curated and enhanced and how are the menaces to be contained?
That standard economic answer is that when activities reduce consumer benefit then regulation should occur. We do get a bit of a split, neoliberals and baby eating bastards like myself insisting that it’s when the damage occurs, others – perhaps the more rational, you decide – when the power to so damage is available. But we do insist that it is that consumer amage which is the important point.
The whole machinery needs a root-and-branch overhaul, as argued in Technopoly And What to Do About It, a paper produced by the thinktank ResPublica and Big Innovation Centre (which I co-founded). Competition needs to be policed supranationally (yet another area where Brexit Britain perforce will have to collaborate with the EU): small companies need to be able to band together to challenge technopoly; takeovers need to be rigorously examined and blocked to allow innovation to grow; enforcement needs to be tough.
That combination of Will Hutton and Philip Blond is going to be hard to beat for rampant stupidity of course. The latter seems to be a disciple – in my opinion, of course – of the Catholic fascism of Chesterton and Belloc more than anything else, the similarity between this sort of Catholic Corporatism and Francoism being more than just superficial. And a decent enough example of that rampant stupidity is right here of course. Apple must be regulated, and fiercely.
Samsung The world’s most popular smartphone brand…….Apple The release of the iPhone X in November has unsurprisingly given Apple a boost in market share (from 13.7 per cent to 14.1 per cent)……What is Huawei, and how do you pronounce it? That’s the response of some people, certainly in the western world where Apple and Samsung dominate. But the Chinese firm’s smartphone global market share is growing quickly – up from 9 per cent to 10.5 per cent
Actually, the last quarter saw Apple slip to third.
Yes, that’s right, Will Hutton is demanding that the world’s third largest producer of handsets must be regulated because it’s a monopoly. I wasn’t joking nor being overly rhetorical in describing this as rampant stupidity, was I?
But yes, of course, this is Hutton, it gets worse:
That’s not all. There needs to be a parallel commitment to openness in how the private and public sectors govern themselves in the era of data capitalism. Data is the key ingredient of the 21st-century economy – as crucial as oil and electricity in earlier revolutions. There needs to be a new promise of openness and accountability in how it is used: if citizens are to allow their data to be aggregated and shared for public and private advantage, there must be cast-iron guarantees of how data is deployed, along with mechanisms to correct abuse.
Thus every company entrusted with the collection and dissemination of data should declare in their articles of association that their overriding purpose is to deliver public benefit, to create systems through which they are held to account and allow redress for grievance. Britain is not powerful enough by itself, but the EU should require all companies with such digital platforms to incorporate as public benefit corporations. This principle would extend to all those disseminating public information on any platform, thus committing to provide content that is true.
A public benefit corporation is essentially one in which the likes of Will Hutton get to make lots of decisions:
The government should create a new category of company – the public benefit company (PBC) – which would write into its constitution that its purpose is the delivery of public benefit to which profit-making is subordinate. For instance, a water company’s purpose would be to deliver the best water as cheaply as possible and not siphon off excessive dividends through a tax haven. The next step would be to take a foundation share in each privatised utility as a condition of its licence to operate, requiring the utility to reincorporate as a public-benefit company.
Regulators, however good their intentions, too easily see the world from the view of the industry they regulate
The foundation share would give the government the right to appoint independent non-executive directors whose role would be see that the public interest purposes of the PBC were being discharged as promised.
This would include ensuring the company remained domiciled in the UK for tax purposes and guaranteeing that consumers, social and public benefit interests came first.
For who would be the people to define what that public interest is other than the right sort of people like Will Hutton? Kip Esquire’s Law always does insist that those proposing planning envisage themselves as the planners after all.
But then look at the truly horrific demand being made: thus committing to provide content that is true. Who defines what is true then? That’ll be Will Hutton again, no doubt about it. And we really should be taking our definition of truth from the man who insists that the third largest company in a market must be regulated as a monopoly, mustn’t we?