Feature

The robber barons of Silicon Valley

Today’s tech entrepreneurs talk of lofty ideals, but they display a “ruthlessness rivaling history’s greatest industrial bullies.”

Rob CoxTheDailyBeast.com

Silicon Valley billionaires “may anoint themselves the saints of American capitalism,” said Rob Cox. But to me they look more like old-time robber barons. Google, Facebook, Apple, and Zynga say they are less concerned with their bottom lines than they are with making the world a better place. But “underneath the haughty language of moral superiority,” these companies display a “ruthlessness rivaling history’s greatest industrial bullies.” Apple’s exploitative manufacturing in China has “plumped profit margins for shareholders,” and the company resisted scrutiny of its labor practices until negative publicity forced a change. Google is regularly accused of looking the other way on copyright rules for “words, music, and video,” and both Facebook and Google are seen as leading the erosion of consumer privacy. Even if 19th-century industrialists had decent intentions when they built railroads and drilled oil wells, “their empires still needed to be regulated, reined in, and in some cases broken up by vigilant watchdogs.” The same goes for today’s tech entrepreneurs. We can’t let lofty ideals and promises be a “cover for motives that clash with the broader interests of consumers and society.”

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