European Union bureaucrats have amassed such a mountain of job-killing rules — from economic to fiscal to monetary and regulatory — that they’ve made successful European startups as rare as French military victories. So how do they plan to restore growth to the sclerotic European economy? By launching a new attack on successful American companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple, whom they blame for their continental failures.
Notably missing from the latest enemies list is Microsoft, once a favorite whipping boy of Euro-extortionists who have moved on to their next target. So just like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer once had to fly to Brussels to grovel before some sinecured political functionaries to be allowed to do their job, now it’s the turn of Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook to explain why they should be allowed to continue running circles around those few remaining European technology entrepreneurs that haven’t yet decamped to the U.S.
The new EU Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager — who apparently learned about competition from a book since her resume indicates she has never worked in the private sector — has encouraged the European Parliament to pass a resolution demanding the breakup of Google. While we are more likely to see Greece make good on its toxic bonds than watch Google broken up, this constant saber-rattling ramps up the pressure on the EU’s antitrust targets to settle by paying massive “fines,” hoping the Eurocrats will just go away, satisfied with fresh money to stimulate their parliamentary payrolls.
Fittingly, the self-appointed protectors of Europe’s digital have-nots have appropriated the language of American net neutrality activists who want to reduce the Web to a public utility — while wrangling a free ride from Internet service providers for Netflix, Hulu, and other bandwidth hogs. Demands for “search neutrality” and “platform neutrality” now pepper Eurocrats’ talking points, as they seek to craft laws to tilt the playing field to enable non-existent French and German companies to sell inferior digital technology that nobody wants. Hey, why not pass “success neutrality” laws that force prosperous companies to subsidize chronic losers? After all, isn’t that what the European Union does for countries?
Even California Governor Jerry Brown, who has never seen a regulation he didn’t like, has condemned the latest wave of EU actions, warning that increased digital protectionism risks sparking trade wars. (French foie gras exporters, whose products are banned in California, could not be reached for comment.)
What will it take to convince central planners that their efforts to build up new companies by kneecapping current market leaders will be about as successful as a Cargo Cult trying to attract freight planes by building faux airstrips out of bamboo? And how do they account for the natural waning of Microsoft’s fortunes, whose wicked bundled browser supposedly once threatened to swallow the Internet?
It’s all depressingly familiar. If European bureaucrats can find a way to export failure in order to make the world more equal, they will. Let’s hope our shores remain hospitable to entrepreneurs and companies that are unafraid to be the best. In that spirit, I propose they also be unafraid to fight back.
If American companies are going to be punished for success no matter what they do, why not expose the EU busybodies to the wrath of frustrated customers? Why should taxi drivers calling continent-wide strikes trying to pressure Eurocrats into banning Uber have all the fun? How about Google, Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, Amazon, and other U.S. Internet businesses hold a Dark Ages Day, and black out Europe for 24 hours, or until regulatory busybodies like Margrethe Vestager are run out of town, whichever comes first? Or host a Spanish Inquisition Invitational in which European customers are required to fill out 200 pages of paperwork, obtain six licenses, and wait a year before they can buy anything online? The possibilities are endless.