To find the causes of its impending doom, America should look in the mirror rather than blaming companies like Google that only do what they were told
Imagine that your name is Sundararajan Pichai and you were born in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. In your travels around the world, you come across a wonderful castle in the woods, perhaps like the Foxwoods Resort and Casino. In the castle, you can see everything that a human heart can possibly desire: sumptuous food and drink, beautiful women, and more than that, a way of enriching yourself beyond your wildest dreams using only other people’s money. The surroundings of the castle are not shabby either. Unlike your home, which is overcrowded and polluted, here you have pristine forests and lakes, an abundance of clean air and water, and plenty of space just for you. At home, you have angry and dangerous neighbors against whom you can barely protect yourself. But here, the castle is protected by the most powerful military that ever existed, at your service without you ever having to serve in it yourself or having had to pay a dime for its creation or maintenance.
This must be too good to be true, you may tell yourself and it is. There is a gate with a smart lock that protects the castle grounds. But hey, you are plenty smart too. You know you are, because only the very smartest from over a billion people are admitted to the India Institute of Technology like you had been, and even fewer can go to the coveted Computer Science department. Luckily, it is precisely the skills that you acquired in that area that are needed to open the lock and soon, very soon, with hardly any effort at all, you are in. And guess what, no time at all passes and you find yourself among the fortunate few. Not the masses at the buffet tables, not even the high-rollers in their private Jacuzzi suites, no, you are all the way up there with the people who run the whole place and with it a big chunk of the known universe.
If you were Mr. Pichai, would you spend much time familiarizing yourself with the people that arrived at your castle’s location when it was nothing but a howling wilderness? Would you have much interest to learn about the backbreaking labor it took to clear the forests and make them into the immaculate man-made landscapes of lawns and ponds and groves that surround your castle now? Would you want to really understand what it was like to defend the land that they cleared from those who lived there before them and who were mistaken for your own folk by some misinformed mariners five hundred years ago? Would you want to know anything about the values and principles that these people held dear? Of course not. And why should you? The people who run the castle invited you in with open arms and gave you the keys to the whole thing without asking you to know any of that, so why should you bother?
No, the instructions you were given when you got the keys to the kingdom were quite simple: MAKE US RICH. Make us rich. Make us more and more rich without bounds. That is your only task. And so you set out to do just that. You have a product to sell and your customers are everywhere. A few of them live nearby in small homes with two car garages. Many more live in rented condominiums in big cities and many many more yet are in faraway lands. Strangely, the garage people expect you to prefer them and their interests above those of your other customers. They throw at you words like “patriotism” and “homeland”, and “Constitution”. They say that if you don’t, bad things will happen. It sounds crazy to you, but you didn’t get the job for nothing; you are careful and thoughtful, so on the off chance that there was something in these demands, in these predictions of doom, you take action. You form a task force of people just like you, though, of course, not quite as smart, people who themselves just only very recently arrived at the castle and get them to look into it.
They report back and, of course, it’s what you thought all along. The crazy talk about patriotism etc. plays well with only the smallest and the poorest section of your customer base, though they are quite fired up about it. And you would throw them a bone, but it turns out that those same words play very negatively with all your other customers, including the condo-dwelling neighbors to say nothing of those who are located in the part of the world where you were born. So the choice is clear: should you adapt your policy to placate the “patriots” even in the least, it will be BAD FOR BUSINESS. And bad for business is no good at all. It goes right against the prime directive of making THEM rich and it is an especially bad idea, because now you are one of THEM.
American “conservatives”. What have they ever conserved? Their multi-generational wealth and privilege, that’s what. Their mansions, their trust funds, their legacy status in Ivy League schools. Who do they worship? God, principles that are enshrined in the Constitution? Give me a break. The only thing they worship is the almighty dollar and their right to make as much of it as is humanly possible, consequences be damned. The founding documents of the American Conservatism are not the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they are the 10-C filings of the companies in their portfolio.
People like Tucker Carlson of Fox New fame are supposedly up in arms that Google refuses to take the Pentagon’s money, but is first in line to get as many Chinese government contracts as it can. They are outraged, OUTRAGED, I tell you, that Google is happy to take the Chinese money not only if it means that free speech will be subverted and dissidents found and arrested or killed, Google is perfectly happy to create the tools that will be used to stifle free speech and deliver dissidents to be tortured and killed. But why should they be outraged? Was it not they who invited to America people with zero commitment to Republican values? Was it not they whose only criteria for putting people in charge was their ability to make them more money? Have they ever done anything to include even the slightest consideration of a person’s commitment to the founding values of America in the “skill set and toolbox” that are required to lead a major organization with an incalculable strategic value?
Of course not! Oh, and by the way, when Google as a matter of fact does everything it can to promote a certain view point in America and suppress the other, when it skews its search results to make certain things more visible and others well hidden, has it occurred to the “conservative” crowd to ask Google for an explanation? The censorship algorithms that Google is now selling to the Chinese as well as the algorithms to “doxx” individuals who dare to look for the wrong things online have been developed in America and tested on Americans and they were very successful indeed, which is why the Chinese are lining up to pay top dollar for them.
Google refuses Pentagon contracts because it’s bad business. It’s bad business, because much of its American customer base, the city condo dwellers, hate America and even more so the Pentagon. It’s bad business because the Pentagon will undoubtedly try to attach strings to its money, strings that will stop Google from working with the Chinese government, which in turn, may freeze Google out of a market that has 1.4 billion users, as opposed to America’s 330 million. As the mafiosi say before they shoot you in the face, it’s not personal, it’s only business. It’s not Pichai’s fault that the only value he was taught in America was shareholder value. Why would he, a man born and raised in India have more love in his heart for America than those who came here centuries ago? If their descendants, the descendants of people who may have met George Washington on the streets of Arlington or John Adams in a Boston tavern, don’t care about America enough to take the slightest hit in their portfolios, why should an Indian, whose country was colonized by people with names like Washington and Adams?
Every great empire has a flaw that given enough time will express itself and bring that empire to its inevitable end. Britain was simply too small, too thinly stretched to have an empire in which the sun never set. The Russians were to traditional, too averse to modernization and industrialization and so were the Ottomans. The Romans, as is well documented, were too greedy. Their unbridled greed, especially that of their patrician elites, led them to outsource every function in their empire to the lowest bidder, which, in the fullness of time spelled their doom. American Founding Fathers admired Rome, adopting many of its symbols, its architecture, and even to no small degree, its republican political system. They put in place many protections, against mob rule on the one hand and against the rule of tyrants on the other. But they failed to protect against the very thing that killed their model state, the Roman Republic: greed.
Greed is the one value which all American elites share. When it comes to greed, there is no difference at all between Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, between Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, between Kellyanne Conway and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They are all scurrying around like hungry little rats trying their best to take the best nibble from the dying semi-corpse that is America.
America was indeed built on the drive to succeed, to build a better life for one’s family, to bite off a chunk of the continent and keep it and grow it and make it flourish. Greed is the evil twin of this noble impulse; it is nearly indistinguishable from it and as such America has never had effective antibodies for greed and it is too late to develop them now.