Europe’s Plea to Be Forgotten

“Does it make sense for America to be strategically invested in European allies who have so clearly put themselves on an economic, cultural and demographic road to oblivion?”
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A resolution by the European Parliament calling for the breakup of Google and other U.S. Web giants is a sad joke, although Google’s struggles with European antitrust authorities have been no laughing matter. These battles include the absurd “right to be forgotten” mandate as well as rising calls in French and German government ranks for sanctions power to force the “unbundling” of the amalgam of applications that a Google or Facebook or Amazon represents.

Peter Thiel , the venture capitalist who has lately taken on a prophetic mien, has warned for months that Washington underestimates the European Union’s war on Silicon Valley. Thursday’s vote was a confirmation.

Not that the European Parliament itself isn’t a joke, a dumping ground for has-beens and sinecure for wannabes who aren’t up for political careers of real substance, which still happen in the sovereign home parliaments of member countries.

Andreas Schwab, the German member who drafted the resolution, is a lawyer who works with a law firm that represents German media interests that have been suing Google, hoping to get paid when their published stories end up in search results.

Mr. Schwab’s parliamentary colleagues made their own no-brainer calculation (perhaps the only kind many are capable of) when they passed his nonbinding gesture 384 to 174. Local media bosses are appeased at minimum cost. The resolution doesn’t actually mention Google, Facebook, Amazon or Apple by name, all influential companies whose favor might be useful one day.

What’s really ailing the Continent was best indicated by the accompanying rhetoric. Said German member Evelyne Gebhardt : “European policy makers must directly support European innovation, and particularly new startups, in order to foster their potential.”

If this is the quality of understanding on which its economic future depends, Europe might as well start passing out the euthanasia vouchers right now.

That so many of the Web companies that “dominate the everyday lives of Europeans,” as Ms. Gebhardt frets, originate in the U.S. owes exactly nothing to the U.S. government identifying and fostering the potential of startups.

Google rightly says competition is only a click away: In its short life, Google has seen much of its potential market clicked away by companies whose arrival was unpredictable, such as Yelp, Twitter , Facebook, WhatsApp and an amazingly reinvented Apple.

Contributing next to nothing to this explosion of wealth has been the European Union. Germany and France are the core powers of the EU, the world’s No. 4 and 5 economies. Name a single major Web-era success that emerged from either.

Let’s amend that: These countries do produce cutting-edge entrepreneurs, engineers and creative talents, who can be found by the thousands in the U.S.

Speaking of sad and pathetic, even as Europe takes aim at Silicon Valley, apparently dropped from the agenda is what was supposed to be its well-developed antitrust case against Russia’s Gazprom .

Gazprom is a monopoly of the malign textbook definition, using its pricing power and energy-starvation threats to prevent client countries from developing alternate suppliers. Gazprom’s monopoly is detrimental to European consumers in every way, driving up energy prices and driving manufacturing jobs to the U.S. to benefit from cheap shale gas.

Not only is Gazprom an untrustworthy supplier, it’s an instrument of Vladimir Putin ’s retrograde and militaristic foreign policy. So the European Parliament declares war on Google.

A word about innovation: There is little natural constituency for the future in democratic politics, where, by definition, established voting blocs and donor interests and media alliances are those that represent the past. That’s true in foreign policy too. A question has to be asked: Does it make sense for America to be strategically invested in European allies who have so clearly put themselves on an economic, cultural and demographic road to oblivion? It would be sad to write off a continent that has contributed so much to mankind’s advancement, but maybe that’s what the European Parliament is inviting us to do.

Holman Jenkins: Europe’s Plea to Be Forgotten – WSJ.

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