In Search of an E-Commerce Candidate

The U.S. presidential candidate who would have the most dramatic effect on e-commerce if elected is not hard to identify.

Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, come on down.

Of course, Nader will have to have an even more dramatic effect on the polls to leapfrog over Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush and win Novembers election. But his role in the debate highlights the similarities between Bush and Gore on e-commerce issues.

Treading the Same Path

Gore and Bush have each prioritized boosting e-commerce. According to his campaigns official Web site, Gores “overall economic growth policy is the platform on which further technological innovation can be used to spur additional high-tech economic growth.”

Meanwhile, Bushs official Web site states that he would “support the growth of the New Economy by cutting taxes, encouraging investment in R&D, curbing frivolous lawsuits, pursuing free trade and implementing sensible export controls.”

The two leading candidates each address the Digital Divide: the issue of how to provide computer access to those who do not have it, particularly in low-income families. The GOPs E-Contract 2000, released in May, includes a provision for creating “digital opportunities for the disadvantaged.” Similarly, the agenda posted on the Al Gore 2000 Web site makes numerous references to the goal of providing universal computer access.

Bush and Gore also would move to protect individual privacy. Bush favors self-regulation within the industry, while Gore would get the government involved, albeit to a limited extent.

“[Gore] definitely thinks that government needs to get involved when it comes to protecting our children,” campaign spokesperson Dagoberto Vega told the E-Commerce Times. “Often he talks about creating red-light districts regarding sites that are inappropriate for children. That is an area that requires some government intervention. As far as privacy concerns, I think thats the only sphere he has come out in favor of regulation.”

Tax Time

Gore and Bush also support continuing the moratorium against taxing sales on the Internet. The Democrats favor an extension of two to three years, while Republicans are proposing a five-year extension.

“Gore is committed to finding a solution to allow e-commerce to flourish, [without stripping] states and localities of their ability of revenue they need to educate their children and fight crime,” Vega said.

A Study in Contrast

If nothing else, Nader appears to provide a radically different mindset toward e-commerce issues. His defense of the individual against corporate domination and exploitation is at the heart of his approach.

Nader has made a point of not offering blanket government support to Internet companies at the expense of those who operate outside of the e-commerce sphere.

“Newspapers across the country have put their news and worse, their help-wanted and real-estate ads on the World Wide Web,” Nader has written. “Foreign papers and magazines are also available online. Still, few commentators are pointing to this zero-sum situation between real stores and Internet stores.”

Naders Consumer Project on Technology criticized the Network Solutions, Inc. monopoly on domain names. “At no time did the government seek any competitive bids to determine the prices that consumers and business should pay for domain name registrations,” the group has said.

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