Tell Uncle Sam to Leave E-Biz Alone

The overriding message is certainly true. Leading members of Congress are telling President George W. Bush that truly global e-commerce is necessary for a strong U.S. economy.

No arguments there. But the next step is one that should be taken with great care: Bush is being urged to jump into the fray and help pave the way for worldwide e-commerce growth.

Congress passed a resolution filled with so much rah-rah language that it would seem all but impossible to be against. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said, “The Digital Age ? is opening new markets and growth opportunities for all types of U.S. companies.”

That seems benign on the surface. All that these lawmakers want is for restrictive barriers to be brought down, to free up the caged-in portions of the e-commerce world.

But just beneath is the Pandora’s Box of government interference and involvement — the very demons that e-commerce and its best cheerleaders on Capitol Hill have worked so hard to avoid.

Fortunately, some lawmakers have had the foresight and intelligence to see where this road leads — namely toward stepped-up regulation.

On Balance

Fact is, there is far bigger downside than upside when the government starts taking a role in promoting e-commerce.

Yes, there are barriers to trade affecting Internet-based commerce, but what will bring those barriers down most effectively is the will and desire among businesses the world over to grab their piece of the pie. It might take a bit longer, but the momentum that Lieberman and others speak of is the best friend of the movement. E-commerce can create its own lucky breaks.

The introduction of government involvement is something that most corners of the high-tech world have fought hard to avoid. Take Internet taxes. E-commerce leaders and others have gone well out of their way to make the argument that government intervention in the form of access taxes and other online taxes would be crippling to a still-nascent industry.

Saving Privacy

A similar position has been taken on Internet privacy. “Let us regulate ourselves” has long been the refrain from the Web community.

The idea is that if e-commerce companies regulate effectively enough, they can avoid having the government do it at higher cost and with less flexibility.

So the industry prefers to be left alone.

Lonely Are the Brave

At least, e-commerce wanted to be left alone when times were as good as they could get and all the business that was needed was close at hand in North America.

Those days are over and the world has to become the marketplace if any kind of high-tech growth is to be sustained. But it’s a market that can and should be won without asking for help from the government.

Once that door gets opened, escorting the government out and getting the door closed again will be next to impossible.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


  • E-biz should not be seen as a panacea for global commerce and exchange. Indeed the exchange of goods permits a surge in competition (and therefore in quality and productivity which in the end enhances the quality of life of a state or a country), but there are several problems ahead.

    First of all, taxes work as a system for the redistribution of wealth and the development of public services, as you see… imagine 7 of every 10 e-companies (such as AM azon or the like) are in New York, or California or let’s say Texas. The counties and state governments gather a fairly big AM ount of “normal” taxes because of the sale, but in the normal process there is a distributor, a retailer (or wholesaler) that also pays a tax in the non e-commerce state (one of the other 48 states with non well developed initiatives), so the e-commerce transaction leaves this non e-commerce state with no tax at all and only a one-direction flow of cash, out of the state.

    That is one of the main problems and where the government will have to intervene, no matter how much the industry will regulate itself.

    • While I agree that privacy is an issue the government should step in to govern, issues like security are best solved by the high-tech businesses themselves…

  • In the US, I think that would be true where the governments intervention could cause more harm than good since the market regulates itself. In a place like Singapore where the government plays a leading role in making the decisions and the telling, I would think it would be reversed. In Singapore, the government is trying their best to get involved and support e-commerce since it opens doors to the global business world. I think that there is a fine balance between allowing the market to regulate itself against enacting rules. Besides that, there are areas in e-commerce where the governments role is inevitable eg. where security or privacy is concerned, hence, laws need to be put in place to protect the public at large. Another way is to incentivise the public and private sectors so that they could get interested and participate in e-commerce initiatives.

    In conclusion, I AM not supporting nor criticising the issue, however, I think that e-commerce needs to be looked at a deeper angle in order to make a decision on it. At the moment, I think that the Bush adminstration should take their hands off since the republicans have a notorious reputation for their ulterior motives to get rich quick and screw up the economy all at the same time.

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