Can we please keep Google and IBM out of the government bail-out trough?

IBM, Google, and other technology companies have been lobbying for U.S. federal spending to be directed their way. This is a bad idea, and out-of-keeping with how technology companies have traditionally sought investment.

Apparently, even technology companies want a bail-out.

Recently, the CEOs of Google, IBM, and other technology companies converged on the White House to lobby President Obama for key measures like broadband investments to be included in the U.S. government stimulus package. It's one thing to see U.S. auto makers, perpetually inefficient and ineffective in the market, begging for government hand-outs. It's quite another to see the leaders of the world's most successful technology companies seeking the dole, as well.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt made it clear what he hoped to gain from his government intervention in The Wall Street Journal:

Eric Schmidt of Google Inc. said in an interview that he appreciated the emphasis on renewable-energy technology and the deployment of broadband services. "All of that is a real positive for [Google]," he said. "The things that we asked for are in there."

I'm sure they are, and many of them are likely worthy government investments. But with the U.S. in a deep recession after decades of profligate consumer and business spending and subsequent debt, why are successful companies like IBM and Google lining up to help further indebt the government to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars?

We can do better than this. The technology industry has traditionally thrived in the absence of excessive government oversight or involvement. In Silicon Valley, where Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is considered a libertarian Bible of sorts, it feels wrong to see its industry leaders seeking a stimulus that will do more to help these particular companies than the larger technology industry, an industry that does just fine without government bail-outs.

The way out of the recession is to accept that our past mistakes will of necessity be painful, and let prices drop until they hit the point that debt-struck consumers can afford to spend again. It's not to prop up dying industries, or even healthy industries, with fiscal stimuli that mostly stimulate government, as Daniel Henninger points out in The Wall Street Journal, and government lobbyists, as a recent Foreign Policy article highlights, not businesses.

Business are stimulated by real customers buying real products in the midst of real competition. This is the very type of competition in which technology has thrived. Google doesn't need the U.S. government to buy into its broadband and renewable energy proposals to grow. It needs to continue to strike at Microsoft's jugular. IBM doesn't need to feed at the stimulus trough, either: it needs to continue to expand internationally and invest in making its bloated enterprise products lighter and easier to use.

We, the technology industry, don't need government bail-outs. We need to get lean and compete hard.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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