The Federal Trade Commission's looming antitrust settlement with the search giant shows how regulators can do their job without stifling innovation.
The Federal Trade Commission seems ready to announce a settlement with Google today, bringing to a close a 20-month antitrust investigation. The settlement reportedly would avoid antitrust charges against the search giant, while requiring Google to agreeing to change some of the practices that other companies have complained about.
On its own, the settlement is good news for consumers, workers, and the whole U.S. economy. Objectionable conduct would be moderated without dampening the incentive for Google to innovate and provide new services. It's also true that it never made much sense to attack one of America's prime innovative companies at a time when competitiveness, growth, and job creation are at the top of the economic agenda.
More importantly, the FTC's approach to the Google investigation shows that regulatory agencies can be thoughtful about adopting pro-innovation, pro-growth policies without abandoning their core missions. A critical question facing the U.S. economy--and indeed, the European economy as well--is whether the existing regulatory structure is flexible enough to deal with the fast changing world of technology. If regulators apply old rules too strictly, they run the risk of squashing the very innovation needed to drive growth, job creation, and competitiveness.