Acton Institute Powerblog

Et tu, Brute?

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I was wondering how long it would take for this to happen. The acceptability of Google’s politics and public persona could only insulate it from the requisite corporate suspicion for only so long.

In today’s New York Times, Gary Rivlin writes of growing distrust of Google: “instead of embracing Google as one of their own, many in Silicon Valley are skittish about its size and power. They fret that the very strengths that made Google a search-engine phenomenon are distancing it from the entrepreneurial culture that produced it – and even transforming it into a threat.”

How much of the “grousing” is merely bad sportsmanship? More than a bit, I think. After all, “Just as Microsoft has been seen over the years as an aggressive, deep-pocketed competitor for talent, Internet start-ups in Silicon Valley complain that virtually every time they try to recruit a well-regarded computer programmer, that person is already contemplating an offer from Google.”

When Google beats you at something, the proper response would be to raise your game. This would spur innovation. But instead, the Google’s competitors seem more interested in complaining rather than competing:

“Google is doing more damage to innovation in the Valley right now than Microsoft ever did,” said Reid Hoffman, the founder of two Internet ventures, including LinkedIn, a business networking Web site popular among Silicon Valley’s digerati. “It’s largely that they’re hiring up so many talented people, and the fact they’re working on so many different things. It’s harder for start-ups to do interesting stuff right now.”

Sour grapes, anyone?

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Chris Westley

    Obviously, Google has gotten so big that it needs to be regulated. Or so implies the New York Times.

    But then again, the last time I checked, Google hasn’t invaded any country, taken innocent life, coerced anyone into involuntary trades, or invoked eminent domain to seize someone’s private property. Maybe the Times should think about looking elsewhere for threats to the common good?

  • Just to be clear, what I told Gary was: that Google is on a huge hiring spree, luring in tons of engineers with packages that are inflating the market, and that this currently is hampering start-up innovation in the valley worse than the start-up’s possible competition with Microsoft. And, I think that this is true – every start-up I know is having some hiring difficulties due to Google’s hiring spree. I also think that if these engineers were working with a bunch of highly motivated small start-ups rather than the huge company Google is turning into, I think that more great and useful products would hit the general market. Small start-ups are more committed than Google to get these products out and adopted quickly. (I don’t know that means “working on various products…” don’t really get that part of the quotation, but I hope that this clarifies what I really said.) I do take exception to Gary’s quotation of my claiming “more than MSFT ever was”… my point was only that current silicon valley companies have more difficulty executing their business because of Google than Microsoft.