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An Application of Occam’s Razor

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


You title a 2,500-word report on financier Jeff Yass’s opposition to a U.S. government ban on TikTok “The Billionaire Keeping TikTok on Phones in the U.S.” (September 20). The implication running throughout is that Mr. Yass opposes the ban because he owns a large stake in TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. Yet while such a monetary interest might be enough to spark, in someone who knows nothing about Mr. Yass, suspicion of his motives, in the end it proves insufficient to justify the report’s sinister implication.

For government to ban platforms on which Americans exercise their freedom of expression is for government to obstruct that freedom. Because such government action clearly violates the libertarian principles that are at the root of the First Amendment – and because (as your reporters note) Mr. Yass is a life-long libertarian – the far more plausible explanation for Mr. Yass’s opposition to a TikTok ban is that he simply believes it to be wrong. This far-more-plausible explanation becomes the only credible one when we further take into account the fact that during his lifetime Mr. Yass has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to libertarian organizations and causes – especially to those that promote school choice – none of which contributions can plausibly be said to raise his personal net worth.

A more-accurate, if less lurid, title for your report would be “A Champion of the First Amendment Keeping TikTok on Phones in the U.S.”

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


An unintentionally hilarious part of the report is this paragraph about Sen. Josh Hawley, who supports a ban on TikTok:

Hawley chalks the change up to the TikTok influence campaign. “TikTok and its dark-money cronies are spending vast amounts of money to kill these bills,” he said when asked about the role of Yass and Club for Growth in the debate over TikTok.

Methinks that Sen. Hawley doesn’t know the meaning of “dark money.”