Outline of Comments before the FTC's B2B Work Shop
USDA Jefferson Auditorium
June 29, 2000
Commissioner Orson Swindle
While planning the B2B Conference, I expressed the belief that it was important for the FTC and other interested government regulators to LISTEN and LEARN from the business people and technical experts.
Obviously, there is lots of interest in the subject -- evidenced by large numbers in attendance today, heavy media focus, and the attention of financial markets.
Your presence in such numbers today is the greatest indicator that this is an important workshop and topic for this kind of open discussion.
It tells us that those of us in government from politicians who make the laws and policies to the regulators who write the rules and enforce the laws must be certain our actions in the B2B and E-commerce world are necessary and rational. We must get this right, otherwise we could do terrible harm.
I would suggest that right now, despite all the rhetoric, we are not knowledgeable enough to begin regulating. We must look before we leap.
The presentations this morning are glimpses into the genius of the innovators, the contributions of the risk takers, entrepreneurs, and the job creators -- the essence of the free market system. This is exciting.
E-commerce is about more empowerment, more choice, greater efficiencies and productivity, savings, speed, better products and services -- and all of those contribute to enhancing consumer welfare. This is about Change -- it's about Freedom.
Empowerment scares regulators and politicians. Some even fight back. There has always been resistance to change. Change brings anxiety, and the tactics of resisting change are often cloaked in appealing words -- words that strike at emotions. I am skeptical of words and phrases today like: "leveling the playing field", the "digital divide" and even the oft used words, "consumer privacy."
Obviously, change creates winners and losers -- dynamic and expanding economies always do in the free market system.
In the case of the B2B concept of E-commerce, what happens to the middlemen? What about Main Street Stores, USA?
Recall cries from the past -- What about buggy manufacturers at the turn of the century? What about invasions of personal privacy with the advent of the camera and transferable pictures and expanding newspapers of the late 1800s? And, something dear to those in this building, the USDA, concerns about the demise of the family farm and pending doom of insufficient or too expensive food predicted over the decades as we've seen our farming population dwindle from over 30 million in 1900 to less than 2 million today?
The evolution of dynamic economies is about change, improvements, success, and failures, but always progress. Even E-commerce will change -- and soon. The phenomena of the B2B business model today might manifest itself as a competitive advantage for those engaged over those not engaged, yet in the not too distant future it will be but another cost of doing business, for it will be the new way of doing business by most in one form or another.
The FTC has much to learn about what you are doing, about the technology, about the advantages, the problems, the successes, the future. We truly appreciate you all being here to teach us. We are listening. Please don't hold back. We need to learn from you.