The List: If Google Were President

By now, the U.S. presidential candidates have had plenty of time to air their views on energy, the economy, foreign policy, domestic issues, and national security. But what if there were just one more name on the ballot? What if Google, celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, were president?

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Energy and Environmental Policy

Although the candidates talk the talk on energy independence and climate change, Google, which committed itself to carbon neutrality in 2007, is walking the walk. The company is doing its best to build a renewable energy plant big enough to fuel a San Francisco-size city within years, not decades, and its green-energy initiative, Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal, is an approach grounded in market-based solutions.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Energy and Environmental Policy

Although the candidates talk the talk on energy independence and climate change, Google, which committed itself to carbon neutrality in 2007, is walking the walk. The company is doing its best to build a renewable energy plant big enough to fuel a San Francisco-size city within years, not decades, and its green-energy initiative, Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal, is an approach grounded in market-based solutions.

If Googles corporate statements on policy are any indication, candidate Google would likely push for improved efficiency standards, mandated renewable-energy quotas, and massive investment in research. Google probably wouldnt be able to stop global warming, though (even the companys green energy czar, Bill Weihl, thinks it will be difficult to convince China and India to stop using coal). But until solutions arrive, Google might work through the international system to mop up the damage. Google and the United Nations Environment Programme already collaborate on a complex environmental mapping system, and Googles own philanthropic ventures, such as reducing livestock emissions in Brazil, are beginning to help.

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Economy

Google has said little about broad economic policy. But company cofounder Larry Page (left) offered some clues in an April 2008 interview with Fortune. If you ask an economist whats driven economic growth, its been major advances in things that matteredthe mechanization of farming, mass manufacturing, things like that. The problem is, our society is not organized around doing that, he said.

Candidate Google might propose a few specific steps. Above all, fuel innovation. Googles own idea-based corporate model could serve as a template. Google has also recently lobbied to ensure that all parties agree to provide uncensored Internet access before signing on to free trade agreements with the United States. And taxes? Google looks like a fan of small government based on reports that it is considering building offshore data centers (fueled by waves, for you green consumers), in part to avoid paying taxes.

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Foreign Policy

Unlike certain candidates, Google can claim serious foreign-policy experience. From its earliest days, the company has had a global perspective. Its software operates in more than 100 languages, including obscure dialects such as Welsh and fantasy languages like Klingon. With gigantic markets awakening in China, India, and beyond, Google has leapt at the opportunity to collaborate with allies to build economic ties. Google has likewise shown resolve to cooperate with foreign allies to keep business buzzing. Recently, companies in Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore collaborated with Google to finance a trans-Pacific fiber-optic cable, key infrastructure required to boost digital exchange between the United States and Asia.

Like fellow entrepreneur Bill Gates, Larry Page wants his work to make the world a better placeand he views bridging the digital divide between rich and poor as one giant step. Just this month, Google backed a project to bring Internet access to 3 billion consumers in Africa and the developing world. Google knows that in corners of the world where repression is rife, information can be a potent form of soft power. As its philanthropic branch, Google.org, puts it, The transparency that comes with more public information increases checks and balances between citizens and communities, and policymakers.

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Domestic Policy

Voters looking for insights on what social policy would be like under a Google presidency might look to the companys work environment. In 2008, Google took top honors in Fortunes list of the best companies to work for, a survey measuring salary, benefits, and company environment. Googles health programs are telling examples. The companys offices boast exercise facilities, a doctor, and free meals. Beyond its own employees, Google.orgs Predict and Prevent initiative would use global monitoring to find and track new diseases long before they make headlines. Google might also accelerate a move to maintain health records online using its own new tools. Proponents argue that doing so would cut costs by eliminating needless repetition of procedures. As patients move from place to place, their records could easily travel with them.

In the classroom, Google would push for more technology and resources. Googles online tutorials are one such tool, providing teachers with ready-made lesson plans. The company also offers tuition reimbursement for its own employees, keeping them competitive in a fast-changing market.

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Security and Privacy

As the guardian of billions of bits of personal information, online privacy is priority No. 1 for Google. In March, then Vice President of Engineering Douglas Merrill wrote, [W]e are thinking about security before [a new] product is even created. Perhaps Google would argue that changing times and evolving threats are no match for a security strategy that is adapting even faster. Critics worry about Big Brother Google guarding data more than privacy; until a recent reversal under pressure, the company collected and stored search data for 18 months. Still, Google might remind critics that after a long court battle, it won the right, in March 2006, not to hand over much of the data requested by a Department of Justice investigation.

But Googles privacy wars dont end there. In 2006, Google opened a Web site, Google.cn, that bowed to Beijings censorship rulesthe so-called great firewall of China. In its defense, Google would argue that a little information is better than none, but criticsincluding Amnesty International and Human Rights Watchsay Google has helped suppress freedom of expression. For now, Google.cn is going strong.

On a wider stage, Google seems eager to help the United States fight terrorism. Just this month, Google heeded Sen. Joseph Liebermans request to purge YouTube videos posted by terrorist organizations, including training tapes, bomb instructions, and calls to incite violence. Not a bad start for a company whose motto is Dont Be Evil.

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