One analyst's impassioned argument against breaking up Google

  • CBS's "60 Minutes" ran a segment Sunday night on Google's unparalleled power in search.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the Justice Department needs to seriously look at the issue of tech monopolies.
  • But Google itself is afraid of competition — from giants like Amazon or from smaller start-ups, James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute said.

One analyst says "there's zero empirical evidence" that Google acts as a monopoly and does real harm, even though "60 Minutes" put the search engine back in the antitrust crosshairs.

"We need to be extraordinarily careful before we think about heavily regulating them — breaking them up," James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute told CNBC's "Closing Bell" Monday. "There needs to be an actual theory of harm. We're not going to go after the companies just because they're very successful or they're very big."

CBS's "60 Minutes" ran a segment Sunday night on Google's unparalleled power in search, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the Justice Department needs to seriously look at the issue of tech monopolies.

But Google itself is afraid of competition — from giants like Amazon or from smaller start-ups, Pethokoukis said. As a result, the search giant spends "tens and hundreds of billions of dollars a year on R&D," he said.

"That is not the behavior of some dominant forever monopoly who is squelching innovation," Pethokoukis said. "All I hear is an anecdote here and anecdote there. I don't actually hear an actual portfolio of evidence that would lead me to believe that there's an actual problem here."

Critics have long argued that Google squelches innovation by demoting competitors in Google's algorithmic search results. And of course, Google's ad-supported business model has come under pressure in recent months amid growing concerns about user privacy.

Google says it does not make changes to its algorithm to disadvantage competitors and that its "responsibility is to deliver the best results possible to our users, not specific placements for sites within our results. We understand that those sites whose ranking falls will be unhappy and may complain publicly."

The antitrust case isn't borne out, according to Pethokoukis.

"The activists have been unable to prove that [Google is bad for consumers], so they're trying to create different theories — it's squelching innovation, for which there's no empirical data; that it's bad for democracy; that it's bad for [equality]; that they're hijacking our brain stems because they're addictive," Pethokoukis said. "If there's no theory of harm, maybe we need to hit the pause button here."