Orrin Hatch is going after the Microsoft monopoly.
Mike Leavitt is going after Internet taxes.Bob Bennett is going after the Millennium virus.
These initiatives have put these three top Utah politicians in high-profile national leadership positions on major technology issues.
Leavitt has long been a technology junkie, so it was natural for him to represent the nation's governors on the Internet taxation issue. But who would have thought that Sens. Hatch and Bennett would also emerge as leaders on very significant high-tech subjects?
Both demonstrate rather surprising understanding of not just the policy issues pertinent to these matters but also the related technological nuances.
It's actually rather reassuring to have three top Utah leaders who have more than a passing understanding and interest in what's happening in the high-tech world.
That's because the fast-paced, free-wheeling, unfettered high-tech industry is now beginning to collide head-on with the plodding and deliberative machinations of government. The result isn't pleasant to watch, but it is inevitable.
The high-tech sector has literally exploded in growth and importance, impelling dramatic change in every part of society. But it has done so with very little oversight from government. Government has kept its mitts out, thankfully.
But now government is playing catch-up, and some regulation and oversight are inevitable. For example, the software and Internet businesses cannot jump into financial services and telecommunications, two heavily regulated industries, without expecting to get into a few regulatory mud-wrestling matches.
The trick is going to be striking that careful balance to provide modest and proper oversight without killing the goose that lays the golden egg. The best idea, of course, would be to not impose regulations on the new players in these industries, but instead deregulate the old. That's easier said than done, however, as evidenced by attempts at telecommunications deregulation.
At any rate, it's good to have three politicians from Utah who have a reasonably good understanding of these issues as they increase in importance.
Hatch convened historic hearings on the Microsoft monopoly before his Senate Judiciary Committee. One news report said the hearing drew more cameras than any other event in Senate history. Hatch grilled the richest and most powerful business person in the world - Bill Gates - and apparently handled himself very well.
Hatch demonstrated surprising knowledge of the software industry and such specifics as operating systems, browsers, bundling, and so forth.
CNET, the Internet's largest technology news service, was impressed enough with Hatch to do a lengthy interview with him that was mostly complimentary. The Wall Street Journal also devoted extensive coverage to the hearing and its implications.
Leavitt's Internet taxation cause hasn't been quite so high-profile. But with billions of dollars and tax fairness at stake, it's just as important. He has worked incredibly hard over several months to forge agreement among governors, local politicians, U.S. House and Senate leaders and the high-tech industry on how goods sold over the Internet should be taxed.
It was a very risky initiative for Leavitt to champion because he was in peril of making enemies of high-tech leaders, the very people he has been wooing to support his online university. He risked being labeled an anti-Internet Luddite.
But he managed to keep all sides happy and even won a states' rights victory because the proposal was developed among state leaders and depends on states taking voluntary action rather than having the federal government force them into compliance.
Bennett has been a leading national voice encouraging businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations to deal with the year 2000 problem, which could cause computer chaos at the turn of the century. Computer programmers for many years used two digits to represent a year in a date field instead of four. That means computers might interpret 2000 as 1900, wreaking all sorts of havoc.
Bennett has proposed legislation, held numerous conferences and given dozens of speeches and media interviews about the problem, even warning of a worldwide recession if enterprises don't take action now.
Bennett deserves praise for his constant focus on the matter. Many organizations have been in denial about the problem, and it has been helpful for a U.S. senator to have taken up the cause.
As advanced technology moves society further into an entirely new era, we desperately need leaders who understand what is happening and who can act wisely, carefully and intelligently. Technology always surges ahead of "sociology," or the societal infrastructure of governance, regulation and oversight designed to protect consumers and provide a level playing field.
With Hatch, Leavitt and Bennett, Utah appears to have three leaders who understand technology and the very limited role government should play in this realm.