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Microsoft vs. Justice Department
[From The CHicago Tribune, etc.]
Microsoft and Nanny Reno
Tibor R. Machan
Here we go again! About twenty five years ago it was IBM, now
it's Microsoft! The Justice Department just needs to have its bogeyman!
Any firm that is very successful in making itself appealing to
millions of customers stands a good chance of getting nailed. Some
aluminum giant the name of which I now forget (was it Anaconda?) had been
the victim of such harassment several decades back. Now it is Bill Gate's
highly effective company.
Never mind that there is nothing to worry about with Microsoft, as
there was nothing to worry about other companies that played by the rules
of the free market. If a firm does not steal from or defraud others, if
it pays the wage it agreed to pay, if it practices no industrial
espionage, government has no business interfering with its operations.
And the charge against Microsoft is not that it does any of these
things but that it has sold us an option we might be tempted to use to its
advantage (and, of course, to ours as well). What is this?
Well, Microsoft's very popular Windows program, Windows 95, comes
with the option of making an easy connection to the Internet, of course,
for a price. I have it right here, on my personal computer and, as
millions of others, I have never used it. Instead, I use another browser
and have never chosen the Microsoft option.
The same happens when I buy other conveniences for myself I can
purchase accessories for my stereo tuner speakers, tape and CD players,
turn tables, all in one big bulk, made by one company. Or I can buy a
bunch of different units and connect them myself which is just how my
sound system is set up in my home. I can go to Sears & Roebuck and buy
not just pants but shirts, jackets, shoes, socks and the whole clothing
ensemble, or I can confine myself to buying some of the stuff there, then
go to Robinsons, Maceys or Walmart for other things.
What the US Justice Department is doing by hassling Microsoft is
not just attacking big for being big which is, curiously, done only in
the USA, nowhere else but also demeaning the millions of customers who go
shopping every day by implying that they need their hands held to do the
best for themselves in the market place.
This, of course, is not new. It fits well with the increasingly
paternalistic way the US federal and state governments have been looking
at us for decades. Just consider Food and Drug Administration, Federal
Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Occupational Health
and Safety Administration and the hundreds of other agencies of the state,
all of which pretend to help us but are wholly unaccountable for their
deeds notice the Federal Aviation Administration does not get sued when a
plane crashes, even though it is responsible to supervise safety in the
skies. What they are telling us over and over again is that we are too
inept as free men and women to care for ourselves, we need Big Daddy to
watch over us, whether or not we want it.
Do you think if the Justice Department's Antitrust Division
undermines Microsoft's operations -- raises its cost of doing business,
leads to increases in it prices, and even stifles budding firms by scaring
them away from innovating marketing practices Janet Reno will be sued and
made to make up these losses? No, because Janet Reno is part of the team
of state agents who have convinced themselves that they are our pretend
moms and dads with even greater powers than the originals.
Much of what is wrong with our country is that people are not
treated as adults, thus they become dependent upon government to look out
for them. That is at least one of the main things wrong with the welfare
state: it fancies itself as surrogate parents of the citizenry, thus
encouraging everyone to remain dependent only not while a child but in
their adulthood. This is not less unwise than treating children as if
they were adults both approaches do violence to our nature.
But here is how it is done to make it all look palatable: Play to
people's adolescent fears about dealing with Big Businesses like
Microsoft, offer them what appears to be a friendly helping hand, the
psychological drug of dependence on the state.
Never mind that this is more like the "protection" of organized
crime than help from a friend, which is usually temporary and comes only
in emergencies. No, make government a permanent nanny and that will make
the bureaucrats feel saintly as well as indispensable. We, in turns, will
indeed tend to become the helpless creatures Janet Reno already assumes we
are when she claims that we are unable to say either "yes" or "No" to a
measly little icon on our Windows 95 desktop and do what we think is best.