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Re: Microsoft vs. Justice Department

  Tibor --
      While I sincerely respect your views about government hand-holding
  (up to a point -- I do think we've sometimes become dependent on our
  government to the point of doing violence to our nature, but your
  appraisal of the DOJ as handholding and the consumer as babies was a
  very extreme position to take), I disagree with you on the actions
  against Microsoft.  It seems you (and others "in your camp") keep
  forgetting two things here:  1) PC's, for most consumers, are unlike
  other consumer goods, because of what can only be called a fear factor.
  PC's are not like stereo systems, Tibor.  And software is not like
  stereo components.  The fact is that many, many  people are truly afraid
  of  "screwing up" their computer (translate - making them unusable) --
  and therefore they avoid (or enter with a lot of trepidation) even
  loading new software onto their computer.  I know this maybe sounds
  strange to computer professionals, but it's a fact, at least in my
  geographic location. (western Michigan).  As others have said, if IE is
  on the desktop, many, many people will use that automatically, and never
  even consider Netscape's offering simply out of fear of installing new
  software on their PC.   No one's touched on this issue here, but I think
  it's relevant, and this is why I side with the DOJ on this issue; 2)
  You seem to be forgetting that the real issue here is that Windows and
  IE will NOT in fact be separate products for long, and that THAT fact is
  what is really driving all of the anti-Microsoft sentiment, which has
  translated to lawsuits, etc.  With Win98, the browser will be a core
  part of the OS.   (In fact, if you've loaded IE4.0 under Windows95,
  you'll notice that it changes your start bar, etc., etc.-- i.e., it's
  very tight with the OS already).  Users truly will NOT have a choice,
  because everytime they even do something as simple as exploring a
  directory of their files in Windows, they'll be using IE.  Do you really
  think Netscape has a fair chance at presenting its product under these
  conditions??  I have no problem with MS creating its own browser, even
  marketing it to high heaven.  Giving it away for free pushed the limits
  of my ethic sensibilities.  Integrating it with the OS in the manner
  they've done is wrong and anticompetitive.   I believe the integration
  of the OS and the browser is the wave of the future.  But Microsoft's
  outdone itself this time in its underhanded tactics at making that
  future a reality.
      What we're seeing now is in fact an upsurgence against MS by
  companies who have been afraid to speak up for quite some time (afraid
  because of MS retaliation -- an issue Nader addresses in his letter to
  Bill Gates, which you don't).   These companies are being spurred on by
  the success of Java as well as each other's courage (witness -- Compaq
  suing Microsoft, then Gateway, etc.) Nader's involvement is, I believe,
  going to be as effective as any of the DOJ or Sun actions, because it
  will, for the first time, present the idea to the American public that
  Gates is not quite as harmless and cordial as he likes to portray.
  Furthermore, what is really happening here is Gates is being forced to
  admit that he does not in fact have the only valid vision for computing
  for the next 20 years or so.  Maybe, if you haven't already, you should
  read Nader's letter to Bill Gates inviting him to this conference -- he
  describes his initial suspicions that complaints against MS were exactly
  what you're saying, envy of a successful company.  Then he goes on to
  describe why he really decided to go ahead with the conference.  It's
  available at http://www.essential.org.
      Your letter, ironically, I believe to be somewhat naive, exactly
  opposite of how you wanted it to come across (an astute, conservative,
  wise approach to the core economic issues) .  I don't believe your
  assertion that the Justice Dept goes after any firm that is very
  successful is at all what's happening here.  Doesn't the fact that
  Compaq, Gateway, Sun, and numerous private individuals are also suing
  Microsoft (as well as Nader's positioning) cause you to rethink your
  Tibor Machan wrote:
  > [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.