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Antimonopoly is Anti-Capitalist?
I was struck by the characterization below of antitrust as
"anti-capitalist"--but was confident that numerous members would promptly
correct that inaccuracy. A poster refers to antitrust as "draconian govt.
enforced anti-capitalist measures, like the socialist 'anti dog-eat-dog'
bill supported by competitors to a trans-continental railroad in Ayn Rand's
Antimonopoly policy is "anti-capitalist?" For that to be true, such
a national policy would have to be hostile to capitalism in its motivation,
effects, or both. Precisely the opposite is the case. The original U.S.
antitrust law, for example--the Sherman Act of 1890--was passed by a
Republican Congress at the urging of a Republican senator. "Sir, now the
people of the United States, as well as of other countries," Senator Sherman
told his fellow conservatives, "are feeling the power and grasp of these
combinations, and are demanding of every legislature and of Congress a
remedy of this evil.... You must heed their appeal or be ready for the
SOCIALIST, the communist, and the nihilist. Society is now disturbed by
forces never felt before." The intent of the lawmakers, in other words, was
plainly not to harm capitalism but to preserve it; the enemy of antitrust
was collectivism in its various forms.
And that has just as clearly been its effect: Among the world's 200
countries-- as I've emphasized before--those with high per-capita incomes
have the most robust competition, the poorest the most monopoly. Adam
Smith, the first modern economist, spoke often of the "wretched spirit of
monopoly"--its "mean rapacity, [its] monopolizing spirit"--as an enemy of
healthy capitalism rather than a necessary part of it. Smith, capitalism's
original icon, an "anti-capitalist?" Capitalism has no greater friend than
antitrust. Kill the latter and, in a democratic society, you've killed the
former. Collectivists everywhere are quite clear about this.
In political terms, monopoly is routinely applauded by both the
left- and right- wings of the spectrum. When the U.S. Congress holds
hearings on antitrust, those who oppose it are routinely led by, e.g., John
Kenneth Galbraith on the left, who argues that all significant U.S.
industries should be monopolized--and PUBLICLY owned. (See his 'Economics
and the Public Purpose.') On the right, Milton Friedman and his followers
affirm that, yes, all important American industries should be under the
thumb of a single monopolist--a very PRIVATE capitalist, subject to no
public regulation or other government meddling in its affairs.
Antimonopoly policy? No political or intellectual constituency.
Advocates of the left think monopoly is great because it supports their case
for public ownership (a la Galbraith) by portraying capitalism and
monopoly--systematic larceny--as synonymous. If a country must accept
nationwide monopoly as the inevitatable price of a free-market economy, then
socialism has a chance to win popular support. Antitrust is (correctly) seen
by Galbraith et al, then, as an enemy precisely because it's the ingredient
that makes capitalism socially attractive, which is to say, makes it
competitive--and thus FAIR, efficient, and innovative.
Socialist (collectivist) opposition to antimonopoly policy rests, in
other words, on the realpolitik notion of embourgeoisment--the idea that, if
the peasants and proletariat are allowed to actually EXPERIENCE first-hand
the real-world benefits of free markets, they'll love owning their own land
and shops and will thus lose interest in the idea of being herded together
on collectives of various sorts, whether in the fields or the factories.
Intellectuals of the right, on the other hand, believe that monopoly is both
wonderful and the natural order of things--a splendid tool for continuously
concentrating income/wealth into the hands of the deserving few.
No nation, to my knowledge, has and implements an effective
antimonopoly policy. Capitalism won the war against socialism--a sure-fire
prescription for poverty in every country that has been beguiled into trying
it--but has yet to learn how to deal with (as I've said before) nerdy twits
like Bill Gates and their platoons of over-paid monopoly lawyers. Monopoly
on the left, monopoly on the right. Real prosperity is capitalism without
monopoly--the latter born of, as Adam Smith reminded us, a "mean rapacity"
and a "wretched spirit." Any honest government could purge that
institutionalized, organized theft from its borders in a trice.
Charles Mueller, Editor
ANTITRUST LAW & ECONOMICS REVIEW
At 09:16 PM 11/18/97 -0500, you wrote:
>>Paul Ferzoco (by way of John N Bryan) wrote:
>>> It's their overwhelming plan to FORCE us to use their products that
>>> piss's me off. Those of us who've been in the industry for 30+ years are
>>Hmmm, could someone elaborate on the use of 'force' by MS to use their
>"FORCE" may have been too strong, too broad a word. However, if the
>only choice available is the same company that caused there to be only
>one choice, then perhaps there is an indirect forcing.
>>I still think there is time for public market forces to foster a
>>groundswell of support for
>>a competitive product without having to resort to draconian govt. enforced
>>measures, like the socialist 'anti dog-eat-dog' bill supported by
>>competitors to a trans-
>>continental railroad in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged".
>If there are allowed to be competitive products. If the environment
>is such that competitive companies and products are, through no fault
>of their own, prevented from being made available to the consumer to
>choose, then essentially there are no competitive products. It does
>me no good for there to be a competitive product if I never have
>the opportunity to choose it. Generally speaking.
>I trust you are not implying that the DOJ, by their recent actions
>with respect to Microsoft's licensing practices as they relate to
>the 1994/5 consent decree, are taking draconian measures. To examine
>things of this nature is hardly unreasonably harsh, and would seem
>to be part of the normal part of their role. In as much as their
>actions are defined by law, etc., I don't think they are draconian.
>So far as "enforced anti-capitalist measures" are concerned, yes,
>they are in effect anti-capitalist. Like other dynamic forces,
>capitalism can be directed and at times curbed to prevent it
>going out of control. I don't think the DOJ has reacted none too
>capriciously in this case. Quite the contrary, I think they have
>by in large been too conservative where Microsoft's business
>practices are concerned. I am reminded of a nuclear power plant.
>You have a sustained nuclear fission reaction going, a very poerful
>force, and it is kept from going out of control by certain systems,
>(coolant, control rods, etc.). Without the existence of some
>admittedly anti-capitalist bounds, it might be possible to have
>a capitalistic Chernobyl on our hands. The damage from such
>an end is far worse than the "damage" to business, the economy,
>and Capitalism caused by the the anti-capitalist measures.
>"You are not free because you CAN choose, only if you DO choose."
>"Everything you are is the decisions you make. If you allow circumstances
>to make them for you, then what you are becomes very easy to estimate."