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Undoing Monopoly by E-Mail
Let me offer a 2d modest proposal. The first was a question: Does
computer technology now permit the combining of the E-mail addresses of our
100 U.S. senators (and our 435 congressmen, and our 1,000 federal judges)
into a 'mailing list' format such that any U.S. citizen (or anyone around
the world) could send a 'post' to the full 'list' with a single 'send'
command? And, of course, are those E-mail addresses available? The answer
to both questions, as I understand it, is 'yes.'
That answer tells us that every citizen now has a potent new tool
for exercising his rights of citizenship in a democratic society--an
EFFICIENT means of actually communicating his views to those who wield power
in his name. Half of us don't even bother to vote every 4th year.
Certainly less than 1% of us write a letter to our senator or congressman in
a given year. Scribble out a message. Address an envelope. Pay for a
stamp. Take the letter to a post office. Wait weeks for a reply. Puzzle
over the form letter that comes back. After all this trouble, just 1 of 535
lawmakers have been reached, hardly the beginning of a change in public
policy. Only those who're seeking help in getting an indigent brother-in-law
on the federal payroll have a sufficient incentive to go through an exercise
of this sort.
Now, though, we're presented with a wholly new technology. The
citizen who can write to 100 senators with the stroke of a computer key--and
to 435 members of the House with another click--will be another kind of
person. He will have real power--and will know that he has it. He'll have
the means to spell out his policy concerns. He can join discussion groups
that share them. He can work out the details, the political strategies, the
tactics with those he trusts. Then he can write to the powers that
be--easily, quickly, en masse--and most importantly, at zero cost. Write
individually, write collectively. Both can be powerful tools.
What would be an effective way for the members of this group to let
the U.S. senate, for example, know what they think about the Microsoft
monopoly? I'd like to see both a 'group' letter and a lot of individual
ones. I view them as essentially complementary: The former (drafted,
perhaps, by group leaders) could outline in considerable detail the history
of the problem with Microsoft and its economic and other effects on the
public and on particular segments of the industry--while the individual
authors expand on areas of special interest to them. Both, in my view, can
powerfully influence Congress.
How would you go at writing your individual lettter? Here's my
suggestion. Go back and PULL TOGETHER ALL OF YOUR POSTS ON MICROSOFT. Line
them up, from first to last, chronologically, in a single new-post format.
Then edit. Take out any duplications. Divide into paragraphs of, say, 10
lines on your screen. Check spelling, grammar, etc. Re-read from start to
finish. Add any points you think need more development. The finished
product--a tightened-up version of all your posts to this group, plus your
latest thoughts--will be a full and accurate reflection of your views on the
Microsoft problem. (You might also want to send a copy to Janet Reno.)
After all 270 of us have given the 535 members of Congress our
individual experiences and thoughts on the Microsoft monopoly (and its costs
to the country), will they know everything we know about it--and everything
they need to know to cure it? If not, it'll be our fault. We have the
means. We just didn't do our jobs as citizens.
Charles Mueller, Editor
ANTITRUST LAW & ECONOMICS REVIEW