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Microsoft and the Return of the Witch Trial
A Brief Response to the 11-05-99 "Antitrust" Verdict




There is a power-hungry monolith on the loose in America. It's not the Microsoft Corporation nor any of the other recent targets of "Antitrust" investigations - it is the fascist mentality animating current White House policy on American business.
Bill Gates is certainly no John Galt - although he has made a few admirable stands in his own defense, none have been made on explicitly principled grounds. But his entrepreneurial genius is undeniable, and the wealth he has created is in fact his property. Gates and his creation, Microsoft, have for over a decade been harassed, defamed, fined exhorbitantly, and now found "guilty" - of the heinous crime of succeeding in the American Dream. What is likely to follow, assuming the decision is not overturned on appeal, is a forced "breakup" and further looting of Gates' company.

Fascism is a system in which the facade of "free enterprise" is maintained for the edification of all observers, while every facet of economic activity is in fact dictated by government rulers from behind the scenes and enforced by the muzzle of a gun. If this last sounds like hyperbole, ask yourself what would happen if Gates or his managers consistently refused to comply with the edicts coming down from Clinton's "Justice" Department: To paraphrase economist George Reisman, armed policemen would eventually show up at their door(s), and take them - under the gun - to courtrooms where they would appear before judges who would have the power to put them in prison. Such is the ultimate nature of "Antitrust" Law and of misapplied government coercion as a whole.

Such is the ethical state of the Clinton Administration.

Politically, "Antitrust" is a fascist manifestation. Historically, it's reminiscent of the actions of Medievalists. Antitrust law is the new Inquisition, and "Monopoly!" the modern-day version of the accusation "Witch!" or "Heretic!" - an accusation whose very utterance is taken as proof of guilt.
This is the same mentality that convicted and imprisoned Galileo for the "heresy" of his scientific achievements, that scoffed at Columbus' vision, that silenced countless others - because such innovations broke new technological ground, challenged the comfortable uniformity of "conventional wisdom," and opened new doors to an unpredictable future.
The new Medievalist - the ultimate conservative - craves stasis. Anything which represents a significant technological departure from the past, any world-altering scientific/technological advance, of necessity becomes the target for control at all costs and by any means, including brute force. In her groundbreaking book "The Future and Its Enemies," Virginia Postrel identifies this phenomenon as an ideological merger of reactionaries and technocrats. The uncomprehending politicians who quiver in superstitious fear of an open future and dare not anger their god (in this case the secularized yet equally nebulous deity of "society" or "the common good,") respond in one uniform, reflexive twitch: "Whatever the hell it is, throw it in irons before it gets beyond our control!"

The dislikes random 'techies' harbor about myriad esoteric aspects of Microsoft products - which constitute much of the debate on the subject - are irrelevant.
Allegations relating to the "power" wielded by American industrialists are equally vacant appeals to fear and envy. A given business has no "power" that is not given - and just as easily taken away - by those who choose to buy its product over that of a competitor. As stated by Robert S. Getman in his article "Antitrust Laws Are Anti-American":

"...'monopoly' itself is a legal term without precise definition. It is the rubbery notion of a company gaining 'too much' of a market share. But what is 'too much'? Since no producer puts a gun to buyers' heads, 'too much' market share means 'too many' willing buyers."

A government, by contrast, is by definition a wielder of force - a body established to remove coercion from society through the exercise of retaliatory force (or the threat thereof,) under the strict constraints of law. A law that is endlessly malleable to any random whim of any random bureaucrat, is the insignia of dictatorship - a state in which people cannot be certain of whether a given act is acceptable or unacceptable to the government before the fact, a state in which rights are uprooted from their grounding in man's metaphysical nature. In such a context government officials are free to do anything they please, to a populace which can do nothing other than attempt to appease the state - either successfully or, as is apparently the case with Microsoft, unsuccessfully.

This is fundamentally an issue of bad ethics fueling the politics of Big-Brother Statism - a low-octane muck composed in equal parts of altruist ethics and an ethical void, among government officials and Microsoft's competitors at whose behest the government targeted Microsoft in the first place.
Every person on Earth, regardless of whether or not the government under which he lives recognizes the fact, is entitled by his nature as a rational being to live for his own sake. We are not born with an unchosen obligation to serve others, nor to apologize for the wealth we create - regardless of its magnitude, nor to be "nice" to competitors in the context of the marketplace. For a government - any government - to impose laws on the ethical basis of altruism, represents some degree of slavery.

In his "Notes on the State of Virginia," Jefferson wrote:
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others."
I agree. Where there is free choice, there is no coercion. Where there is no coercion, there is no violation of rights. Where there is no violation of rights, there can be no ethical justification for coercive action by the government.
There is no ethical justification for initiating the use of force (as the Clinton Crew are doing,) to prevent two or more American citizens from engaging in mutual, voluntary trade for mutual benefit. It is such trade which comprises the core of economic freedom. Since political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom - i.e. the free choices of free individuals in the marketplace - the Clinton Administration's Antitrust Witch Hunt, (like its Carry-Nation-Exhumation in context of the Tobacco industry,) represents a violent assault on the political freedoms of each one of us.

"Antitrust" laws are unjustifiable logically, ethically, politically, even pragmatically. Ultimately they must be abolished if we are to retain our political freedom and its precondition, economic freedom.

What needs to be brought under control are not American producers like Gates - it's the "Robber-Barons" who currently populate our government institutions.



- Poor Richard
November 08, 1999



Essential reading:

Download US District Court Judge Jackson's Finding of Fact
- linked from the CMDC Media Center (requires PDF viewer.)

"Microsoft and Its Enemies: Which Is the Monopolist?"
by economist George Reisman

"The Harvard Antitrust Lecture"
by economist Richard M. Salsman

"Production vs. Force"
"Why Bill Gates Should Keep His Billions"
"The Railroading of Microsoft"
"The Real Enemies of Silicon Valley"
by Robert W. Tracinski

"Microsoft is Fighting the Wrong Battle"
by Edwin A. Locke

"How to Really Shackle the Producers: Some Free Advice to Janet Reno"
by Jay Allen

"Dynamism, Stasis, and Popular Culture"
a speech by Virginia Postrel before the Camden Technology Conference, October 23, 1999

Sign the Petition Against the Persecution of Microsoft
sponsored by the Committee for the Moral Defense of Microsoft



Copyright ©1999-2009 by Poor Richard
All Rights Reserved

Linked and/or referenced articles by other authors remain the sole property of those authors.
No endorsement by them of the content of this site is implied or intended.






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