RE: what if microsoft disobeyed the breakup?

From: Matt Gingell (
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 17:59:04 MDT

Billy Brown wrote:

> A dictatorship implies an organization capable of resorting to violence to
> enforce its will. Corproations do not have this ability. There are no IBM
> secret police arresting their rival's customers, no Microsoft assassins
> eliminating key enemy personnel, and no armies of Dell and Compaq
> infantrymen clashing to secure the buying public's dollars.

The only reason corporations can't use violence is because there's
someone bigger and nastier who won't let them. Under anarcho
capitalism there would be no such constraint, in which case they're
free to detonate and maim to whatever extent the benefits outweigh the
PR costs. Would people boycott a company that assassinated it's rivals?
Maybe, but the same people keep reelecting politicians who advocate
similar solutions to perceived domestic and foreign problems.

> The only thing companies can do now that they couldn't do in a pure
> anarcho-capitalist society is bribe politicians to pass laws - and lobbying
> for protectionist legislation is one of the few things I haven't heard
> Microsoft accused of.
> > Since companies buy and sell the stuff, it seems only natural to me that
> > anarcho-capitalism will not work too well in that environment.
> The PC market is one of the least regulated markets in existence. It should
> therefore be expected to work better than most other markets, and any
> failures it does exhibit should be a result of government intervention.

You're drawing a false dichotomy here - either markets are perfect, in
which case they should never be regulated, or regulation is superior
and everything should be decided from the top down. Why can't the
optimum be a mix of the two? I think there are instances where
regulation can improve the functioning of a market. It does not
logically follow that I think government ought to be deciding how many
bars of soap get manufactured.

> So, what do you do when a company you consider to be inferior comes to
> dominate the market? Accusing them of evil anti-competitive practices misses
> the point - companies would do the same kinds of things in a stateless
> society, and in that case there would be no one to stop them. No, there are
> really only two viable explanations: either free markets don't actually work
> very well, or your personal evaluation of which companies ought to do well
> is somehow flawed.

Free markets work, in general, very well indeed - that doesn't mean
there aren't situations when they don't. Who 'ought to do well' is a
function of what you're trying to optimize.

> Now, the interesting thing here is that our standard arguments for why
> central control is bad predict that the second explanation will usually be
> correct. In general, I can't reliably tell which product is best for you,
> you can't predict which one is best for me, and neither of us can speak for
> Tom, Dick or Harry. It should therefore not be surprising if the dominant
> product in an industry isn't the one you like - all that means is that most
> of the market has different needs than yours.

Then government is optimal. Model the historical evolution of top-down
control as a bottom-up market process and the aggregate result of billions of
locally rational, self-interested decisions. If you don't think the best
political/economic system won the market, you're just another mistaken expert
trying to out-guess the emergent result.


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