RE: what if microsoft disobeyed the breakup?

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Fri Jun 09 2000 - 09:37:40 MDT

Matt Gingell wrote:
> >A market can operate only in the absence of force. It works only because
> >of the decisions made by the participants are voluntary, and each
> >participant makes local trade-offs in the way that best suits his own
> >desires. The moment you introduce actors that have the ability to compel
> >others to do things at gunpoint, this is no longer the case. Instead of
> >evolving in the direction of satisfying the desires of all participants,
> >system then evolves to satisfy the desires of those who have access to
> >at the expense of those who do not.
> This is the argument for antitrust legislation, and I absolutely
> agree with you.

Then you're reading something I didn't write. Force means actual, naked,
shoot-you-right-now-if-you-don't-obey violence. Corporations can't do that
(at least, not in any country that has even a passable semblance of a free
market). A company can cajole, bribe, and try to outsmart you, but
ultimately all of its power is based on voluntary transactions. No matter
how hard it tries, no matter how unsavory its tactics become, there is
nothing a company can do that will make it immune to the discipline of the
market. Therefore, there is no need for anti-trust intervention in a
well-developed market - in the long run even the most powerful company can
survive only by serving its customers.

Now, there are situations where the "well-developed market" criterion is not
met. If you had some remote community with only one supplier for food, or
water, or some other commodity that was necessary for survival, there might
be a need to prevent them from abusing their power. However (and this a the
point anti-trust regulators miss) such situations are inherently temporary -
the mere existence of such a monopolist creates a financial opportunity that
draws competitors, until eventually the monopoly ceases to exist. Laws to
prevent monopolists from overcharging, or to break them up, are actually
counterproductive because they subvert this process. All you really want to
do is make sure no one starves before a competitor comes along.

Billy Brown

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