RE: what if microsoft disobeyed the breakup?

From: mjg223 (
Date: Fri Jun 09 2000 - 16:03:23 MDT

>>> A market can operate only in the absence of force. It works only because all
>>> 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, the
>>> system then evolves to satisfy the desires of those who have access to
>>> force 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.

If I'm Microsoft, I can tell Dell to ship a copy of Office with every PC
or I'll decline to license them my OS and put them out of business. If I'm
IBM and I don't like something your startup is doing, I can do a search on
my patent database, find a couple of dozen you could plausibly be
violating, and - right or wrong - bankrupt you in court. Putting aside the
issue of whether Windows is any good or whether Microsoft or IBM or
whoever actually does or did things like that, should they be allowed to?
Why would we want to let them? (Focusing for the moment on the last clause
of: 'We didn't do it, and even if we had it would have been good for the
economy, and even if it weren't good for the economy - screw you - we can
do it anyway because it's not a crime, and even if it is a crime, which it
isn't, it shouldn't be.')

> 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.

In the long run, as they say, we're all dead. Just because a monopoly
can't last forever doesn't mean it can't do a lot of damage in the
mean time.

But I feel like we're going round in circles... Haven't we had this
conversation before? I don't disagree that government intervention
should be minimal, but we differ as to what 'minimal' means. I'm sick
though of this 'Janet Reno designing software' rhetoric, and the 'free
markets solve every problem' nonsense - all this absolutist,
hyperbolic bullshit. Gates isn't evil, he's just an asshole, and
Windows wouldn't have succeeded if it didn't have some merit. But
they're not very nice people, and, having often watched them trample
people smaller than themselves, I can't really muster much sympathy
when they're abused by someone bigger yet. Live by the sword, die by
the sword. I am not greatly moved by MSFT's uncomfortable discovery
that the world is an unfair place or that it too can be the victim of
dirty tactics. Nor will I shed a tear for the property rights of the
richest man in history.


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