RE: what if microsoft disobeyed the breakup?

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Sat Jun 10 2000 - 12:51:49 MDT

mjg223 wrote:
> 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.

That isn't force. Besides, it is a power that absolutely must exist if we
are to have anything even resembling a free market. If a business can't
decide the terms under which it will sell its product, you've pretty much
gutted competition. The result will be an anemic, dysfunctional market that
invites even more intervention.

> 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.

Here you have a valid point, but the problem isn't with the market. Rather,
it is the fact that the U.S. civil justice system is badly broken. The
solution is to fix the justice system (with a looser-pays rule, penalties
for filing frivolous lawsuits, or other such measures).

> 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.

My point is that the traditional approach to 'solving' these problems
actually makes them worse, because it short-circuits the mechanisms that
would normally act to erode monopoly power. I don't object (in principle) to
the idea of fixing problems where they occur, but I want the solution to
actually be an improvement over leaving things alone.

> 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.

The true test of any system of rights is whether it protects the people that
no one likes. If Microsoft can be subjected to arbitrary, senseless (and
expensive) penalties just because it is unpopular, then so can anyone else
the public doesn't like. Since I qualify as a member of at least a
half-dozen unpopular groups, I find that a rather ominous trend.

Billy Brown

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