RE: POL: Reaction to Microsoft Ruling

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 21:45:50 MDT

Matt Gingell wrote:
> I think this analogy fails because GM doesn't have the same power in the
> auto market that Microsoft has in the software market. If they did, then
> I'd probably support some kind of restriction.
> Property doesn't exist without government stormtroopers. They're
> already there - the issue is what we do with them. We invent
> ownership rights because they're so useful. If it becomes useful to
> impose restrictions on the rights ownership confers, we have every
> right to do so. It's a meme, not a divine right.

And here we have the phenomenon that bothers me most about the Microsoft
case. The theories behind current antitrust law are about as thoroughly
discredited as anything in economics ever gets. Natural monopolies may or
may not actually be possible, but they are definitely far less common than
most people seem to think. In the MS case the government doesn't even have
that excuse - they're reduced to saying "Microsoft is really big, and it
plays hardball, so that must mean it has some kind of unfair advantage
somehow, and we should stop them".

The problem is that the government's arguments for Microsoft's supposed
unfair advantage are an incoherent jumble of discredited theories and naive
nonsense. Microsoft is in the same position as any major company in a
competitive field - they look really intimidating until they screw up, and
then they fall on their faces just as fast as the little guys.

Microsoft got where it is by giving its customers what they wanted. The
instant they cease to do so, someone else will step forward and take away
their market. The actions the government is accusing Microsoft of taking
are all perfectly normal business practices, which would not merit a raised
eyebrow in any rational legal system. The whole case is simply a matter of
companies that don't want to bother competing in the market crying for the
government to stamp out competition for them.

Billy Brown

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