P.O. Box 1892
Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics
University New Orleans
Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller 321
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
School of Business and Management
College in Maryland
Corporation in Collision with Antitrust Law
political message of the Microsoft case
professor at a university began his new job, he was told that Netscape
Navigator was being added to his computer. He immediately asked if
Microsoft's Internet Explorer was available. When the systems
administrator protested that the two programs were identical, the
professor clued him in on the reasons why many economists dislike
dominated-some would even say "monopolized"-the Internet
browser market through most of the 1990s. When it became apparent that
Microsoft was going to offer it some serious competition, Netscape
responded by intensifying its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.,
knowing that, despite its obvious market power, Microsoft had not yet
developed helpful contacts among the political class, preferring instead
to focus its resources on pleasing customers.
strategy underscores a trend that has grown with the increased scope of
government in public life, namely, that faced with market competition,
firms now have three options: First, they can go out of business.
Second, they can fight back by trying even harder to satisfy customer
needs and wants better than their rivals. And third, they can now cajole
their elected representatives to intervene in the market process by
contributing directly to them or to their pet causes, making it costly
or even impossible for meaningful competition to develop in the market
term that economists use for the third option is rent dissipation. It
describes what happens when capital is invested in the political class
rather than in productive efforts to satisfy customers. When this
happens, the wealth-creation process is hampered considerably. The
successful firms are those willing and able to "pay up" for
the implied assurance that politicians will not throw obstacles in the
way of the firms' attempt to participate in the market.
The costs of
rent dissipation are perhaps more evident to economists, and they
generally have admired Microsoft for refusing to play this game. Up to
1998, Microsoft had a meager lobbying presence in Washington, relative
to its competitors; indeed, the company's enormous success seemed to
highlight Washington's irrelevance to the market process.
It was only
when Microsoft decided to offer serious competition to Netscape that the
latter decided to cash in on some of its political investments in
Washington. Soon thereafter, the term "antitrust" began to be
bantered around in association with Microsoft. Four years later, on
November 5, 1999, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson made it official.
Microsoft was going to pay for not ponying up when it had the chance.
before this ruling was announced, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates
announced that, through his foundation, he was funneling $1 billion to
organizations that provided scholarships to black Americans. Two weeks
following the ruling, the government announced it would be going into
arbitration with Microsoft to determine exactly how its case should
proceed, if at all. It was announced that Judge Richard Posner, a
libertarian and Chicago School trained legal scholar, was to hear the
arbitration, much to the surprise of Microsoft's enemies.
be a connection between the two events? Is it possible that Gates is
trying to communicate, through his actions, to the political class that
he has finally learned about the need to be compliant, albeit somewhat
late in the day?
since the development of income tax withholding as an emergency measure
during World War II, American business, to varying but astounding
degrees, has been forced to do the bidding of the state. To the degree
this has been made possible, business has been nationalized. Firms
learned that to be successful there were two sets of customers that had
to be satisfied: the conventional ones who consumed their products, and
both had the power to make or break their businesses. Successful firms
today still must satisfy the consumer in order to remain in business,
but they also must please the political class as well. Failure to do
either can spell doom for the naive firm.
Microsoft caught the attention of so many free market economists was
that its success challenged this regime. This undoubtedly scared the
political class enough to force Microsoft to pay for ignoring it. At
first, it looked as if the state had finally picked a fight with an
adversary that had the capability to fight back, and millions of
taxpayer dollars were paid out in lawyers' hours in this effort.
initial victory in Judge Jackson's November 1999 ruling, the government
is implicitly sending a message to the entrepreneurial class: if it can
force Microsoft to play by its rules, then it can make any other firm
comply as well.
Bastiat wrote 150 years ago applies just as much today:
law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are
spared shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise
involve. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police,
prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the
victim when he defends himself as a criminal. In short, there is legal
plunder. (12, p. 20)
Microsoft to the market
do not fix or solve monopolies, they cause them (e.g., the United States
Postal Service). In a capitalistic society, markets determine the
prices, quantities and qualities of goods traded. Without any government
interference, there cannot be a monopoly because prices are based on
competition. That is, as long as new firm entry is legal, monopoly is
impossible (26). The number of suppliers is irrelevant because if there
is just one of them, that supplier has to keep its prices reasonable and
its goods or services superior to anyone who might enter the market to
serve the consumer better and reduce its share. There is no reason to
fear exploitation by single suppliers, unless the government protects
them (1). In a free market, today's dominant company could be tomorrow's
rubble (2). Anyone is free to enter the market at any time and compete
for a share. The consumer benefits all the way, because the threat of
competition to producers ensures low prices and high quality. Austrian
economists have long demonstrated that competition is a process, not a
moment frozen in time (2, 22). The government cannot set up competition,
because competition does not call for a certain number of competitors or
a government-defined market share; it simply requires open entry rules
for everyone(1). The government is not capable of intelligently
micro-managing business innovation, just as it would be a logical
impossibility for the free market to effectively restrain trade (3).
companies spend enormous amounts of money, time and effort to please the
consumer with excellent service and the most value for money. Companies
that do not offer as much or that offer inferior goods or services do
not grow and eventually self-implode. Microsoft, a company that has
increased the efficiency of nearly every person on the planet, is now a
government target because it is making a profit in the process of
serving its customers -- without rendering proper deference to its
political masters. Microsoft is one of the biggest and most successful
companies in the world today because it keeps its products
state-of-the-art and easy to use.
In the wake
of Microsoft's success lie the charred remains of many of its rivals who
could not keep up with the fast pace that this firm sets in the computer
industry. Lotus and Apple Operating System lost users to their Microsoft
equivalent. Alan Ashton, president of WordPerfect, which has lost almost
its entire market share to Microsoft Word, calls Microsoft "a
threat to everybody in the industry" (4). However, that is just the
way it works-if the customers like a product, they will buy it.
Microsoft's policy of serving the needs of its customers by leading the
software industry and adding zero priced software for better value, is
now an issue pending before the Supreme Court.
Microsoft being lead to the stake by Judge Jackson? Mr. Gates chose to
compete by developing better products at a lower price (5). His motto
should be "Integrate and Bundle" because stand-alone software
products are routinely bundled into upgrades of Windows (1). This
practice started with word processors, spreadsheets, calculators, games,
and, more recently, an operating system used to navigate the World Wide
Web: Microsoft's Internet Explorer (1). Customers love this practice
(1). Netscape makes an Internet browser that is roughly comparable to
Microsoft?s Internet Explorer. Now that Internet Explorer is part of the
Windows Operating system, and is added to the vast majority of new
computers, Netscape is having great difficulty selling what Microsoft
includes in its own system at no extra cost. In condemning this
behavior, Jackson describes Microsoft's access kits: they provided a
simple and convenient way for users (including any Internet Access
Provider) who clicked onto Microsoft's website to download the access
kit free of charge (5). Nine months later, Netscape's Mission Control
was released, with a staggering price tag of $1,995. Most Internet
Access providers took the Microsoft deal, and made this product their
preferred Internet browser (5). Microsoft is being punished for
providing a superior product to the public for nearly $2,000 less than
its competitor, and doing it earlier. Conceivably, Netscape might have
had a legal case had Microsoft configured Windows to repel Netscape's
Navigator (5). Indeed, by virtue of controlling the hub position,
Microsoft could have been guilty of an antitrust violation if it had
impeded Netscape's ability to run on the Microsoft system (5); however,
this did not happen. Microsoft did not exclude Netscape from a stronger
position; it only out-played Netscape under conditions of fair
It is our
prediction that Gates and Co. would, at least as a matter of law, have
run afoul of the Justice Department under these stipulated conditions
(e.g., precluding Netscape entry by offering a competitive service.)
However, since we favor the repeal of antitrust law root and branch (13,
14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28), this would hardly be a welcome
result from our perspective.
while she was Attorney General, and other Microsoft critics have claimed
to believe that what is bad for Microsoft is good for the rest of the
computer industry and vice versa because of this company's allegedly
"exclusionary" practices (4). But this entire concept is
intellectually incoherent. In a sense, any sale or purchase is
"exclusionary" in that it precludes all others. If A gives to
B an "a" in return for the latter's "b," then by
necessity each of them is excluded from trading these items with other
people. A is no longer free to sell this particular "a" to all
comers since, after the sale, it is now owned by B. Similarly, if C and
D marry each other, neither is then free to marry anyone else. The
"forsaking" of all other potential marriage partners is
logically indistinguishable from excluding all other business partners.
The necessary implication of antitrust is that it comprises a ban on all
marriages in that they are "restraints of trade."
"exclusionary practices" have not been proved; in fact,
millions of computers have been sold that would not have been without
Microsoft's so-called monopoly, and their software designers were able
to develop products for the largest possible market (6). Users had the
confidence to buy computers and software knowing that the industry had a
powerful incentive to introduce innovations in a way that would be
compatible with the items the users were already buying (6). It is
charged that Microsoft uses its operating system monopoly to gain
control over the Internet. Ironically, the established incumbent in the
browser market was Netscape, not Microsoft. Microsoft had to scramble to
offset Netscape's market dominance, even on computers that ran on the
Microsoft system. It is hardly in the interest of consumers for
Microsoft to cede this vital niche to an incumbent (5). Microsoft is
therefore not restricting the market by setting the standard, but rather
enhancing the possibility of building on the Microsoft structure (the
way everyone else does) that already works.
Microsoft, and the pressure it puts on others also to innovate, we are
linked as never before in a vast and growing global network of
information and commerce (7). Some companies are not up to the
challenge. Businesses that cannot compete typically complain that their
competitors have unfair advantages that the law should condemn (3).
Netscape cannot stand up to Microsoft in a free market so it has to rely
on uninformed government officials to reduce the efficiency of the
latter. That this cheats the customer out of zero priced software is of
little concern. While the majority of companies usually experience
appreciation in their stock price when Microsoft receives good news, the
returns of a few, such as Netscape, sometimes enjoy increased stock
prices when the opposite occurs. This explains their instigation of the
political assault upon their rival (4).
CEO, James Barksdale, and its general counsel, Roberta Katz, were
tireless in lobbying the media and Congress (6). Netscape is viciously
attempting to achieve through politics what it failed to achieve in the
competitive marketplace (4). Other successful businesses have been sued
and ruined economically by regulators and second-rate competitors; but
this system of business regulation decreases the welfare both of
consumers who ultimately pay for the ensuing loss of efficiency and of
the owners of the more effective firms (2).
would not be able to get away with this in a free society. It would not
be able to help drag an entrepreneur into a Star Chamber, to be grilled
by menacing G-men who have never performed a productive act in their
lives (7). Here, the government is trying to "fix" the one
part of our economy that is unimpeachably working well (6). The schools
may be falling apart. The drug war may be a disaster. The military may
be overworked, underpaid, and under-supplied. But, by golly, we're going
to teach Bill Gates a lesson (6). In a more just and rational world, the
president of Microsoft would be celebrated as an economic champion who
broke technological barriers in the cause of human betterment (7). This
was not to be, since the government and special interest groups have
little or no regard for what the consumers choose. In an earlier
antitrust era, the government frittered our precious tax dollars away on
silly questions of horizontal price fixing, mergers, predation and
tie-ins (5). But Austrian scholarship demonstrated that these diversions
were always costly and counterproductive (5, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 24,
26, 27, 28). The Microsoft case gave the government a chance to
demonstrate how its refined understanding of antitrust theory could
improve technology in the computer age (5).
Every time a
software package is sold, a customer reveals his preference, based on
quality, service, price and value. To put decisions of software
integration, production or technological change in the hands of
government is economic lunacy of the highest order (3). If Microsoft is
pursuing the wrong strategy, the system of laissez faire capitalism will
punish it (2). Power in the market is a contradiction in terms. Only
government, never business (even where there is only a single seller of
an item), can compel customers and stockholders to do anything (2).
Lawyers in the Clinton justice Department could not to pass up the
career opportunity of a lifetime. (6) That is part of the reason why the
antitrust bureaucracy exists, and the Microsoft case has opened avenues
to the creation of "new law" that can be turned into gold (6).
Microsoft is a victim of regulatory extortion where the political
establishment extracts "protection money" from it in return
for its promises to allow the company to exist (4). We merely need to
leave Microsoft to its own competitive devices; the market will reward
or punish and the consumer will be the ultimate winner.
advent of a new presidential administration defining antitrust policy,
the question of how Microsoft will be treated arises. President Bush had
made it clear that the Microsoft case is up to the courts, and he would
not intervene either for or against the software giant. If Microsoft
survives the present appeal process, one would assume that the
Microsoft's ordeal would end.
had agreed to have his colleague Judge Richard Posner serve as a
mediator in the Microsoft antitrust lawsuit. This provokes several
questions and issues.
raises anew the legal legitimacy of antitrust law. For if this is a
licit enactment, from whence comes the need for mediation? Consider the
law against murder in this regard. If a man is convicted of this crime,
there is no need for "mediation" between the criminal and the
law enforcement agency. This is clearly a legitimate law, in that it is
a violation of basic canons of justice to murder someone. There is
absolutely no role to be played by a mediator, struggling to bring an
understanding or a compromise, between police and criminal. If a
violator of antitrust were truly a lawbreaker, the same, it would be
thought, would apply in his case. On the other hand, it seems clear that
the obverse is also correct: if there is a need for a mediator, as
Jackson has now declared, then, and to that extent, there is no law in
the first place the violation of which is a clear and unambiguous crime.
underscoring the difference between antitrust law and legitimate
legislative enactments is the fact that there is no possible act that
the accused could possibly undertake that would render him innocent. The
company founded by Mr. Gates was held guilty of overcharging by Judge
Jackson. However, what other possibilities were available to Microsoft?
Had it charged less than its competitors, it would have opened itself up
to the crime of undercharging, or predatory pricing, or cutthroat
competition. Here, the accusation would have been that Gates was
charging less than he might have, in an effort to drive his competitors
into bankruptcy. There is only one additional alternative to over or
undercharging; and that is, charging the same price as everyone else.
But this too, under antitrust, is a crime: collusion.
Say what you
will about the crime of murder: at least the guilty party had a choice.
He could have refrained from this foul deed. Had he done so, the
presumption is that he would have suffered no penalty. In sharp
contrast, this scenario was not open to Bill Gates. No matter what he
did, no matter how he acted, he was open to the charge of monopolizing.
As such, antitrust is not a proper crime, under the rule of law (20).
Jackson's appointment of Judge Posner as mediator opens the question of
what results, in retrospect, we might have expected from Posner's
decision. That is, could Posner have been expected to have taken a
principled stance against antitrust, as a per se violation of the rule
of law, or not? Although it was impossible before hand to predict with
any degree of certainty the future actions of a jurist in cases of this
sort, Judge Posner comes to the table with a long paper trail (25), on
the basis of which we could have made some predictions.
prognostication, unfortunately, is not as good as it could be. Posner
has a reputation as being open to free enterprise and opposed to
government regulation, and, on the whole, this is well deserved, at
least compared with most present inhabitants of the bench. However, he
is not opposed to antitrust legislation as a matter of principle.
Rather, he does see a proper role for this legislation (25, pp.
Freedom, Monopoly and the Government
distinguishes the U.S. postal system from Staples, Toys "R"
Us, Rockefeller's Standard Oil, Sara Lee, Eastman Kodak and Microsoft?
company is a monopoly; the latter are not, but have been so accused in
accordance with antitrust legislation (29). The U.S. Post Office is a
monopoly because its market dominance is derived not from what it offers
consumers, but from an exclusive grant of government privilege. As
monopolies, the postal service and the local gas and electric companies
do not compete or engage in a voluntary exchange with consumers. Rather,
they control the market by forcibly prohibiting others from entering it.
premise, and you arrive at the natural conclusion that in a free market
where voluntary exchange between consenting adults is the guiding
principle in trade, there can be no monopoly other than that created by
government. How is it then that Microsoft is being hounded for being a
monopoly? This is made possible through legislation that frames as
predatory the process whereby an innovator captures a large market
share. This despite the fact that the only way to capture a large
portion of the market is by dint of government legislation, as the post
office does, or through offering good service for a very low price, as
as a competitive strategy, Microsoft had bundled its Internet Explorer
with its Windows operating system. It did so for free, and with the aim
of OUTDOING the competition. Microsoft then licensed its operating
system to PC manufacturers with the proviso that they take free of
charge its Internet Explorer. Fully within its legal right, Microsoft
asserted copyright to prevent any reconfiguration of its operating
system. Were users prohibited from loading Netscape's Navigator or any
other Intel-compatible operating system on to their PCs? Of course not.
Could Microsoft have prevented PC makers from installing competitive
products? Absolutely not. That Netscape lost revenue is evidence of
nothing more than Microsoft's competitive edge and Netscape's failure to
offer the consumer a similar deal. Netscape then ran to Uberbureaucrat
Joe Klein of the U.S. Justice Department for a remedy.
Microsoft has arrived at its considerable market share by offering the
consumer more total product for the least cost. Let's imagine, however,
that there was a way to eliminate competition in a free market other
than by government decree. Such an evil empire could restrict its sales
with the intent of raising prices and doing some serious profiteering
Microsoft charged a high price for the browser it tied gratis to its
Windows operating system, its rivals would have been thrilled, and
well-positioned to take such a market by storm. Incidentally, flexible
antitrust law would have nabbed the company for predation under this
contingency as well. It so happened Microsoft did the opposite: It gave
away the browser. It was then that Judge Jackson, in a decision more
voodoo than veracious, proceeded to declare Microsoft a monopoly.
mischief Microsoft might have attempted so as to drive and keep out
competition would have been to drop its total product price even lower.
But to be truly "predatory," Microsoft would have to have kept
it there over time, eventually going bust. For the duration that it
managed such a Kamikaze feat, its rock-bottom prices would be benefiting
consumers, which goes to show that, government monopolies excepted,
there is no such thing as a predatory price.
1998 court decision that magnanimously upheld Microsoft's right to tie
the two products, coupling the browser to Windows, according to Judge
Jackson's Conclusions of Law, this was not only incontrovertible proof
of a monopoly and harmful to consumers, but part of Microsoft's
"larger campaign to quash innovation that threatened its monopoly
What of the
objection then that by bundling its Internet Explorer with its Windows
operating system, Microsoft failed to offer the consumer a choice? What
of the contention that it is attempting to freeze out other suppliers,
as well as prohibit consumers from coupling one of these Microsoft
products with that of one of this companies' competitors? One problem
with this line of reasoning is that it attempts to discern the motives
of businessmen. This is always a risky procedure, too uncertain to
support a judicial finding of wrongdoing. Another more grave difficulty
with this charge is that it is open to a reductio ad absurdum: were this
act to be made the basis of unlawful behavior, we would have jails
overflowing with white-collar victimless criminals. For example, it is
impossible to purchase a McDonald's burger coupled with a Wendy's bun;
neither fast food establishment will make such a concoction available.
The consumer who wishes this particular combination of goods will just
have to visit each store, buy a burger from each, toss out the McDonalds
bun and the Wendy's burger, and eat whatever remains. Similarly, it is
impossible to purchase a Ford chassis and a BMW motor. Those who wish to
drive in such an unusual mixture will be forced to buy one of each of
these automobiles, and fashion this amalgamation for themselves.
However, if we are going to penalize Microsoft legally on this ground,
we must also include in the indictment all fast-food purveyors, all
automobile companies, all TV manufacturers (some consumers may wish the
SONY innards and the RCA tube or vice versa), all publishers (some
readers may want the cover of the bible and the inner pages of Lolita or
Playboy, or, who knows, vice versa), etc. In short, the indictment would
have to catch any entrepreneur who has irked someone with the way he has
configured a product.
legislation considers a large market share or a concentration in the
market to signify both monopoly and predatory practices on the part of a
company. As such, the antitrust chimera is based on discredited theories
about competition. Relying as it does on a model of ideal or perfect
rather than rivalrous competition, the legislation aims at a market
neatly carved among competitors (32).
Jackson's circular reasoning culminated in his asserting that the fact
Explorer is not "the best breed of Web browser" (31) is
further evidence of Microsoft's predatory behavior. If the proliferation
of bad products on the market is an indication of a lack of fair
competition, we ought to sue rapper Puff Daddy on behalf of Johann
Jackson "ordered, adjudged, and decreed" the breakup of
Microsoft into two separate companies, he effectively replaced Bill
Gates with government lawyer Joel Klein as the chief decision-maker of
the Microsoft Corporation. The Judge accepted almost verbatim the
Clinton administration's breakup proposal, authored by Klein and his
colleagues in the corrupt Reno "Justice" Department (with the
help and advice of Microsoft's competitors), effectively nationalizing
There is no
more competitive industry than the computer industry, where the dynamic
market process has produced a company like Microsoft, which produces
both a computer operating system and applications. The Soviet
central-planning-style breakup scheme ordered by Judge Jackson abolishes
what the competitive market process has produced and in its place puts a
Byzantine regulatory regime that is to be administered by federal and
state government lawyers. There could not possibly be anything more
damaging to competition, economic rationality, and consumer welfare.
order effectively destroys Microsoft's ability to compete in the Web
browser market, thereby making that market less competitive, and also
prohibits the company from employing routine competitive devices that
are used by thousands of other businesses, such as exclusive-dealing
contracts and tie-in sales.
even goes so far as to order a kind of forced labor by commanding
Microsoft to "use all reasonable efforts to maintain and increase
the sales and revenues of both the products produced or sold" prior
to his order and to "support research and development" for
that some of these products might become obsolete in the meantime, as
they frequently do in the high-tech world; the government commands the
company to keep on producing them, thereby wasting resources and causing
higher costs and prices.
businesses that develop close relationships with vendors or suppliers
frequently give preferential treatment to those business partners from
time to time in order to maintain a good working relationship. Microsoft
is prohibited from doing so with the applications side of its business,
for Judge Jackson has forbidden offering it "terms more favorable
than those available" to any other business.
In a fit of
egalitarian extremism, the judge further decreed that all computer
manufacturers doing business with Microsoft must be offered "equal
access to licensing terms; discounts; technical, market, and sales
support," etc., etc. Such discrimination, based on merit and
performance, is a necessity for any successful business, but Microsoft
is banned from it.
order imposes a huge paperwork burden which will cost the company (and
ultimately, consumers) untold millions of dollars and wasted man-hours
each year. Every single agreement made between the operating system and
applications businesses will have to be reported in detail to the
government every three months.
is ordered to divert valuable management talent away from producing
better computer products by appointing a "Chief Compliance
Officer" who will report/genuflect to the government on a regular
Gestapo-style monitoring system is established whereby the government is
given "access during office hours to inspect and copy...all books,
ledgers, accounts, correspondence, memoranda, source code, and other
records and documents." Fat chance that this proprietary
information will not make it into the hands of Microsoft's competitors,
who urged on the lawsuit, were government witnesses at the trial, and
helped write the breakup order that the judge ultimately accepted, which
included this very directive.
particularly creepy and totalitarian aspect of Judge Jackson's order is
his encouragement of an internal spying network within the Microsoft
Corporation with his admonition to "establish and maintain a means
by which employees can report potential violations" of the
government's regulations "on a confidential basis."
code-perhaps the most valuable asset possessed by Microsoft-will be
stolen with the help of the government. Microsoft is required to
establish a "secure facility" where virtually all of its
business associates will be permitted to "study, interrogate and
interact with relevant and necessary portions of the source code."
This would be like forcing Coca-Cola to allow other businesses to
"study" the secret formula for Coke, effectively ruining its
ordered to produce "written reports" about its practices
whenever the Justice Department lawyers or any of the state attorneys
general want one, opening up the door to endless political extortion
("Give us campaign contributions and we won't ask for a
planning scheme would be complete without price controls, and the
Jackson/Klein scheme is no exception.
"order" demands "equal access" to discounts offered
to computer manufacturers and, after each new product release, Microsoft
must "continue for three years after said release to license on the
same terms and conditions the previous Windows Operating System Product
to any [computer manufacturer] that desires such a license."
high-technology revolution, led by Bill Gates and Microsoft, has
occurred precisely because, up to now, the computer industry has been
the least-heavily regulated industry in the world. All that will change
dramatically if Judge Jackson's order stands and the higher courts allow
Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and Joel Klein to effectively nationalize the
The rest of
the world, envious of America's economic success (thanks in no little
part to companies like Microsoft), must be marveling at such a
stupendous act of stupidity and arrogance.
In the latest
chapter in this saga, Mr. Bill Gates has taken to the airwaves in a
series of spots making the "good business" points that
computers are important to modern life, that Microsoft has made
significant contributions to this industry, that his company will press
ahead in the future with even more improvements in consumer welfare,
etc. This, it would appear, is part of his answer to the legal
difficulties besetting Microsoft.
This is a
weak and rather disappointing response. He and his company are being
raked over the judicial coals in what can reasonably be characterized as
a kangaroo court. Under present law, they can be found guilty no matter
what they do. Since this legal process is something of a joke, perhaps
it is best to end this paper on that note. Accordingly, consider the
prisoners were sitting in a Gulag jail cell comparing stories. The first
one said: "I came to work late, and they accused me of cheating the
State out of my labor services." The second one said, "I came
to work early, and they accused me of brown-nosing." The third one
said, "I came to work exactly on time, every day, and they accused
me of owning a western wrist watch."
But let us
not become too enamored of our own system as compared to the of the
"Evil Empire." For the joke continues: Three prisoners were
sitting in a U.S. jail, found guilty of "economic crimes" and
were also comparing stories. The first one said, "I charged higher
prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of profiteering,
monopolizing and exploiting consumers." The second one said,
"I charged lower prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty
of predatory pricing, cutthroat competing and under-charging." The
third prisoner said, "I charged the same prices as my competitors,
and I was found guilty of collusion, price leadership and cartelization."
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