Mythical Roots of Antitrust: Preface

by | Jul 10, 2000

Most of you will recall the scandal during the winter Olympics a few years back, when disgruntled skating competitor Tanya Harding hired a thug to take a pipe to the shins of Nancy Kerrigan. Harding was envious of Kerrigan’s superior ability and tried to cripple her before their next event. Harding tried to get away […]

Most of you will recall the scandal during the winter Olympics a few years back, when disgruntled skating competitor Tanya Harding hired a thug to take a pipe to the shins of Nancy Kerrigan. Harding was envious of Kerrigan’s superior ability and tried to cripple her before their next event. Harding tried to get away with the assault–but with the help of an investigative media and outraged public, her scheme and crime were exposed. Eventually, Harding was banned–properly–from professional skating.

I wish I could say the media have been as keen about identifying the assailants against Microsoft–and as persistent in exposing them for their misdeeds. They haven’t. Indeed, they’ve done the precise opposite: they’ve painted Microsoft as the perpetrator. But the fact is–to extend the analogy–Microsoft is Nancy Kerrigan, while disgruntled competitors such as Novel, Netscape and Oracle are like Tanya Harding. And the thugs hired for the assault are Janet Reno, Joel Klein and the 19 state Attorneys General. Our so-called Justice Department has perpetrated a multi-year injustice against Microsoft–aided and abetted by judges like Thomas Jackson–and has patently violating the firm’s Constitutional rights–just as it has violated the rights of hundreds of America’s greatest firms since the inception of antitrust law in 1890.

Why was it so easy for the media to see the injustice done to Kerrigan by Harding, but not the injustice done by Reno to Microsoft? Could it be that so many in the media today are themselves envious of the success of firms like Microsoft and multi-billionaires like Bill Gates? If so, they’re views are not shared by most Americans. When polled, most Americans say they admire firms like Microsoft and creators like Bill Gates. And when you look at people’s purchasing patterns, you see that they put their money where their mouths are: they voluntarily buy millions of copies of Microsoft products every year. It is this free, voluntary exchange between consenting adults that Reno and her thugs seek to abridge, manipulate and destroy.

Tanya Harding’s assault on Kerrigan was direct and physical. Some of it was captured on video. It was easy, for most, to see the envy and malice of Harding, as against the superiority and grace of Kerrigan. Why, in contrast, is Microsoft not defended–as Kerrigan was? Why is there so little outrage against the gang of Netscape-Oracle-Janet Reno-Joel Klein and Judge Jackson, who’ve played the role of Harding?

Let me suggest three reasons–three widely-held myths that leave great firms exposed to great harm:

  • Economic power versus political power
  • “Perfect” competition
  • Arbitrary law

Click here for Part 2.

Made available by the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism.

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Dr. Salsman is president of InterMarket Forecasting, Inc., an assistant professor of political economy at Duke University and a senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. Previously he was an economist at Wainwright Economics, Inc. and a banker at the Bank of New York and Citibank. Dr. Salsman has authored three books: Breaking the Banks: Central Banking Problems and Free Banking Solutions (AIER, 1990), Gold and Liberty (AIER, 1995), and The Political Economy of Public Debt: Three Centuries of Theory and Evidence (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017). In 2021 his fourth book – Where Have all the Capitalist Gone? – will be published by the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also author of a dozen chapters and scores of articles. His work has appeared in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, Reason Papers, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Forbes, the Economist, the Financial Post, the Intellectual Activist, and The Objective Standard. Dr. Salsman earned his B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College (1981), his M.A. in economics from New York University (1988), and his Ph.D. in political economy from Duke University (2012). His personal website is richardsalsman.com.

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