I was saddened to see the lead article in last Tuesday’s (12/5/00) Wall St. Journal “Microsoft Tries to Lob Monkey Wrench Into AOL-Time Warner Deal.” In the story, reporters alleged Microsoft might be cooperating with the Federal Trade Commission to provide evidence that an AOL-Time Warner merger plan should be killed or re-written by the government.
The topic in question is whether AOL-Time Warner’s high-speed cable TV system would be accessible to competitors like Microsoft. The reporters suggested the software giant hopes to convince the FTC that if it cannot gain a contract to sell its services using AOL-TW’s cable properties, then the government should interfere.
Consider the facts: Microsoft has recently been judged a violator of antitrust laws, and is currently appealing this judgment. If it is true that Microsoft is now asking the government to wield antitrust laws against its competitors, then this suggests a total abandonment of the principles required for a successful legal and moral defense of its business. If even Microsoft is ready to run to antitrust regulators for protection, it is an ominous sign for the high-tech industry, in which all players will lose in the long run. Indeed, Microsoft has been one of the leading supporters of the idea that technology moves so rapidly, and consumers are so well informed, that only customers — not bureaucrats — are capable of determining the winners and losers in the industry.
I’ve written numerous articles about the injustices done to Microsoft and the damage generally inflicted by antitrust law – not just in the U.S., but globally. My arguments are basic – a businessman owns his property, and has the right to enter voluntarily into any contracts he wishes, as long as no force or fraud is involved. A free marketplace will reward the best products and the best producers. See my past articles like: “Have your Microsoft & Eat it Too”, “The Department of Justice’s Colossal Injustice” (parts 1 & 2), and “Antitrust Warriors On The Loose.”
It’s interesting that the antitrust problem is directly correlated to the mess we’re currently experiencing in Florida. Nearly everyone wants to see the presidential election determined by giving the victory to the candidate with the most votes. Most people are disgusted by the idea that the winner may instead be determined in the courts, under the influence of conniving lawyers. People trust a voting contest more than a modern legal contest.
There are a lot of similarities between voting at the booth and voting in the market. Every purchase of a product, be it software or an internet service contract, should be seen as a consumer’s freely chosen vote in favor of that product over others. We can trust people to vote for the products they find most valuable, and accept their decision when one company is declared the winner over another. When the government brings in antitrust officials to say “halt!” to successful companies- they are effectively overruling the free and fair elections held continuously in the marketplace.
Antitrust law replaces the fair voting results of the markets with its own tainted ballots, confusing to read, punched by competitors, stuffed by lawyers into boxes, and counted by the unsteady eyes of unelected bureaucrats. It is no mere coincidence that Microsoft’s archenemy David Boies, the lawyer who argued that antitrust laws should overthrow the market’s verdict on Microsoft, was down in Florida recently.