If you want to understand what is happening to Microsoft, read “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s classic story of the bureaucratic assault on the entrepreneurial spirit.

In “Atlas Shrugged,” Hank Rearden, inventor of the fabulous Rearden metal, is harassed and blackmailed by unaccountable government until he, like other persecuted businessmen, shrugs and walks away to join John Galt in a passive resistance, which withdraws business ability from the economy until the cannibalistic government collapses.

Ayn Rand is scathing in her comparisons of the government class with the entrepreneurial class. She could rewrite her story today using real characters:

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, a genius who has done more good for mankind than any government ever has; Bill Clinton, a scumbag routinely bought and sold for campaign contributions, who has deceived his way to the highest political office; Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein, a third-rate bureaucrat who advances his lackluster career by attacking America’s most famous businessman; Judge Penfield Jackson, a disgraceful tool who issues whatever rulings the government needs to attack Microsoft.

It could be Klein speaking to Gates when the unscrupulous government official Dr. Floyd Ferris tells Hank Rearden: “We’re after power and we mean it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

Klein’s case against Microsoft did not begin with an identified violation of an antitrust law. Rather, the case began with Klein’s “novel theory” that Microsoft had committed an infraction.

In other words, there is no law on the books that fits the case, so Klein invented one. By acting as a legislator, Klein vastly overstepped his authority. Executive branch officials have no authority to make laws. Their job is to enforce laws passed by Congress.

If the Department of Justice believes new technologies require new antitrust law, it should go to Congress and request legislation. Instead, a Department of Injustice drew up an unconstitutional bill of attainder against a preselected target.

The real malfeasance is in the Justice Department’s suit, not in Microsoft’s behavior. The suit demonstrates disdain for the rule of law and a preference for arbitrary power.

A genuine antitrust case requires a company to act in restraint of trade. This means a company must have a product for which there are no substitutes and drive up prices by restricting supply. But in today’s software industry, output is rising, prices are falling and new companies are forming continually.

Microsoft has no control over the development of technology, which is moving toward Web computing once the bandwidth exists to deliver Web applications to users. To survive, Microsoft needs all of its attention focused on an ever-changing technological environment. Instead, it is mired in a fabricated antitrust case.

If the United States had a Congress worthy of the name, Klein and Reno would be promptly impeached for misusing government power to advance the cause of Microsoft’s defeated competitors. Is it just a happenstance that these competitors are political campaign contributors to Clinton and the Democratic Party?

If anyone really wants campaign finance reform, they can start with this disgraceful case of a purchased antitrust suit and promise to have the origin of the Microsoft case investigated.

There is a silver lining in the government’s illegitimate case against Microsoft. The Two Stooges — Klein and Jackson — are likely to wipe out billions of dollars in private pension fund assets as the shares of Microsoft and related high-tech companies adjust downward to reflect the new deprivations from the Robber Barons that masquerade as a government in Washington.

This, more than Ayn Rand’s powerful novel, could flush government-worship out of the body politic, making even the most naive Americans aware of the danger of trusting government.

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Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, research fellow at the Independent Institute and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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