Jewish World Review Nov. 24, 1999 /15 Kislev, 5760
Microsoft and liberty
Think about the government's case against Microsoft and, just as
importantly, it's implications for our liberty.
Let's ask a general question just to get started. If there's an act we all
agree is immoral and unacceptable when done by an individual, does that act
become moral and acceptable when done collectively, namely by government?
You say, "Williams, that's a bit too esoteric; would you break it down?"
OK, here's a for-instance. If we deem rape as immoral and unacceptable when
done by an individual, does rape become moral and acceptable when done
collectively? What if we vote to rape someone. Does that make rape morally
acceptable? I'm hoping that all of my fellow Americans will answer: Neither
a majority consensus nor collective action necessarily establishes what's
moral or immoral.
Let's cut through the Justice Department's legalese and get down to moral
basics and what should be the standard for judging Microsoft's actions: Did
Microsoft engage in peaceable, voluntary exchange -- and on non-fraudulent
terms -- with its customers, or did it engage in fraud, violence or threats
You say, "Come on, Williams; the relevant question is whether Microsoft
violated the law." Nonsense. Laws do not necessarily establish morality. For
example, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act provided fines and imprisonment for
assisting runaway slaves. If I were on a jury, whether a defendant violated
the Fugitive Slave Act would have been immaterial to me. I would have deemed
slavery and any law that protected it immoral. As such, people have no moral
duty to obey immoral laws.
If we're really concerned about monopolistic practices injurious to
consumers, we'd call for Justice Department actions against the U.S. Postal
Service. Microsoft has never done the kind of despicable acts done by the
Postal Service. Suppose you and I agree that I will deliver first class mail
to your house. What happens? I will be arrested for competing with Postal
Service. In fact, by law I cannot even put anything in the mailbox belonging
to you. It's worse than that. The Postal Service has come after people, with
fines, for using Federal Express services for mail that it deems
If you think it would be wrong for Microsoft to use violence and the threat
of violence to maintain its monopoly position, why in the world is it
acceptable for the government's Postal Service to do the same?
The Justice Department's claim that Microsoft's actions harm consumers is a
sham. The overall pattern of the high-tech industry has been a precipitous
fall in prices and rise in quality over time. We needn't mention the pattern
of the prices and quality of postal services.
There's another and more important monopoly target for the Justice
Department, and that's the public (government) education monopoly. That is a
monopoly that's eating away at the soul of our nation. It's charging
customers (citizens) higher and higher prices (taxes), while their product
quality is getting worse and worse. It has the power to commit despicable
acts beyond any monopolistic dreams Microsoft may have.
For example, what would you think if Microsoft had the power to tell you:
"I don't care if you don't like my operating system and want to use somebody
else's. But if you do use someone else's, you still have to pay for mine
even if you don't use it." That's precisely what the education monopoly
tells parents who want to take their children out of rotten government
schools and put them in private schools.
If Clinton's Justice Department really wants to go after harmful
monopolistic practices, I can give them hundreds of
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