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Tonya Harding’s Army
[December 12, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

We’re changing our name again. In honor of U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, the federal judge overseeing Sun Microsystems' request for an injunction against Microsoft, we are now the Center for the Advancement of Pride in Product.

Well, perhaps not, but in an interesting quote by Judge Motz, "Capitalism is about making money, but it's also about something else. It's also about pride of product."

Right. That makes sense. I’ve thought and reflected for a week, and I can honestly say, I have no clue what the judge’s statement could possibly mean.

What I do understand is Judge Motz’s comparison of Microsoft’s treatment of Sun to Tonya Harding's knee-capping attack on rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.  “Nancy Kerrigan is deprived of the opportunity to compete on two good knees,” the judge said according to Bloomberg News. “Is there a social value on being able to participate in a market undistorted by your competitor?”

Here the principle being defined is very clear—not allowing a competitor access to your product is the same thing as a vicious physical attack.

Sun is the developer of Java, a software technology that allows programmers to write one program to run off of different computers despite differences in their operating systems. Sun wants Microsoft to continue to integrate its Java software into Microsoft Windows. Microsoft would prefer not and instead wants develop its own cross-platform technology.

Does Sun have the right to compete in a market where Microsoft has no control of its products because Microsoft is the market leader? If you think for a heart-beat that there is a so-called “social value” to such an arrangement, the answer is “yes.” In Judge Motz’s court, Sun has argued that because of Microsoft’s earlier conviction for breaking the antitrust laws, it now has the right to force Microsoft to carry Java. Motz apparently agrees, hence the Tonya Harding reference.

But if you think a proper economy is one where trade is voluntary, and where one has a right to the property they create and the success they rightfully earn, the answer must be “no.”

This ridiculous case is Bill Gates' and other businessmen's dividend for falling to attack the antitrust laws themselves. In court, Microsoft attorney David B. Tulchin argued that Sun was seeking to take "a free ride on the back of Microsoft" by demanding Java distribution. Under antitrust, why shouldn’t Sun? Because it has “pride in product”?

The fact is antirust allows any second-rate company like Sun to use the law as a means of destroying its business rivals. Rather than invest in software engineers to build better products, Sun can simply rely on lawyers and the courts to give it the success it can not earn in the free market.

Supporters of antitrust claim that antitrust exists to protect consumers, but much like a parasite when it devours its host, there won’t be to much to feast on as antirust continues to devour successful business after successful business.

 

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