New Antitrust Suit Reveals Hatred of Success
The federal government and more than twenty states filed suit today to ask for a preliminary injunction forcing Microsoft to add a rival's product—Netscape's Navigator web browser—to the Windows 98 package before it is sold to consumers beginning June 25. The states that sued Microsoft were California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, plus the District of Columbia.
According to Robert W. Tracinski, "This new attack clearly demonstrates the real goal of the anti-Microsoft campaign—not to enforce standards of 'fair' behavior or make Microsoft 'play by the rules,' as has been claimed, but to destroy Microsoft for the crime of being too successful."
Tracinski cites the timing of the new suits, which threaten to interfere at the last minute with Microsoft's scheduled release of Windows 98. "Windows 98 has been in development for years, yet they chose to file suit only after Microsoft had already begun shipping the product to stores. What business could operate under these conditions—having its business plans overturned by government bureaucrats at the last minute and having shipments to customers arbitrarily interrupted?" He also points to the complexity of the antitrust laws, especially when enforced by many different state governments. "A book on antitrust published several decades ago was titled 'Ten Thousand Commandments,' a reference to the complexity and unpredictability of antitrust case law. Now there are not only ten thousand commandments, but 50 gods issuing those commandments. Not only does Microsoft have to seek the approval of federal regulators, but now it is being forced to seek the approval of every state attorney general for every one of its business practices. What company can survive this barrage of regulation—a confusing mass of rules interpreted by 50 different sets of bureaucrats?"
Most ominous, in Tracinski's view, is the Justice Department's demand that Microsoft allow equipment manufacturers to bundle Netscape's web browser with Windows 98 instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. A Microsoft spokesman has described this as equivalent to the demand that Coca-Cola include a can of Pepsi in every six-pack. Tracinski agrees and adds, "This is an attempt to rob Microsoft of its property—in effect to nationalize Windows and turn it into a publicly owned commodity, over which Microsoft has no control. That's the real goal of the anti-Microsoft campaign. Because Microsoft has been so successful, because it has made a product that so many people want to buy, its competitors want to steal that product and use it, against the owner's wishes, to help market their own products."
Tracinski concludes, "The moral issue here is whether Microsoft is to be punished for its success. The message the Justice Department and the twenty state attorneys general are sending is that if you become so successful that other people regard your product as indispensable, your reward will be to have your property seized from you by the government and handed over to envious competitors."