End, Don’t Extend, the Persecution of Microsoft
Sept 18, 2007
Irvine, CA--The government has been investigating and prosecuting Microsoft under antitrust law since 1990--including a 2001 judgment that forced the company to be subject to government dictates of its business practices that apply to no other software company. This regime was scheduled to end in November, but a group of states, led by California, are saying that it must be extended. According to the Wall Street Journal, their reason was that “Microsoft has faced little new competition” in “operating-systems and Internet-browser technologies.”
“This justification for further government control of Microsoft is a microcosm of the fundamental injustice of the government’s entire prosecution of the company,” said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. The criticism against Microsoft amounts to: Microsoft has been too successful in comparison to its competitors for their liking. By this perverse logic, only if the company had been a miserable failure in producing desirable operating systems and Web browsers would it deserve to be free.
“Of course, Microsoft’s tremendous success is the whole reason it ever fell under antitrust prosecution in the first place. Antitrust law regards any company that has earned substantial market share as a dangerous ‘monopolist.’ Microsoft has suffered almost two decades of government threats and punishment on the grounds that its 90 percent plus market share in operating systems was a ‘threat’ to the consumers who eagerly chose Microsoft Windows over the competition. Microsoft used no force or fraud against anyone; its ‘crime’ was to choose to add a valuable feature, a Web browser, to its popular operating system.
“If the government extends its coercive ‘oversight’ of Microsoft, it will further compound this injustice. Instead, the government owes Microsoft an apology--and it owes other successful companies the justice of abolishing the success-punishing antitrust laws.”
Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.