Blogs > Liberty and Power > No Pity, No Praise

Mar 24, 2004 2:36 pm

No Pity, No Praise

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

It’s hard for me not to have mixed feelings about the E.U.'s decision to hit Microsoft with a $600 million fine.

On the one hand, as an opponent of the concept of"intellectual property" I can't buy the portrayal of Bill Gates as purely a heroic entrepreneur being persecuted for engaging in voluntary exchange; as I see it, Microsoft's market share does rest in large part on an unjust monopoly. (For an anti-IP libertarian analysis of Microsoft, see François-René Rideau's piece here.)

On the other hand, Bill Gates' enemies often turn out to be far worse rights-violators than he is -- like Janet Reno, or the creators of Microsoft-targeting internet viruses and worms. It certainly seems so again in this case; as a continent-gobbling super-state in the making, the E.U. is a much more invasive monopoly than Microsoft, and transferring $600 million from the lesser to the greater evil is nothing to cheer about. It’s a bit like the difference between the Postal Service -- which, like Microsoft, at least provides a genuine and worthwhile service, albeit in an unjust and inefficient monopolistic manner -- and, say, the DEA or IRS, whose"services" should not be performed by anybody, whether monopolistically or otherwise. They're all criminal organisations, but some criminal organisations are surely worse than others. (For example, I'd rather live under the Mafia than under the Taliban.)

My attitude to the whole affair, then, is -- to paraphrase Benjamin Tucker -- No pity for Microsoft, no praise for the E.U.

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