A Back to School Warning: Anti-Trust Law After Microsoft

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The federal government’s case against Microsoft appears ready to go forward again. This time, rather than Judge Jackson, who was chastised for likening Bill Gates (CEO of Microsoft) to Napoleon, the case will be heard before Judge Trendy-Hyphen, whose husband’s firm has done legal work for Corel (a competitor of Microsoft).

At the same time, the European Union is attempting to justify its existence by bringing its own copy-cat anti-trust suit against Microsoft. The EU, it seems, is like a younger sibling, seeking to ape Big Brother Sam to show that it’s a player. Please, devolve yourself into your member states.

In all of this, the real news concerns the next cases on the horizon, the egregious cases of “bundling” products to harm competitors. Worse, many of these products are targeted to school children.

For example, Goober Grape. Rather than allow consumers to buy grape jelly and peanut butter separately, this evil product “bundles” them together, just like Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer might come with Windows operating software. “The best of Smucker’s, all in one jar?” I don’t think so. Just imagine TV ads with this slogan: “The Best of Microsoft, all in One Computer.” Not allowed in computers, not allowed in PB&J. Goober Grape is so bundled, it cannot clearly be classified as either peanut butter or jelly, much like the glass which may be half full or half empty. Break up the company. They already have Goober Strawberry, so there is no telling how far this might go before the government saves us.

Next, the “cheese and crackers” gang, better known as Lance Snacks. Perhaps you have enjoyed, as I have, the flourescent orange crackers with peanut butter, or the “Captain’s Wafers” with cheese. Now that you are drooling all over yourself, consider whether it is fair for one company to sell you the crackers and the cheese together, or, you might say, “bundled,” like Microsoft programs. How many family dairy farmers have been sent into bankruptcy by the bundling of cheese and crackers. Buy your own cheese! At least this company is named appropriately: its products are a Lance aimed at the empty stomachs of our children.

Finally, the “fruit on the bottom” yogurt brands. All of them, not just that French company, Dannon, which makes it harder for American yogurt producers to compete by giving consumers a choice. Again, you can buy a media player and you can buy a browser, but it is evil and wrong for them to come together. No one cares about your convenience! And so you can buy your fruit from the local fruit stand, and buy your plain yogurt for mixing. Don’t let the smiles fool you: these yogurt types will not rest until all fruit comes through them. After they consolidate their monopoly on the fruit in the yogurt market, they will raise the price of fruit and yogurt so that you will have to sell your minivan just to buy yogurt.

In closing, a word to the wise: this is satire, although aimed at a particular point. Goober Grape, Lance sandwich crackers, and Dannon yogurt, just like Microsoft products, are great products, made in response to consumer demand. These companies give people what they want. This is in contrast to the government’s way of doing things: the government tells you what you are can have, how much of it you can have, and when you can have it. The point: the anti-trust laws are tools of politicians, and should be repealed. Charge more than your competitors? Price gouging. Charge the same? Collusion. Charge less? Predatory pricing. It is actually illegal to charge: more, the same, or less. “Bundle” your products? Unfair. Who gets sued for what depends on which way the political winds are blowing. Time to repeal anti-trust.

Selected Bibliography

Dominic Armentano. Antitrust: The Case for Repeal and Antitrust and Monopoly.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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