Letters to the Editor
Wall Street Journal
Seekers' Attack Microsoft
his latest attack on Microsoft, Robert Bork shows once again that
he is decades behind the times as far as economic theory is concerned
("A Predatory Monopoly," Manager's Journal, Nov. 8). Repeating
an argument that was made three days earlier in the New York
Times (Nov. 5) by fellow lawyer and Microsoft critic Robert
Reich, Mr. Bork denounced Microsoft's hiring of lobbyists and public
relations firms to defend itself against the political and public
relations assault on the company that has been orchestrated by Mr.
Bork's benefactor, Netscape. "Nothing comparable in intensity"
has ever occurred in the history of antitrust, Mr. Bork says of
Microsoft's defensive political actions.
it is Microsoft's competitors who have waged a 10-year political
battle aimed at achieving for themselves through the political process
what they have failed to achieve in the marketplace. Microsoft's
belated efforts in the political area pale in comparison. Economists
call the kind of behavior displayed by Microsoft's rivals (including
the hiring of Mr. Bork) "rent seeking," defined as the
use of the political process to procure special privileges, including
regulations that harm one's competitors. Lobbying for protectionism
is a classic example of rent seeking, as is harassing one's more
successful competitors with antitrust lawsuits.
defensive actions are labeled "rent avoidance" in the
economics literature. It is rent seeking that is predatory, anti-competitive,
socially wasteful and immoral. Rent avoidance, on the other hand,
is meritorious, for it is an attempt to foil the plans of political
predators. It takes real mendacity to assert, as Mr. Bork does,
that the opposite is true.
J. DiLorenzo Professor of Economics Loyola College in Maryland Baltimore