Is Monopoly Good Or Bad?

Since the U.S. Justice Department's attack on MicroSoft, we're hearing all the familiar legalistic nonsense about monopoly. Courts have wrestled with monopoly, sometimes defining it as: "the power to control prices and exclude competition", "restraining trade", or "unfair and anti-competitive behavior." Should monopolistic practices be condemned and outlawed? Let's look at it; but let's not stick with what's usually called monopolistic practices.

The marriage contract is essentially a monopoly document. Both parties form a collusive agreement to exclude competition and restrain trade. There's a good side and bad side to this monopolistic collusion. I place a higher value on Mrs. Williams, and give her a higher share of my wealth, knowing that I have an exclusive monopoly on her affections. That's the benefit for her; but there's a losing side as well. I'm not nearly as attentive, don't open car doors, and don't use all the breath fresheners and colognes as I did before we got married 38 years ago. The reason is that before we married, I was in competition with other men; and couldn't afford to act like a monopolist.

Read Deuteronomy, Chapter 5, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. First, there's, "Thou Shalt have none other gods before me." That's followed by, "Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above. . . ." Then there's, "Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God. . . ." These are all monopolistic commands that there shall be neither substitutes for nor competition with God.

For one to condemn all monopolistic practices, he would have to also condemn marriage and the basic tenets of Christianity. I neither condemn marriage, Christianity nor business and labor union monopolies. The only moral argument that should lead us to condemn and outlaw monopoly is when coercion is involved as in the case of government-sponsored, protected or created monopolies. Thus, the U.S. Postal Service is an example. Federal law in effect says, "Thou shalt have none other deliverers of first-class mail before the USPS and we shall visit great pain on he who ignores this commandment."

Getting back to the Justice Department's claims that MicroSoft has excluded competition, is the Justice Department charging that MicroSoft has done so well in pleasing customers that some of its competitors go out of business or are threatened with loss of market share? If they charge that, that's precisely what competition is supposed to do: get what customers deem as the highest quality product at the cheapest price. What about the Justice Department's efforts to get MicroSoft to package its product without its Internet browser? If that has merit, how about stopping General Motors from packaging their cars with Delco batteries since they also own Delco?

What about even the playing field arguments? The U.S. Postal Service delivers small packages and so does United Parcel Service (UPS). However, unlike United Parcel, the Postal Service pays no state or local property taxes; nor does it pay state or federal excise tax on motor fuels and tires and pays no road use tax. Plus, there's no payment of federal unemployment tax and taxes on its alleged surplus (profits). In the interest of an even playing field, the Justice Department should demand the same exemptions for United Parcel Service.

MicroSoft is successful because people like you and me voluntarily purchased its products. We, the millions upon millions of consumers, have spoken. Attorney General Janet Reno and her Justice Department thugs want to overrule us. We ought to tell them to stuff it.

Walter E. Williams
c25-98
May 22, 1998
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