Antitrust laws are a severe limitation on the liberty of a private organization. They, in essence, penalize a company — and take away certain elements of its freedom to operate autonomously — for being too successful or influential. The dominant view is that these curtailments of liberty are outweighed by the benefits they give to the consumer by promoting competition and preventing monopolies from taking advantage of their position. However, if history has taught us anything – if there is any lesson to be drawn from the emergence of Firefox, the toppling of the Detroit three by Toyota in US sales, the fairy-tale of Google and the ascendancy of Apple from nowhere to the pre-eminent position it is in today – it is that you cannot keep a good product down. In this age of instant dissemination of information, companies do not need the help of antitrust laws to rise to the top. And the consumer doesn’t either.
I am against antitrust laws for all but the most extreme situations – and in my book the present one, like all previous cases that have involved Microsoft, does not cut it.
Follow up: The Economist has a nice article about illiberal EU laws that ostensibly strive to stop ‘destructive competition’. Much as I like Europe, sometimes I am glad I live in a country where the government does not clamp down on choice or ban discounts.