Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s ruling that Microsoft “enjoys
monopoly power” reminds me of a question people sometimes ask
me: “Why don’t you attack Big Business the way you attack
The answer is simple. I can avoid dealing with corporations I don’t
like. But I have no choice about dealing with government, no matter
how onerous it gets.
I won’t go to prison if I decline to buy a car from General
Motors every year. But I may go to prison if I don’t give the
government the price of a new car every year — though someone
else gets the car!
The basis of a government, any government, is a monopoly — a
monopoly of force. No matter how many constitutional safeguards hedge
it, rulers are usually clever enough to circumvent restrictions.
Bill Gates poses no threat to me. I buy his products because they
help me; I even feel a certain gratitude to his ingenuity for making
my life easier. In a real sense, Microsoft products have enriched all
of us, even those who don’t use computers, in the same way that
steam power, telegraphs, and railroads once enriched whole societies,
including the people who didn’t avail themselves of these inventions.
Wealth generated by new inventions of that sort doesn’t just “trickle
down”; it quickly expands to benefit everyone.
So when people like Attorney General Janet Reno, who supervised the
lawless and disastrous siege of Waco, offer to “protect” me
from Gates, I want to laugh. Like most people who aspire to political
power — the legal authority to use force against others — Janet
Reno is incapable of conceiving any new product that those others would
buy voluntarily. She is a parasite. So is Judge Jackson, who fulminated
against Microsoft for 200 pages. And so, of course, are Microsoft’s
competitors, who invoked government coercion to defeat Microsoft when
they couldn’t do it on the market. (Government usually gets its
foot in the door when sore losers pose as victims.)
Government produces nothing. It takes wealth by force, and usually
without limit. When it overreaches its proper limits, it assures us
it is “protecting” us from the people it targets for prosecution — or
persecution. Hitler “protected” Germany from the Jews.
Stalin “protected” Russians from capitalism, including
greedy peasants who wanted to sell their crops at their own prices.
And of course when governments go to war, they always claim to be “protecting” the
people whose sons they send to die.
The federal government is also monopolistic in a special sense. The
Constitution endows it with a few specific powers, reserving all others
to the states and the people. The purpose of this principle — codified
in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments — was to prevent a “consolidated” central
state with a monopoly of power. The Constitution can be viewed as an
antitrust act for government itself. The Framers recognized the concentration
of power as the essence of “tyranny.”
But over time, the federal government ceased to be federal. Using
the thinnest constitutional pretexts, it usurped countless powers never
given to it. It spawned a national welfare state. It created an enormous
military power, far beyond the needs of “common defense,” and
took the country into several wars. Through the Federal Reserve System,
it issued inflatable paper money. It imposed taxes beyond the dreams
of George III. It assumed a comprehensive power to control our economic
life. Through its courts, it stripped the states and the people of
their “reserved” powers, thereby reducing the scope of
self-government as well as personal freedom. And this is the short
list. Every child born today will pay at least $100,000 in taxes just
on the interest of the present federal debt.
A lawless, predatory government is the enemy of every honest and productive
citizen. And what I see is that Bill Gates has the same enemies as
I do. They are the sort of people who denounce business “monopolies” as
threats to the public, but who think the solution to all our ills is
a monopolistic government.
It’s high time to break up the biggest monopoly of all: the
federal monopoly of power. In principle, this can be done simply: by
restoring the original, traditional, but abandoned constitutional limits
on the federal government.
Copyright © 2011 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on November 9, 1999.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
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