Microsoft Decision

Published November 18, 2002

This letter by Joseph L. Bast, President of The Heartland Institute, was written in response to an editorial that appeared in the November 9, 2002, edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Your editorial praising Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s decision in the Microsoft antitrust case (“Microsoft wins, time to move on,” November 9) was right on target. The federal settlement approved by Kollar-Kotelly addressed the real issues decided by the trial court, and leaves Microsoft and its competitors free to innovate and compete. It’s time to let consumers and markets – not lawyers and litigation – determine who has the best software products at the best prices.

The settlement had the support of U.S. Justice Department, nine state attorneys general (including Illinois’ Jim Ryan), Microsoft, and presumably the A.G.s of the 32 states who did not participate in the original lawsuit against Microsoft. By rejecting the claims of the remaining 9 A.G.s and the District of Columbia, Kollar-Kotelly sent a clear message that antitrust ought to be a matter of federal, not state, regulatory attention.

The Microsoft case was always about politics, not consumers. It began when Microsoft’s competitors sicced the Clinton-era Justice Department on a company that had, up to that point, refused to contribute millions of dollars to the two political parties for political protection. The state A.G.s used the case to grandstand as defenders of consumers, even though they were suing the software industry’s most pro-consumer company.

Now that the case is over (or nearly over . . . the appeals may never end), we can look back on it as a desperate attempt to drag nineteenth century antitrust regulations into the twenty-first century. Thank goodness it didn’t work! Now let’s work for reform or repeal of the antitrust rules that allowed this awful litigation to take place.