THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 74, May 29, 2000
Bill of Wrongs
by L. Neil Smith
Special to TLE
Well, as the whole wide world knows by now, Bill Gates' Microsoft has been officially found guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.
That this is a completely meaningless judgement may not be quite as obvious to a younger generation. When I was young, just entering the freedom movement, there was a lot of talk -- and writing -- about the Sherman Act, a body of blatantly unconstitutional pseudolaw many times more voluminous, twisted, contradictory, and arcane than the tax code.
Under its bizarre provisions -- administered by bureaucrats and judges who don't have any more idea what it means than you and I do -- corporations can be (and have been) convicted of having a monopoly when their share is openly admitted to be only a small fraction of the market. A corporation can be convicted of monopoly practices when they're alone in a market because nobody offers them competition. And that only scratches the surface of the insanities enshrined in this law.
The reason for the insanity is that this law was never meant to be enforced in any normal sense. It's almost certainly the law Ayn Rand was thinking of when she had a villain in Atlas Shrugged say that the real point of passing such a law is that it be impossible to obey, so that that government and its allies can "cash in on the guilt".
Others, revisionist historians and economists, point out that the Sherman Act and other legislative absurdities like it were not passed -- the way we were taught in high school and college -- by courageous crusaders-in-the-public-interest, to curb the vile excesses of greedy robber barons and Teddy Roosevelt's "malefactors of great wealth", but by politicians bought and paid for by the malefactors themselves, to make market entry and effective competition as difficult as humanly possible.
Every one of us has a fundamental, unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to be unmolested. As the great Robert LeFevre said, as owners of ourselves -- as self-proprietors -- we all have a right not to be involved involuntarily in relationships with other human beings. Basically, that's the only right there is. Every other right we commonly recognize is just a corollary to this one real right.
Unfortunately, we begin to get into a mess whenever we start to think of these corollary rights as somehow separable or divisible from one another. Everybody does it. To one degree or another, we've all gotten accustomed to thinking of them as rights in and of themselves, independent from any other rights or -- and this is the real long-term historic tragedy -- from any theory of the origin of rights that makes sense.
In part, this is an unavoidable consequence of a highly necessary division of labor within the freedom movement. Nat Hentoff and Wendy McElroy battle for free speech, Aaron Zelman and Larry Pratt battle for the right to own and carry weapons, Tom Sowell and Walter Williams battle to end the government's oppression of black people disguised as "help", Susan Wells and George O'Brien battle to end illegal property seizures, Vin Suprynowicz and I battle the raw, evil, insane stupidity today that places human dignity and the Bill of Rights in constant peril.
However it often happens that an individual fails, inexplicably, to see that other people's rights are every bit as precious to them as his are to him. Or he may violently disapprove of other people's free exercise of their rights -- while hypocritically demanding respect for rights of his own that stem from precisely the same philosophical source.
Just a few years ago, Bill Gates bankrolled a referendum in his homestate of Washington, aimed at imposing yet another set of stupid, unconstitutional, Jim Crow-style laws on his gun-owning neighbors. The vote was an historic and humiliating defeat for the victim disarmament crowd, spurring the gun-grabbers' current move to frivolous liability lawsuits. It's astonishing what autocrats the bigmouthed "democrats" are invariably revealed to be, whenever their schemes are thwarted by the Voice of the People they otherwise claim to revere as the Voice of God.
Gates' troubles with the Waco Willie Administration and Jackboot Janet Reno's Justice Department had only begun at that point, when TV journalists and picture magazines were pretending to be aghast at the seaside mansion he was building for his wife, and he'd begun throwing obscene amounts of money at politically correct causes, desperately trying to buy approval from a festering snakepit of parasitic vermin who spawn and devour their own in an endless cycle of cannibalistic depravity.
In reality, Gates was next on the liberal menu no matter who he bribed.
I can't think of a better example of the indivisibility of rights. The simple fact is that if Gates had upheld the rights of others -- instead of spending hundreds of thousands trying to take them away -- then even as the most hated man on the internet, he could have counted on millions of individuals, honorably willing to place principle above personality, to rush to his assistance. The same forces that got Rosie O'Donnell fired and stopped the infamous "Know Your Customer" bank spy scheme might have tipped the balance in Gates' struggle against the state.
Even now, were Gates to publicly endorse the idea of full Bill of Rights enforcement -- denouncing victim disarmament and offering to make restitution to the gun owners he's helped to harrass -- his situation could change dramatically as millions made their disgust with the government's actions known. Especially in a future Republican administration he seems to be placing his hopes on, the case against his company would wither on the vine and blow away with the winds of change.
Like him or not, the only figure in world history comparable to Bill Gates is Henry Ford, an individual who was plenty unpopular in his own time. Ford didn't invent the automobile, but he put America -- and humanity -- on wheels. Gates launched America -- and humanity -- into cyberspace. In both cases America -- and humanity -- will never be the same, and they owe these unpleasant and unpopular figures a debt that's only been partially repaid by the enormous wealth they accumulated.
Gates should get together with the real civil rights leaders of the 21st century, with Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, Aaron Zelman of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and with a handful of uncompromising others, including Vin Suprynowicz and yours truly.
Forget the NRA. Talk is cheap -- especially coming from the likes of Wayne LaPierre -- and they're still the "loyal opposition", shills for the other side, until they prove otherwise by deeds rather than words.
Gates should stop wasting money on those who'll only turn and bite him in the assets. Let him endow GOA and JPFO to the tune of eight or nine figures. Let him underwrite semiannual conferences to establish once and for all that the right to be unmolested -- to do business without being hijacked by the Sherman Act, and to freely exercise the right to own and carry weapons -- are one and the same right, after all.
Together we could change the course of history.
What do you say, Bill?