THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 835, August 23, 2015
Socialism, which pretends to have the answers,
is nothing but the political expression of an
ignorant, visceral, inarticulate hatred and
envy of everything that has raised humanity
above the level of the animals.
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Author's comments in "[ ]"
Think about the most unexpected and horrifying crisis of your life—a time when the most stable bulwarks of your hitherto most reliable expectations suddenly collapsed and crumbled, burying you in the rubble. Recall the helplessness and rage, the hot needles of shame and pain stabbing your whole body. The shock. The disorientation.
Let yourself feel—just for a moment—what it was like to be thus naked and stymied, stripped of any means of moving forward unless you undertook a course of action until that moment unthinkable. Let yourself feel what it was like to summon the will to do that unthinkable thing. How you then—did it.
Are you there? Now double that level of spirit-lacerated angst. Quadruple it. Raise it to the power of googol. Only then will you attain to a wisp of a smidgen of a hint of an inkling of my own tragedy, what dark madness I had to endure and somehow survive.
A hell I would not wish on anyone.
And yet, the identical fate has been inflicted on every person who has upgraded his PC to Windows 10, every single one of those millions. Only any one of those millions can truly understand my pain! Or at least whatever percentage of them don't really want Microsoft Edge as their default browser.
Yeah, turns out that if you fail to click the right prophylactic toggle while installing Windows 10, the OS will set Microsoft's annotatable new browser Edge as your PC's default browser. Well, what if you prefer some other browser as the default? Well, if you installed Windows 10 without clicking the necessary toggle, you cannot now set your preferred browser as the default just by tweaking a setting in that browser itself—as you could have in the pre-Windows 10 era. Instead, you must first click that OS toggle.
Okay, so...what this means...in real-life terms...true story...is that...after I had spent several seconds scouring the Internet for info on how to change the default browser, I then had to spend several more seconds finding and clicking the Win10 setting, then another swatch of minute-sixtieths instructing Chrome to go ahead and be the default. Yeah, I had to do all that! There was no other way to set my preferred browser as the default! Sob!
Thanks. A lot. Microsoft. You double-setting-requiring pendejos. Why? Why did you put my soul through the grinder like that, Microsoft? Why?
No doubt the Redmond techno-jocks have some kind of obscure rationale for doing things this way. Make they wanted to maximize the chances that users of the spiffy new operating system the company has spent so much time, money, and intellect developing would try the spiffy new browser which they've spent so much time, money and intellect developing. Maybe, also, Microsoft doesn't think they need my special authorization to especially steer my attention to a part of the product they have created. Maybe they believe they're perfectly justified in exploiting the capital accrued by their past successes to try to recover some of the oomph they've lost in the browser wars—perfectly justified in taking advantage of their advantages at least to the extent that politics, law, and litigious competitors will allow. Maybe Microsoft doesn't worship at the altar of the Level Playing Field for the Sake of Appeasing Sniveling Competitors the way some of those competitors do. Maybe Microsoft is trying to beat the competition!!!
Oh noo- o —o —o —o —o -o -oooh!!! Are those scum trying to win???
Also bemoaning the noxious Windows 10 default-browser toggle is no less a personage than Chris Beard, CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, an outfit that boasts of how tremendously much more integrity it has when it comes to accommodating Internet consumers than other browser- producing organizations inasmuch as Mozilla is pointedly non-profit—as if to earn profit in the process of producing something of value must taint and corrupt that something.
According to Beard, in a Mozilla Blog post pompously entitled "Safeguarding Choice and Control Online": "Mozilla exists to bring choice, control and opportunity to everyone on the Web [uh...I thought Mozilla made a browser...]....
"It is bewildering to see, after almost 15 years of progress bolstered by significant government intervention [because nobody in a market will produce what people will want to buy absent governmental bullying, presumably], that with Windows 10 user choice has now been all but removed [i.e., not removed]. The upgrade process now appears to be purposefully designed to throw away the [non-removed] choices its customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have.... [So, after spending a year attending to the feedback of millions of beta testers...the product maker wants the consumers of the product to have the product experience that the product maker wants them to have.... Are there any other product makers that behave in this nefarious way?]
"Today we are sending an open letter to Microsoft's CEO to again insist [insist??? but we mustn't forget Beard's gratified allusion to the bolstering effects of significant government intervention; see above paragraph] that Windows 10 make it easy, obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made [that Windows 10 offer the same features of a previous Microsoft product]—and make it easier for people to assert new choices and preferences [like the assertive choice of not using Windows 10 if they don't like it? stop gunning people down in the street who decline to use your OS, Microsoft...].
"In the meantime, we're rolling out support materials and a tutorial video to help guide everyone through the process of preserving their choices on Windows 10 [i.e., Mozilla is 'rolling out' instructions on what toggle to click to set a non-Edge browser as the default browser; huge project, apparently]."
Neither in his sanctimonious blog post nor in his equally gooey open letter to Microsoft does Beard consider the merits of Microsoft's new Edge browser or whether any users of Windows 10 might be better off for having been directed by the maker of Edge to give Edge a try. No: he treats "choice," in a vacuum, as self-evidently an end in itself, at least so long as it gives Microsoft's browser competitors the fullest possible opportunity to displace Microsoft's browser on Microsoft's own turf. The question of any short- or long-term benefits for either producer or consumer that might be gained by Microsoft's changing a product attribute in its new OS is treated as simply irrelevant.
Lord knows firms do not necessarily make the best product decisions. (Remember New Coke?) By changing the features of a product—what Beard characterizes as removing choice—a firm may alienate its costumers and
But, you know, it's okay. It really really is. Because in a more-or- less free-market context, with no customer obliged to accept any product or service, firms suffer from their bad decisions. Coca Cola suffered, if briefly, when company introduced New Coke while simultaneously withdrawing Classic Coke; Microsoft suffered when they screwed up certain versions of Windows (Windows 8, Vista, Me). Luckily, such blunders give competitors a chance to lure away disgruntled costumers by offering them something better. In a free society, with nobody being regulatorily compelled to obey a unitary set of Mozilla-endorsed or fed-endorsed standards, the widely differing judgments and preferences of market participants can be directly and indirectly taken into account by the market exchanges and allied decision-making of all other market participants. Mutual adjustments and accommodations will occur continually, even without bureaucratic edicts or insufferable pronouncements by heads of nonprofits.
The same Mozilla CEO who criticizes Microsoft for privileging its own choices about how to make its own product also alludes reverentially to choice-stomping government regulation. Beard is too delicate to specify what was at stake in the Justice Department's anti-trust action against Microsoft in the 1990s. At the behest of competitors, Microsoft was harassed for years—and threatened with being coercively broken up by the federal government—for the crime of integrating one part of its product (its browser) with another part of its product (the rest of the Windows operating system). Just as plausibly, one might prosecute sneaker manufacturers for shipping footwear with their own brand of shoelaces already looped through the eyelets to the detriment of independent shoelace makers.
Beard sees it as a triumph for "choice"—if not for political freedom and whatever choices respect for individual rights makes possible—that Microsoft was stopped from choosing to make its own product in its own way. Perhaps—no guarantee, though—Beard would feel less sanguine about the blessedness of intervention loosed to impose "choice" if the government were to force Mozilla to design Firefox with "choices" that contradict its own vision for its browser. "Choices" missing from that browser would be very easy to list; after all, every thing in the universe, including every instance of software, is limited to what it is. No product, no matter how many flavors of it there may be, can exist in infinite variety or satisfy every possible user preference. One or the other of mutually exclusive features must be omitted. We certainly are awash in lamentable lacunae in the case of Firefox. Where, for example, is the Firefox toggle that I can click to cause Beard to be immediately fired from his job as Mozilla CEO for blathering too vacuously in public? Why isn't Mozilla providing me with this "choice" of feature? I'm feeling very oppressed in that regard right now. Mozilla has failed to gimme my choice.
As deployed by Beard, the notion of "choice" is simply a totemic synonym for "product feature that I and users who agree with me prefer." He does not mean the concept of "choice" which pertains to an actor's selecting among the alternative courses of action available to him when he is free to so select. Yet if the political and cultural requirements of such choice, including property rights, were altogether foiled throughout society, we'd all be dead. What every individual requires as both buyer and seller, consumer and producer in order to survive and flourish is the freedom to make his own peaceful choices with respect to his own life and stuff. I need the freedom to choose in accordance with my best judgment about what will promote my own life and interests, and to keep what I gain as a result of my peaceful choices and actions so that I can build a home and a career and a future. I do not need the "freedom" to compel others to "provide choices" for me, "choices" to be extracted from those others without and despite their own primary and determinative judgment as applied to the task of fostering their own lives and interests.
People, including people who run companies, make mistakes. They make bad choices, including bad product choices. Bad choices are bad. But the freedom to make bad choices is good, for the possibility of making bad choices is inextricably entailed by the freedom to make good ones. I am not free and I am not choosing if someone is forcing me at the point of a gun to act only in the way that he calls good, with my own judgment set aside as irrelevant. As Ayn Rand put it, "A value which one is forced to accept at the price of surrendering one's mind, is not a value to anyone; the forcibly mindless can neither judge nor choose nor value. An attempt to achieve the good by force is like an attempt to provide a man with a picture gallery at the price of cutting out his eyes" ("What Is Capitalism?" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal).
Microsoft's owners and managers would be within their rights—their actual rights, if not their legal rights as constricted by wrongful anti-trust laws as cheer-led by persons like Beard—to expel the Firefox browser from its operating system. In the best of all possible worlds, the first thing Microsoft would have done in response to Beard's bushwa is make it impossible to install or use Firefox in Windows 10.
Alas, Leibniz was wrong. This is not the best of all possible worlds. Life is even bleaker than an inconvenient OS setting, sometimes.
[ Oh yes, instead of Firefox, I recommend using "Pale Moon", which is built from Firefox code, but without the little privacy invading features that have recently crept into Firefox. I've tried Opera, and Iron (which is based on the Google Chrome code with the little privacy invading features designed-in to Chrome from the beginning), and Pale Moone is the best so far. Also get the migration tool to convert your Firefox settings, stored passwords and such over to Pale Moon—Editor ]
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