If you can’t beat ’em, buy them

If you can’t beat ’em, buy them

Alan Murray has a terrific column in the Wall Street Journal about the way the Computer and Communications Industry Association has been bought off by Microsoft.

The article begins…

“Ed Black, the head of a struggling computer trade group, spent a decade on a quixotic quest to slay mighty Microsoft for its antitrust abuses. “A rapacious monopoly,” he called it. The company’s behavior is “consistently, constantly illegal.” It “steamrollers companies” and “crushes the few who will not bend to their will.” When the government settled its antitrust case against Microsoft in 2001, Mr. Black said it was “selling out consumers, competition, and all those who want a vibrant, innovative high-tech industry contributing strength to our economy.”

Well … never mind. Microsoft is still every bit the monopolist it was a decade ago. But Mr. Black is a changed man. He will personally pocket millions of dollars as part of a nearly $25 million settlement he negotiated between Microsoft and his trade group, the Computer and Communications Industry Association. In return, he will abandon his antitrust efforts against the company.

It’s as if Ralph Nader had been bought off by General Motors. And everybody ends up happy.”

And it concludes…

“The Microsoft saga serves as a reminder of an important truth: Capitalists, for the most part, don’t care much for capitalism. Their goal is to make money. And if they can do it without messy competition, so much the better. As long as it keeps its monopoly, Microsoft can afford to share the wealth with its onetime rivals. For Microsoft, those fines and payments add up to less than a year’s profit from the operating system. For the others, it’s easier to take Microsoft’s money than fight.”