Subject: Re: street performer protocol
From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <>
Date: Sat, 6 May 2000 10:49:32 -0400

>     In a country where we are willing to execute human beings for crimes
> (note I am not saying I am either a proponent or opponent of such
> measures, only noting the severity of the penalty), I find laughable the
> notion that artificial legal entities, with no natural human rights,
> should be above equally harsh penalties for breaking the law, or, for that
> matter, that anyone would attach moral significance to it. It's
> ludicrous.

While I agree with the sentiment, it's worth noting that it's completely
outside the interest of the typical guy on the street.

I don't agree with him, but let me describe how my father sees things:

My father is not a computer guy. He's fairly conservative, holds Microsoft
stock, and he thinks the whole thing is completely nuts. Fundamentally, he
doesn't *care* whether Microsoft has violated antitrust or not -- it hasn't
done any harm to him and he has benefitted greatly from the richness of the
computing environment they have created. He sees MS as a company that has
been a tremendous unifying force for applications. He believes that
customers *do* have a choice, and that they buy MS products because they are
better. He mostly doesn't understand the tying that has occurred, and when
the issue comes out in the open his general reaction is that Microsoft
shouldn't be penalized for being so successful that they can negotiate
advantageous terms.

But when you cut through all of the above, you discover one thing lurking
underneath his view: he is very worried about the disruption (to the
customers) that any breakup of Microsoft will entail. In the final analysis,
he doesn't understand that there is a long-term universal benefit to
correcting the Microsoft problem, and he therefore doesn't see why the
consumer should be forced to accept the pain associated with redressing the

I think that this pretty well summarizes the issue. Most of the people out
there, even when they can *see* a long term benefit, aren't willing to
undergo short term pain to achieve it.

And make no mistake: any action by the courts that solves this issue will
have to be structural, and the consumer *will* be hurt in the short term.