Runaway success at Apple and Google has governmental mandarins gleefully preparing litigious and regulatory shackles. And that is sheer madness.
Recall Kurt Vonnegut's timeless story of Harrison Bergeron: "The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General."
While Vonnegut wrote his harrowing classic in 1961 and projected it 120 years into the future, it sure feels like his fictitious Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers is hard at work here in 2010 on devising ways to throttle Apple and Google and any other private enterprise that distinguishes itself too forcefully from its competitors.
As I wrote in a column last week called Global CIO: Google Derangement Syndrome Erupts Worldwide, Beltway busybodies are in a lather over the prospect of digging into many facets of Google's business in the hopes of perhaps finding some shred of evidence they might be able to construe as indicative of heavy-handedness.
They have nothing to go on, but in their misguided attempt to ensure equal outcomes, they are preparing to go after Google because it is big, because it is successful, because it is hugely profitable, and most of all because it has developed extraordinary technology that it's used to create a wildly popular business.
Apple and Steve Jobs are also coming increasingly under the scrutiny of the Handicapper General, and again as we noted last week, the very fact that Apple's market cap has surpassed Microsoft's is being taken by some observers as a sure-fire indication that it's time to hogtie the Cupertino upstarts and cut them the heck down to size. And in this column I've included excerpts from 10 of the many reader comments--some for the imminent investigations, and some against.
The one Apple-bashing charge that I find fully incomprehensible is that Apple is somehow flaunting the law by choosing not to use Adobe Flash technology on the iPhone. Why in the world should Apple be forced to carry Flash if it doesn't want to? Why shouldn't that decision—and Apple's freedom to thrive or fail based on its behavior—be left up to consumers to decide? To amplify this point, here's another excerpt from Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron:
"[George] tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren't really very good—no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in."
You want Flash? Then buy a product that offers Flash. You want an iPhone? Then accept that it doesn't offer Flash, buy an iPhone, and then be sure to tell Apple repeatedly that you as an invested Apple customer would really like it if Apple would add Flash.
Just don't ask the Handicapper General to force every single tech product to carry every possible technology out of "fairness". Those decisions belong to the companies making the products and the customers shelling out money for them—not to the government.
As for having proof of wrongdoing on the parts of Google or Apple, these zealots operate under the policy of "evidence, schmevidence"—they've got the power of subpoenas and official summonses in their pockets and armed with that, they don't need no stinkin' evidence.
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