Trespassing government real Y2K threat(Commentary ) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Week of June 26, 2000

Opinion Trespassing government real Y2K threat Bartlett Cleland The Y2K threat was more than mere speculation  it's just that the timing was off a bit.

New Year's Eve came and went without even a flicker of the lights in New York. It seems that the only thing that was extinguished was the country's vigilance on threats to technology  because we are currently under attack. So far this year we have seen this particular Y2K threat attempting to organize all of your personally identifying information into a national database, to stop your shipments via UPS at the state border to search the packages, to "pull the plug" on the Internet and to render useless software you likely are running on your computer.

The actions of this Y2K threat have hit where it hurts the most  in your retirement savings.

Oh, by the way, this threat does go by another name  big government. Every level of government has set its sights on the technology market. Some elected politicians are trying to raise your taxes, and the Federal Trade Commission has announced that it may need to be further involved to protect your privacy.

Of course, at the same time, the FBI wants access to all of your electronic information, and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department is bringing its tools to the sandbox as well.

How's your portfolio?

The Justice Department has found a way to deprive you of your property. What was your portfolio worth before the decision regarding Microsoft? What has the market said about government regulation of the technology sector?

That part is easy. The financial markets clearly indicated that Microsoft was worth more before the decision for breakup than after. In the view of those who invest and watch the markets closely, Microsoft survives because the parts work together in a constructive, innovative and productive manner. Microsoft is greater than the sum of its parts, or -- to steal an old business buzzword  Microsoft gains from synergy.

This is not at all surprising. The Justice Department, with its 19th-century thinking and tools, cannot find a way to handle the perceived problems it has in this case. Microsoft is not a government-protected monopoly; this is not AT&T or the railroads, or even oil.

Arbitrarily carving up a company and, more importantly, breaking a product that consumers desire makes no sense. These are the folks who say they are protecting the consumers?

Protecting consumers from what? Perhaps from the evils of the free market that drives down prices, and that rewards customers with innovation and convenience?

Sorry, we want it We know that governments are prone to take property away from its citizens to forward its ends, and we even have a name for it  we call that a "taking." For example, if a highway is to be laid through your back yard, the government is required to compensate you for the subsequent loss of property value. A taking is triggered when government "substantially disturbs the owner's use and enjoyment of the property." In fact, a physical seizure or appropriation does not have to be part of the equation.

In this case the government is trying to take away Microsoft's property. The government specifically wants to carve away in a manner that kills synergy and a product that consumers want. But wait, who owns Microsoft? Not Bill Gates, or at least not only him. Virtually anyone in the stock market owns Microsoft directly or indirectly. So whose property was taken? Yours.

This action was designed not to punish but to destroy, not to help consumers but to hurt success. The Antitrust Division has cast about for a way to do what it does in this technological era and comes up empty. So, because it is easy, because they could use it 100 years ago, they swing. What got busted this time? Your property, your investments, your retirement, your children's education, your ability to use the products you want.

OK, calculate those portfolios again, readjust your retirement date and now run to your computer. How is your property? Taken, and trespassed upon.

BARTLETT CLELAND is director of the Center for Technology Freedom at the Institute for Policy Innovation (, a nonprofit think tank based in Lewisville, Texas. He can be reached by e-mail at

-- Martin Thompson (, June 26, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ