Sunday, September 18, 2005

Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Second Lesson

Need I say more?

Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Second Lesson

This is not a finished work: there are a number of things that could be patted into terser or funnier or more accurate jabs. And of course, there's room for lots more items. And I need to add some credits at the bottom for a few contributors. If you have suggestions, please let me know. Chances are I won't respond to all the comments on this one.


Glen said...

What's your source on the claim "95% of computers use MSWindows"?

Even if it were true - which would be slightly more plausible if you had said desktop computer or perhaps business desktop client - it's not really a fair comparison because Microsoft - much like Alcoa Aluminum, a "good monopolist" of the distant past - is largely in competition with itself. Any particular year, for MS to sell a new product it has to convince people not to just keep using the older version. [By way of illustration: I'm typing this note on one of the two Windows 2000 machines at my desk. :-)]

The public schools involve ongoing expenditure of resources every year for every student; A Microsoft OS is essentially a one-time expense.

In any case, that barb would be a lot sharper if you made sure the numbers were accurate and footnoted with a source.

Mike Huben said...

Once again, you're clueless, Glen.

First, satire is rarely footnoted.

Second, numbers I've seen are above 90% for personal computers: you can find that with a search easily.

Third, the fairytale of "good monopolists" is based on a comparison to what competitive alternative?

Fourth, MS sells product with essentially every new PC built. Doesn't matter which version of Windows: it's still their monopoly. The upgrade market it relatively small, thanks to improving hardware.

Fifth, what does ongoing expense have to do with monopolies? And the fact is that computers and their OS software are less a capital expense than an ongoing expense due to improving hardware and greater demands by bloatware for memory and processing power.

Your comments would be a lot sharper if you showed us you have a clue. Which is strange, because you know that industry very well.

Glen said...

Acording to the US census, roughly 10% of students are in private school and homeschoolers are another 2%, so public schools presumably account for an 88% market share. (2003 figures) (link).

There doesn't seem to be any way to definitively calculate the Windows OS share, but one can certainly find numbers lower than that. For instance, IDC said the WinOS market share in 1999 was 87% and falling (link). The wider you cast the net the worse it gets for MS - many current estimates include servers (lots of Linux) and handheld devices (lots of Palm and Symbian) in their calculations.

(Wikipedia, on the other hand, claims both "95%" and "above 90%" in the same article. Both numbers obviously were pulled out of an orifice rather than a study, which explains why they are so nice and round.)

On "good monopolists": Some monopolists maintain market share only by being /so/ good at driving down costs and improving the product that nobody else can make a profit competing with them. Alcoa was one such. They had to keep driving down prices partly due to indirect competition from other materials - on the margin, people could substitute tin or plastic or wood or whatever - but mostly because aluminum is really easy to recycle. If they tried to charge excessive "monopoly profits", people would reuse previously-made aluminum reprocessed elsewhere rather than new aluminum made by Alcoa. Some days I think Microsoft is in a similar situation - they are their own worst competitor. It's an interesting situation to be in.

(other days I think it's more accurate to say the Operating System market isn't really a market, it's just a technology that enables other things to be markets. MS makes an OS in order to sell Office; Apple makes one in order to sell hardware, and Linus Torvalds makes one in order to boost his self-esteem. Nobody makes one in order to make a profit selling the OS. It's more like the free napkins at Burger King.)

The alternative to a "good monopolist" is a "bad" one, one that maintains the monopoly by beating up competitors in ways /other/ than providing a superior product at a superior price. You can get more detail from this book if you care.

FWIW, "naked PCs" sold without an OS have been growing in popularity. (MS's FUD )

Glen said...

Walmart sells PCs without Windows here. Dell sells PCs without Windows here. Apple sells PCs without Windows here.

Glen said...

Okay, now I'll make a constructive suggestion. This being web-based satire, I do think it'd be funnier if links were strategically used to make it more clear you're not attacking strawmen or making up all the numbers. So here's my contribution, see what you think:

"When it comes to hurricane relief, government is the problem, not the solution. If it weren't for all that tax money government wastes, the private sector would obviously solve the problem by controlling the weather.

Mike Huben said...

You still don't have a clue, Glen.

The exact numbers aren't important. What's important is that libertarians call public schools (run by thousands of independent districts) monopolies, but often deny that Microsoft is a monopoly.

When libertarians agree that Microsoft is a monopoly, it is a "good" monopoly, as opposed to government which we are expected to assume is a bad monopoly, even when there are thousands of competing local government school systems.

Do you get it now? It's the hypocritical propaganda.

It doesn't matter that now you can buy PC's without having paid for Windows. That has nothing to do with the fact that Microsoft has a kind of monopoly.

As for your constructive suggestion, once again you haven't got a clue. Satire isn't generally footnoted or linked to sources: you're expected to recognize the subject if you have a clue. And to suggest that I link to an idiotic 8 page propaganda rant so that people can confirm a simple claim is stupid: a footnote would work better, and I won't do that.

Glen said...

You're not expected to assume anything. You're expected to evaluate the arguments for a position and decide whether you find them convincing, rather than make up your own strawman arguments and attack those instead.

Okay, I get it. I've been trolled. The "Mike Huben" I remember occasionally tried to understand opposing views rather than simply mocking them from a position of (real or pretended) ignorance. Apparently that guy has been taken over by aliens, or driven nuts by the people he argued with, or perhaps converted to Brad Delong's Order of the Shrill.

It's too bad. I kind of miss that guy.

Mike Huben said...

Sorry, Glen you STILL haven't a clue.

Satire is not trolling: there is a critical difference in intent. Satire is intended to educate, amuse, and persuade by pointing out foolishness. Trolling is intended to provoke angry response by going to opponents and prodding them.

You came to my site: I didn't post to yours or anybody else's. My intentions have been the same for more than a decade, and are declared at my site.

And no, I'm still the same guy. The one who wrote the original LIOL many years ago. The idea that I would always operate in a "trying to understand" mode and never make conclusions or have opinions is close to the stupidest thing you've ever said. I've ALWAYS mocked libertarianism in addition to learning about it. And the more I learn, the more there is to mock, because there's very little of worth there. What's wothwhile is present elsewhere, but not in the ludicrously hypertrophied libertarian ideological manner.

And finally, there's no strawman here. Whatever the numbers, libertarians generally call public schools a monopoly and either deny Microsoft is a monopoly or claim it is a "good" monopoly and want you to assume public schools are a "bad" monopoly. How many libertarian web sites or books do you want me to show you this in? You can find both claims at for example.