The American, the online magazine of the American Enterprise Institute, has published an essay of mine in which I argue that is wrong to lump criminals like Bernie Madoff in with creators like Steve Jobs. More broadly it examines the nature of the profit motive in contrast what motivates frauds and hucksters.
From the start, Madoff was treated not as a criminal who pretended to be a businessman but as the symbol of business greed. He was, in the words of Diana Henriques, author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, “a creature of the world he helped create, a world that was greedy for riskless gain . . . arrogantly certain of success, woefully deluded about what could go wrong, and selfishly indifferent to the damage done to others.”
The world around us has been shaped by a theory that says the Madoffs and Jobses of the world are brothers in spirit — or, rather, brothers in spiritual impoverishment.
But what if actual profit-seekers have nothing important in common with monsters such as Madoff? What if the profit motive is radically different from some unhinged “greed” capable of turning producers into predators? Then perhaps we owe businessmen an apology — and maybe, just maybe, a significant part of the justification for today’s regulatory state should be relegated to history’s ash heap.
Whole thing here.
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The headline sums it up: “Judge scolds Apple for lack of remorse in e-book antitrust case.” The article quotes Judge Denise Cote’s statements to lawyers at a hearing last week. “None of the publishers nor Apple have expressed any remorse,” said Judge Cote, who recently found Apple liable for a Sherman Act violation. “They are, in a word, unrepentant.”
Apple intends to appeal, and so higher courts will decide the legal issue. But the moral issue is for each of us to decide. Regardless of what Judge Cote says, do you think Apple has behaved badly and should apologize? Here are some basic facts and legal considerations to help you decide.
Apple was found legally liable for having “restrained trade.” How? By offering five large publishers a great deal on e-book retailing, a deal so attractive that they all signed on, talked about it among themselves, and insisted that Amazon match it. In other words, the defendants’ illegal acts consisted of a series of entirely voluntary transactions in which each company set prices and terms for its own products and services only. There was no “restraint” that deprived any company or consumer of full control over their own property.
In short, there were no victims, and Apple did nothing wrong. But in the Kafkaesque world of antitrust law, business trading that violates no one’s rights can nevertheless be legally forbidden. In the e-book case, the defendants’ blameless conduct was transformed, by the linguistic alchemy of antitrust, into Apple being the “ringleader” of a “conspiracy” to “fix prices.” Under these circumstances, does Apple have a moral obligation to admit guilt and demonstrate repentance?
I say no. Whatever the company decides to do in the face of legal compulsion, the general public should not demand contrition from Apple. Quite the contrary—whether we use Apple products or not, we should voice admiration and appreciation for a company that is willing to succeed or fail in the marketplace solely on the value of its products and services, despite the omnipresent threat of punishment under this nation’s antitrust laws.
“This is all about asserting control over big business and nothing more.”
In this recent interview with Butler On Business, Tom Bowden gives his most in depth interview on the Apple antitrust case to date.
Tom’s segment starts 29 minutes in.
My colleague Tom Bowden dissects the Apple antitrust case on a recent episode of the Schilling Show. His segment starts about 24 minutes in.