TGIF: Why Isn’t Antifa Marching for Apple?

by | Apr 12, 2024

TGIF: Why Isn’t Antifa Marching for Apple?

by | Apr 12, 2024

iphone

I was all ready to don a black mask for the Antifa demonstration when I realized that the self-styled antifascists hadn’t planned a demonstration. What are they waiting for?

After all, the national government has just started a new fascistic crusade. You’d expect the guardians against fascism to be out of the gate with great dispatch. But they aren’t.

You haven’t heard about the latest fascistic crusade? It’s the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against Apple for “monopolizing” the smartphone market, or maybe it’s the “luxury” smartphone market. The government is keeping its options open on this.

The government says Apple’s iPhone accounts for 65 percent of the American market, depending on how you define “the market.” (Worldwide the iPhone is only 20-30 percent.) That doesn’t sound like a monopoly because 40 percent for the competition ain’t chopped liver. But let’s not be bothered with facts. Apple says its U.S. share is under 50 percent.

Isn’t calling the government’s action fascistic a stretch? Well, maybe, but it’s not a big stretch to say it’s another step down the road to serfdom. (Okay, that’s not my term. It’s Hayek’s.) Remember: the word fascist once meant something more than “I hate you.”

If you read what the founders of fascism wrote, you’ll see that this political philosophy is not at its core racist or anti-Semitic, though it is nationalistic. It is the view that the nation is essentially a single organism with the state as the head. Liberal individualism was declared feeble and inadequate for the 20th century. In contrast to class conflict, fascism preached internal harmony among the big blocs, labor, business, and other corporate entities. This was the touted cooperation of all significant groups — corporatism ( which didn’t mean business corporations ran everything).

In light of that orientation, a free economy, like liberal individualism, could not be tolerated. In its place was dirigisme, which comes from the French for to direct. It’s the view that the state, on behalf of the nation, should direct economic activity for the nation’s good. Business can remain in private hands and even make a (state-defined) reasonable profit — but only so long as it serves the people’s (state-defined) interest. In other words, “owners” hold their property provisionally, at the pleasure of the wise leader. Otherwise, they’re out. That’s right: ownership, business, and profit may not serve — ugh! — selfish ends. They must serve only (state-defined) public ends. (See my entry on fascism in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.)

That explains other key features of fascism, such as the one-party-rule brutality. As Hayek showed, our wise leaders could not make a plan to harmonize the whole society if anyone were free to make his or her own plans, either alone or in concert with others, as a consumer or producer. How can we have a proper planned society if any individual can disrupt it just by living as he or she wishes?

So where the hell is Antifa? Forget the black masks, and forgo the smashing of windows or harassing of people at outdoor cafes. But make your position clear: you do not want this step toward fascism in America. Justice for Apple and all victims of antitrust oppression!

Specifically, the Justice [!] Department

alleges that Apple illegally maintains a monopoly over smartphones by selectively imposing contractual restrictions on, and withholding critical access points from, developers. Apple undermines apps, products, and services that would otherwise make users less reliant on the iPhone, promote interoperability, and lower costs for consumers and developers. Apple exercises its monopoly power to extract more money from consumers, developers, content creators, artists, publishers, small businesses, and merchants, among others.

Translation: consumers who choose the iPhone over an Android phone because they like its distinctive features don’t realize they are being exploited. (Full disclosure: I’m an Android guy.)

The complaint has a lot to do with Apple’s app store. Apple exercises closer control over apps than Google does with its competing Android app store. Apple’s rebuttal of the government charges is reported here. As Professor Thomas B. Nachbar of the University of Virginia Law School says, “The basic theory of the lawsuit is that Apple is squelching the development of apps – such as so-called ‘super apps’ that are essentially a gateway to a variety of services or apps – cloud streaming game apps, messaging apps, services (especially financial services, such as digital wallets) and accessories (such as smartwatches) – in order to insulate the iPhone from the rise of potential competitors.”

He goes on: “Much of the conduct the government is complaining of in this case are things that Apple says it does to either protect its users or provide them a distinctive customer experience.” Apple also says its approach is intended to protect its customers’ privacy and let parents limit what their kids can do with their iPhones.

Apple’s and Google’s different app policies have advantages and disadvantages regarding variety, security, privacy, and user experience. Different users will want different things. Do the antitrust bureaucrats not get that? It’s all about trade-offs. Who should decide? Which approach is “best”? That depends on who you are and what you want. That’s the great thing about markets and competition, even our less-than-fully-free system laden with patents, copyrights, trade restrictions, etc. Companies can create different bundles of features and then let consumers choose which bundle they like best. All that’s necessary is to dismantle legal barriers to market entry.

The antitrust bureaucrats don’t like that system. It’s too, well, free. (They’d say, Orwell-style, “restricted.”)  Besides, they need to earn their high salaries. So they pretend to know how the ideal phone market should look, and they have the power to do something about it. But they’ll have to get through the courts, which may yet save consumers from the conformity-imposing bureaucrats. Time might be on our side. As Axios says, “The case is likely to take years to resolve. By the time it’s settled, we might be using our smartphones in very different ways.”

I don’t like fascism, so I don’t like antitrust bureaucrats. We should have sent those mini Mussolinis packing long ago. What about it, Antifa? Show you’re antifascism after all.

About Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies; former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education; and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest books are Coming to Palestine and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.

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