The Government’s Obscene Assault on Apple - The Objective Standard

Apple Inc. revolutionized desktop computing—and then tablet computing—with its user-friendly operating systems and hardware interfaces now mimicked throughout the industry. Apple revolutionized the telephone industry with its touch-screen iPhone, a product that immediately became the benchmark for Apple’s competitors. Apple revolutionized the music industry with iTunes, a music player and online music store where customers can easily purchase and download a vast and ever-increasing array of music. And on and on.

Apple is one of America’s greatest success stories. The company has radically improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe—“half of all U.S. households own at least one Apple product”—and has earned massive profits doing so. Had Apple never existed, the state of computer technology would not be anywhere near the quality it is today, nor would our daily lives be as productive or as enjoyable as they are.

How does the U.S. government respond to Apple’s showering the world with goods, wealth, technology, jobs, examples, inspiration, and so much more? The government relentlessly assaults the company.

Politicians, bureaucrats, and judges who have never and could never produce even a miniscule fraction of the goods Apple has produced—government officials who are not competent to work at Apple except perhaps as janitors or the like—respond to Apple’s massively life-serving productivity by attacking the company for being successful and for obeying tax laws.

Earlier this year—after looting $6 billion from Apple in 2012 alone—Congress hauled in Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to “answer” for the company following existing tax law in order to legally reduce its tax burden.

Last month, the courts ruled against Apple in an antitrust case brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ), decreeing Apple “guilty” of negotiating voluntary contracts with book publishers and of selling books to willing customers at voluntarily negotiated prices. As Bloomberg summarized, Apple’s particular transgression was to voluntarily contract with publishers on an “agency model, [in which] publishers, not retailers, set book prices, with Apple getting 30 percent.” Apple, like every company, has a moral right to enter such agreements. But the government violated this right—on the part of Apple, the book publishers, and their customers—by forcibly squelching the agreements.

The latest government action against Apple is equally outrageous. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the government, as a follow-up to its antitrust case, is seeking numerous controls of Apple, including the following:

  • “The Justice Department is seeking a five-year prohibition on new e-book distribution contracts that would restrain Apple from competing on price.”
  • “Rival e-book sellers also would be allowed for a two-year period to sell books to Apple users via e-books apps that are distributed through Apple's App Store, by providing a link to their websites within their apps.”
  • “The Justice Department also proposed a court-appointed monitor of Apple's compliance with its proposed final judgement, which would be in effect for ten years.”
  • “Because Apple was found liable for violating U.S. antitrust laws, it also faces a separate trial on damages in a lawsuit against the company brought by 33 state attorneys general, who are seeking to recover money on behalf of consumers who paid higher prices for e-books.”

In other words, the government is seeking to forbid Apple from negotiating various voluntary contracts, to force Apple to sell apps on terms it deems unfavorable, to operate a major portion of Apple’s business for a decade, and to loot the company of untold additional wealth.

Why? Because Apple dared to become so successful and to amass such vast resources and customers that it could enter the ebook market in a highly competitive manner and thus expand its productivity and offerings in ways that lawyers at the DOJ don’t like.

Did Apple violate anyone’s rights? No. All Apple did is voluntarily negotiate with book publishers to sell books to willing customers. The DOJ—acting on nonobjective, right-violating laws passed and maintained by Congress—responded by waging political war on Apple.

The government’s assault on Apple is outrageously immoral. Every American who cares to restore liberty in America should proclaim Apple’s moral innocence; condemn the laws, regulations, and government agents responsible for persecuting Apple; demand the repeal of the rights-violating policies; and vow to vote these vile politicians out of office.

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Creative Commons Image: Matt Buchanan

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