A Kantian Critique of Antitrust: On Morality and Microsoft
Journal of Private Enterprise, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 161-190, Spring 2007
23 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2008
Date Written: January 7, 2007
This paper covers two broad general topics, one focusing on firms, and the other focusing on the state, before turning to an actual antitrust case to illustrate the more abstract points of the analysis. First, I explain why actions forbidden by antitrust do not involve any violation of rights or duties, as dictated by Immanuel Kant's formalization of the moral law, the categorical imperative. Second, I discuss the role of the law in Kant's political theory, showing that it exists only to enforce citizens' clearly defined rights against each other, and not to promote a consequentialist end such as welfare-maximization. Along these lines, I argue that antitrust is best understood as a category of criminal law, and Kant has very strong views on criminal sanctions, which should only be used in cases of guilty wrongdoing. Finally, I use the famous (or infamous) case against Microsoft to illustrate and elaborate upon the ethical points made in the first two sections of the paper.
Keywords: antitrust, Immanuel Kant, Microsoft
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