When the Justice Department announced in March that it intended to sue Apple and five book publishers for collusion over the pricing of eBooks, David Boaz of the Cato Institute could be heard to say “Here we go again.” Boaz wrote about Washington regulators and busybodies two years ago, calling them “parasites” and expressing the hope that Apple would avoid the absorption into the Washington “Borg” suffered first by Microsoft and then Google.
Boaz then noted:
For more than a decade, Microsoft went about its business, developing software, selling it to customers, and — happily, legally — making money. Then in 1995, after repeated assaults by the Justice Department's antitrust division, Microsoft broke down and started playing the Beltway game…
A decade later, it was Google. After a humble start in a Stanford dorm room, Google delivered a cheap and indispensable product and became the biggest success story of the early 21st century.
But in our modern politicized economy — which author Jonathan Rauch called the "parasite economy" — no good deed goes unpunished for long. Some policymakers threatened to create a federal Office of Search Engines to regulate Google. The George W. Bush administration wanted Google to turn over a million random Web addresses and records of all searches from a one-week period. Congress investigated how the company deals with the Chinese government's demands for censorship.
So, like Microsoft and other companies before it, Google opened a Washington office and hired well-connected lobbyists.
Now it’s Apple’s turn. The irony is that Apple’s success has been built by providing products that their customers didn’t know they wanted – until they existed.
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