TCS Daily

McNealy Gets It!

By Nick Schulz - January 18, 2002 12:00 AM

McNealy Finally Gets It -- Back in November, the federal government and several state attorneys general reached a settlement with Microsoft to bring the lengthy anti-trust case against Mister Softee to an end. At the time, many of us cheered this prudent and reasonable step. While a few state AGs and some of Microsoft's competitors are continuing to hold out, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel and this case could finally be brought to an end soon.

Under federal law, there is a public comment period before the final settlement can be reached, and there's about one more week left for that period which ends on the 28th. The Fodder encourages TCS readers to comment here.

The case brought against Microsoft was motivated primarily by competitive spite. And while the press has often portrayed Microsoft as a bully that preys on others - a charge that is reiterated time and again by Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy and Oracle's Larry Ellison - it misses the way in which the technology sector advances and evolves.

For example, it is difficult to even imagine successful companies such as Sun and Oracle without Microsoft's accomplishments as a software developer over the years. The visceral loathing of Microsoft among some technology enthusiasts fails to take this into account.

Interestingly, McNealy even admits that all his Microsoft bashing has done him - and Sun customers, shareholders, and other technology consumers - no good. "It's a huge cost to the consumer," he says, "because I'm not off bringing new innovation to the marketplace."

Well said. The same could be said for a costly and resource-draining lawsuit that is doing no one any favors to help "bring new innovation to the marketplace." Settling this case is certainly in the public interest.

'Laff' Online -- There is a new online university named Yorktown University that recently signed up -- and announced to much fanfare -- Arthur Laffer as a professor.

Now, Laffer created a famous economic illustration called "The Laffer Curve" which basically argues that tax rates near 0% and those near 100% will yield roughly the same amount of revenue (answer: very little). Why? Because excessively high taxation is a sufficient disincentive to productive activity that the taxed activity will cease -- thereby killing the tax base - or that smart people with good accountants (not, presumably, from Anderson) will find loopholes to get around paying it.

Laffer used his curve to argue that policy makers should factor in the disincentive effect created by taxes especially when predicting, or scoring, how much raising a tax rate will generate in revenue. Laffer was a darling of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page and his thinking greatly influenced the tax cutting acolytes of the Reagan years such as Jack Kemp. And he was largely correct.

Now, I didn't know what to make of Yorktown U. as a school or an idea when I first heard of it, but after poking around a little bit on "campus," it appears that, unlike Oakland, there is a "there" there that's worth paying attention to.

I was pleasantly surprised to see one scholar associated with Yorktown is John Lachs, a philosophy professor at Vanderbilt University. Lachs' affiliation with Yorktown adds a certain heft to the institution. He was arguably the most popular professor at Vanderbilt, making Vandy a top spot for philosophical scholarship even after the departure of Alisdair MacIntyre, who hung his hat there for a few years. Lachs enjoys both the respect and admiration of his colleagues as well as his students and he will make any institution he's affiliated with a better place.

Yorktown is part of a trend toward the mainstreaming of online education, from Kindergarten through middle school, high school, and university. The University of London, for example, will be offering distance learning Masters degrees - to anyone qualified anywhere in the world -- online in the year 2003.

Like all trends, this one may have begun at the margins of the marketplace but is growing and will be a part of everyday life soon.

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