June 2007

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Google Is Being Evil 

I think that Google, whose informal motto is "Don't Be Evil," has been failing to live up to that motto.

They've been trying to use the government to force Microsoft to make it more convenient and practical for users of Microsoft's Vista operating system to replace the built-in desktop search functionality with Google's own (free) alternative software.

Critics of antitrust enforcement, such as that against Microsoft, have warned that it would be used as a weapon to protect competitors, rather than consumers; and Google is proving them correct. There's been no outcry for this redundant functionality from consumers. And, while I suspect Microsoft would have improved the ease of replacement of search software if enough consumers asked for it, it's perfectly understandable that they didn't make it a priority when pushing to complete their initial version of the operating system.

I don't have a problem with Google trying to encourage Microsoft to open this area up to competition. I do have a problem with them using the force of government to do it for them.

Also, I think Google should be careful about getting into this game. Their dominance of web-search, and financial success, has made them a potential target of others (competitors and politicians) who would exploit antitrust laws for their own benefit.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good Policies are a Big Deal 

I really like this post by Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek.

In it, Roberts explains why he thinks we should fight a policy like the ban on trans fats, rather than let it go because it's really "No big deal."

The argument is that, while each individual encroachment on liberty is not a big deal, in the aggregate we do lose a great deal. And, if we talk ourselves out of fighting each small incremental loss, we'll find that we have lost a lot.

This reminds me of a problem with diet and exercise. It's easy to convince yourself that one instance of having a snack that's off your diet, or skipping one exercise session will not have a great impact on your goals. It's easy because it's true, and I think it's reasonable to go ahead and indulge in these things on occasion.

The danger, though, is making this argument with yourself every time! Even though each instance has a small effect, the total effect of adopting this policy can be dramatic. Whether straying from our personal plans, or defending important political principles, we can find that what we've lost through repeated "No big deal" arguments is much harder to get back than it would have been to maintain through consistent support of good policies (and resistance to bad ones).