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Archive for January 19th, 2006

CEOs Red in Tooth and Claw

So I’m sitting here at my desk leafing through Software Magazine ("The Software Decision Journal"). And I see an article about the sad state of Novell, a software company which fell victim to Microsoft. One paragraph is entitled "Know Your Enemy and Beware of Predators." The paragraph begins "Microsoft is the ultimate predator in the software industry. It lets others do the R&D–and then it goes in for the kill."

As anyone who’s ever been anywhere near big business knows, this is typical language. (And as anybody who’s been anywhere near Microsoft knows, it’s perfectly accurate.) The vocabulary of battle, enemies, predation–and, especially, although it doesn’t occur in this example, survival of the fittest–is the standard way of describing the competitive environment. (The place of Darwinism in this mental landscape could be an essay in itself.)

Ten and twenty years ago, when intellectuals like George Gilder and Michael Novak were painting a glowing picture of the ethics of capitalism, I always thought they sounded like they really didn’t have any experience of the corporate world. I don’t necessarily consider myself anti-capitalist–I would want to define the term pretty carefully before saying whether it does or doesn’t describe me. But spare me the cant about mutual benevolence.

Maclin Horton

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