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By David Podvin

There is a cosmetically enhanced version of reality with which American schoolchildren are indoctrinated, featuring cherished clichés like “equality under the law” and “liberty and justice for all”. And then there is reality itself, which is somewhat less pretty. Our true national reality was briefly on full hideous display Friday, as a federal judge “punished” Microsoft for stealing tens of billions of dollars by ruling that the company must keep all of its ill-gotten loot and the phenomenal power that goes with it.

Parents who teach their children that crime doesn’t pay are probably being responsible, but they are not being completely candid. Bill Gates broke countless federal statutes in order to bankrupt many law-abiding competitors and, in the process, made himself the richest man in the world. When he finally was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he falsified evidence and lied under oath. He was caught doing that, too. His brazenly deceitful courtroom conduct was cited by the original judge in the case as being damaging to Microsoft’s credibility, whereupon Gates had the judge replaced by someone who was less of a nitpicker.

Gates’ proclivity towards hapless self-incrimination should provide the insight that this guy is not winning based on smarts. He is Alfred E. Newman with a chainsaw - a brigand who got on top by stealing a competitor’s source code and has stayed on top through ruthless thuggery. He will not, however, be prosecuted for his criminality and perjury, nor will he be impeached. His fate is to be a revered icon of entrepreneurial capitalism.

The Gates story of crime and non-punishment is obscene in the truest sense of the word, because it is the last lesson you should ever want impressionable young minds to absorb.

Free market conservatives argue that consumers benefit from the extralegal Microsoft monopoly because Gates has kept the prices of his products relatively low. Inferior quality at reasonable prices has also been a winning formula for McDonald’s, but at least consumers have superior alternatives available. Unlike the fast food giant, Gates has been able to use predatory pricing and strong arm marketing tactics to keep high quality products off the market. Now, the courts have tacitly endorsed his coercive methods.

This is all just the latest example of what makes our perverse version of capitalism so very special. John D. Rockefeller broke nearly every law in the book while gaining control of the oil industry and, after being nailed by the feds, he also was allowed to keep what he stole (don’t try this at home). Over a hundred years later, his family still wields tremendous power, all of it stemming from funds that were acquired by breaking the law. The same illicit windfall of assets and influence has benefited succeeding generations of Bushes, Fords, DuPonts, Mellons, Waltons, and other dynasties that were created through lawless brutality and perpetuated through the inheritance of blood money.

Meanwhile, affirmative action is immoral, because it is not based on merit.

Welcome to the real America, where there is one set of rules for the elite and a far less favorable set for everyone else. This reality is so painful that most of the people who toil under the harsher code refuse to admit they are getting reamed. It is traumatic to acknowledge you are a peon, especially after having been taught at an early age that you could grow up to be the leader of the land.

In your dreams, baby.

Today, Gates stands as a testament to the fact that stealing fifty billion dollars is actually a victimless crime – as opposed to stealing a slice of pizza, which earned a lifetime sentence for one of his less well-connected career criminal brethren. The King of All Nerds now has formal carte blanche to break more laws and, when necessary, commit more perjury on his way to destroying more law-abiding companies. He will amass even greater wealth and even greater power by placing even greater limits on the options of consumers. He will continue to win by lying and cheating and stealing, and the courts will continue to enable him every step of the way.

Bill Gates is living proof that the American system still works…for him, if not for you.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009