Devil in the Details

WRITERS' BROCK

Lest we forget, the vast universe of sexual allegations swirling around President Clinton began expanding more than four years ago with a single fiery Big Bang—the article by David Brock in the American Spectator called "His Cheatin' Heart." Last April in Esquire magazine, Brock issued an emphatic apology to Clinton for begetting the Paula Jones suit that in turn begat the three-ring Monica circus. His sources for the article, Brock confessed, were motivated by vengeance, money, and political animosity.

Yet even though the author himself has repudiated the article, the Spectator continues to defend it—while simultaneously continuing to attack Brock. The magazine's online version made Brock its "Enemy of the Week" for two weeks in a row, and has supported reader suggestions that he be named "Enemy in Perpetuity" because of his apology. And in the May 1998 Spectator, editor T. Emmett Tyrrell called Brock a hypocrite for disavowing the article without also relinquishing whatever money and fame it earned him: "If Brock sincerely feels that he owes the president an apology for what he has written, it is only logical and fair that he take the profits he earned from his 'Troopergate' labors and contribute them to the president's defense fund."

How is it that Tyrrell can say no wrong about Brock's article yet say no right about Brock? Perhaps those "profits" Tyrrell denounces play a part. According to Mediaweek, caustic investigative pieces like Brock's in the early Clinton years sent the Spectator's circulation soaring from 30,000 to 340,000. Troopergate and other dispatches from what Brock now calls "the gothic world of anti-Clintonism" put the Spectator on the map. Now David Brock, like a repentant Victor Frankenstein marveling at the force he has unleashed, concludes too late that ". . . if sexual witch-hunts become the way to win in politics, if they become our politics altogether, we can and will destroy everyone in public life." But as long as opportunists like Brock and ideologues like Tyrrell exploit sexual allegations for personal gain, the witch-hunt will continue.


COGITO ERGO HUH?

A recent solicitation letter from Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner reports that

Liberals want (1) more government control over our lives, and (2) the continued destruction of western civilization.

Damn. Busted.

Meanwhile Family Voice, the magazine of Concerned Women for America, reveals

The Bible says we must be wise in our dealings—as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16, NIV). God calls us to be good stewards of our resources. Therefore, we should encourage our legislators to privatize Social Security.

Well, maybe serpents.



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INVISIBLE THUMBS

When a coalition of liberal groups and senators blocked Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1988, enraged conservatives coined the verb "to Bork," meaning to block an opponent on ideological grounds. Now, apparently, the verb has taken on a secondary meaning—to reverse one's views on behalf of a well-heeled client.

Bork first became famous in the 1970s when as a law professor at the University of Chicago he advanced the theory that antitrust violations were mostly illusory. As he explained in his 1978 book, The Antitrust Paradox, competition was so self-purifying that monopolists who tried to rig prices would soon be forced out of the market by innovators. The book was widely used to ridicule the idea that market power, predatory pricing, and monopoly were serious economic phenomena or policy questions. If a company is dominant in its industry, that's because it's very good at what it does. The Reagan administration, embracing Bork's theories, put antitrust enforcement into a deep freeze.

What a surprise, then, to find Bork turning up in April as the legal counsel and spokesman for a Netscape-led coalition of anti-Microsoft companies who want the Justice Department to go after Bill Gates for monopolistic practices. So what happened to Bork's notion that predatory pricing wouldn't work in the marketplace? Bork explains that it's not the pricing that makes Microsoft's behavior predatory but rather its other uses of market power. So while predatory pricing rarely occurs, other forms of market-rigging are alive and well after all. Oh.

Bork notes that Microsoft has more than 90 percent of the market share in operating systems and that it has used this near monopoly to compel computer manufacturers who offer Windows not to alter the first display screen—and thus has restricted competition in applications software. Bork insists—accurately—that his earlier work had favorably cited Supreme Court cases disallowing similar monopoly abuses. True enough, but the broad thrust of Bork's work was to dismiss such occurrences as exceptional.

You have to wonder if this intellectual conversion has anything to do with the market value of changing sides. Bork has also consulted for AT&T, which has accused the Baby Bells of monopolizing local phone markets. Maybe monopolies have suddenly become more prevalent in high-tech industries—or maybe the market is placing a higher value on antitrust suits.

Is this the beginning of a trend? A number of former leftists have cashed in nicely by deciding that they are really neoconservatives. What's next? Will Charles Murray decide that America needs a safety net after all? Sadly not. The problem is that no one gives you a fat retainer or think tank sinecure for moving from right to left—only the other way round. This is what a non-Chicago economist would call "market failure." In the vaunted free marketplace of ideas, there is an invisible thumb on the scale.




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