If you’ve spent any time around the blogosphere, or looking at thinktank websites, you’ll be aware that the following opinions tend to go together:
* widespread ownership of guns saves lives
* tobacco smoke is harmless (if not to smokers then to anyone who breathes it second-hand)
* global warming is a myth
There’s not too much mystery about this. The kinds of characteristics that would encourage the adoption of any one of these beliefs (make your own list) obviously encourage the others. What’s surprising to me is how frequently, at least among thinktanks these opinions are correlated with support for Microsoft, and, more particularly, denunciation of open-source software.
This thought struck me in relation to the much-denounced study of Linux being peddled by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute. As Tim Lambert shows with chapter and verse, “ADTI are anti-Linux, pro-tobacco and anti-global warming shills.” ADTi doesn’t appear to have weighed in on gun laws (yet), but Flack Central Station hits the quadrella, as you would expect. In Australia, our own offshoot, the Institute of Public Affairs manages a similar feat, toeing the party line on tobacco, guns and global warming and also being a strong supporter of unfettered monopoly rights for owners of “intellectual property”.
The question that puzzles me is, why does Microsoft find itself in this kind of company? Of course, all the groups I’ve mentioned are pro-corporate, but plenty of other corporations manage to advance their interests without descending to this level. And, while I don’t like either Microsoft’s products or its attitude to intellectual property, I’m obviously in the minority on the first point at least. Again, while I don’t warm to Bill Gates at a personal level, he’s certainly shown more interest in putting his wealth to good use than the average billionaire. I find it hard to believe that he really wants to subsidise the general activities of groups like those I’ve mentioned.
On the whole, I incline to the view that Microsoft, as a corporation, has got beyond the point where even its founder can control it. But I’d be interested to hear other theories.