Democracy & Technology Blog Trade war

Picking up on Braden Cox’s recent post over at Technology Liberation Front, “Abuse of Power? Competition Commissioner that Pushes ‘Smart Business Decisions,'” it’s no secret that Europe’s software industry is years behind Microsoft, and not surprising the industry is seeking help from politicians in Brussels. When Kroes, a politician, talks about open standards one must assume she is referring to the European software industry, not to the open source movement generally. Of course, for the moment “the enemy of my enemy [may be] my friend,” as they say.
In her remarks last week Kroes said,

“I know a smart business decision when I see one — choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed,” Ms. Kroes told a conference in Brussels. “No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one.”

This statement could be read either as an innocent statement of personal opinion, or more like an informal, unofficial statement of official policy with plausible deniability. I suspect it is the latter, and that if you are a European bureaucrat or business leader you now understand what is expected of you as far as your future software procurement is concerned.
Why would Kroes need to be opaque? Because there are both structural (e.g., excessive tariffs, unreasonable licensing terms, etc.) and nonstructural trade violations (e.g., certain winks and nods) which are actionable. And because two or more can play this game.
A good reason for governments to not encourage boycotts of foreign goods is because foreign governments can do the same thing.
That can lead to trade war, in which your efforts to protect one of your small, insignificant struggling industries may result in foreign retaliation against your most successful exporters.
Trade wars don’t always have serious repercussions, but they have sparked global recessions and many think a trade war sparked the Great Depression.
That’s another good reason why maybe politicians on both sides of the Atlantic ought to leave software procurement decisions up to the marketplace.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.