What is Freedom?

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I’ve read both sides of the RAMBUS issue, and I’m finally ready to offer my opinion on it.

What I’m against is unreasoning hate and prejudice against a company for reasons that have no valid foundation. I’d like to remind readers of this post that this is STILL a FREE COUNTRY! More on that in a minute.

I’m against people leveraging their freedom to unreasonably and unfairly slander others. I see that a lot in the PC forums.

Why is it not enough enough to say, “I favor SDRAM” or “I prefer RAMBUS?” No, typically the opinions step over the line into “Rambus sucks” or similar lines on that fashion. When you post statements like that, it’s worse than surrendering your objectivity; to intelligent readers who can appreciate and analyze both sides of an issue, it’s a surrender in credibility too.

Someone who uses “suck” or vulgarity to describe a product comes down totally on the side of those who are out to hate something by any means necessary.

I’m seeing that with this whole RAMBUS issue. People are screaming because of Rambus prices. OK, since when does being (fill in nationality) give you the right to universally low-cost products? It’s a free country remember?

Manufacturers can set whatever price they want for any product they wish to sell. Look at Microsoft. Look at AT&T. Or how about Exxon or Shell?

We live in a democracy where the people rule the government, but the government does not mandate prices for anything. Why would you be “entitled” to “low cost memory” any more than you would be “entitled” to “cheap gasoline”?

Ever notice how every time gas prices go up, all of a sudden they’re having Senate hearings?? Look at what’s happening in the Midwest on that front.

Our government can’t even get a budget out on a time every year without squabbling, but all of a sudden, they’re fit to hold court on everything from Elian to the price of gas and oil?

It’s a free country. If you can’t afford it, either don’t buy it, or buy it (or something comparable) from someone who will sell what you can.

The arrogance of some people never surprises me. The prices of PCs and components are putting more power and capability than ever before at prices that are at their lowest levels ever.

Now all of sudden, everyone’s expecting a free place at the feeding trough. Now all of a sudden it’s expected that low prices for everything should be a government entitlement or something. You’d think that these corporations were setting up shop as one charity to serve another: “you.”

Here’s a wakeup call. Businesses exist to provide meaningful products and services the management thinks there is a market for, with the goal being to MAKE A PROFIT. P-R-O-F-I-T. That means that they are not a charity, or a non-profit organization.

It also means they don’t owe you cheap prices as a legal requirement any more than they have to offer you a BMW just for stopping in.

Cheap prices are typically a result of three factors: supply, demand, and competition. Lots of demand and little supply will almost universally mean high prices. It’s the reality of a free economy. If there’s a lot of people wanting a certain product (i.e. memory, for example), but not enough of said product, prices are going to go UP mainly because the company is not out to gouge the consumer, but they see an opportunity to make greater profits.

Although you can look at this under whatever colored glasses you want, ITS NOT AGAINST THE LAW TO MAKE A PROFIT; ranging from swimming in red ink, to making obscene amounts of money. If you want a cheaper product out on the market, you’re limited to three options; shop for it, sell it, or make it yourself.

So to all the whiners that are coming out frothing at mouth with hate for a particular company either for making a poor product, charging a lot of money for it, or even both; here’s a better solution.

Go find something you like, because trashing a company is not going to bring prices down!

Wake up and smell the coffee!

But I also have this to say about the whole RAMBUS issue. I believe people should have choices. Especially with a crucial, VOLATILE market such as computer RAM. People don’t like it when you try to box their choices into a corner (are you listening, Intel and Rambus)? I guarantee you it will backfire.

If Intel brings Williamette out and OUT and OUT REQUIRES RAMBUS RDRAM, it will backfire and cost you dearly. The marketplace will see to that as they stay away from your overpriced product in droves.

If you think I’m dreaming, ask Ford how their Edsel line did in the 1960’s. If I’m buying a motherboard, I’d better be able to choose between SDRAM or whatever alternatives are out there, or I’m taking my business elsewhere.

Maybe the loss of my motherboard and memory sale won’t hurt you, but multiply me by thousands and tell me if you still don’t feel anything. Most people are not going to pay a 20-40% premium on a comparable product sold elsewhere. Personally, I think the relationship between Intel and Rambus is a little too cozy for my taste, just as uncomfortably cozy as Rambus’ relationship with the writer of the Rambus “editorial.”

I’m not worried about Intel and Rambus being cozy, or even Intel trying to force Rambus memory on MB manufacturers. That can backfire too.

Say, Intel, what do you suppose will happen to you if there’s a MB industry backlash against your Rambus-strongarming?

What’s to keep MB manufacturers from backing out of making Intel CPU motherboards and say, only selling Athlon or older Socket 7 motherboards. I bet they can still be comfortably profitable by selling AMD Athy parts. Intel may be a major player in the CPU industry, but Intel is not the end-all and be-all of it.

Perhaps you have heard of AMD and VIA/Cyrix/IDT? You tell me if that’s worth it, Mr. Grove.

I’ve said my piece, and I’m happy to say, I didn’t froth at the mouth.

Countpoint

I don’t think Brian completely understands freedom, especially freedom of speech. To Brian, freedom seems to be limited to charging whatever prices you like.

It isn’t.

You can normally charge what you like, but others have an even stronger right to express their opinion about it.

Freedom of speech is part of the U.S. Constitution. Freedom to charge whatever price you like is not.

No freedom is absolute. All freedoms face limits when exercise of those freedoms infringe upon other freedoms.

To paraphrase Judge Holmes, freedom of speech does not extend to yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre. Economic freedom in this country does not mean I can corner the market on food and then charge ten times the price.

Brian unfortunately seems to be saying, “My guys have the absolute right to charge what they want, now shut up, you crude freeloaders.” Wrong on both counts.

Those who complain about RDRAM’s high prices don’t care about that so long as they have a choice, they’ll keep on not buying it. What they are worried about is not having a choice. Brian actually agrees with them, he just doesn’t know it.

There is no absolute right to charge whatever you like. While that usually is the general practice in the U.S., there is no absolute right to do so.

The Constitution gives the U.S. government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, and states reserve that right in their dominion, also. The absolute right Brian talks about doesn’t exist.

Manufacturers can NOT necessarily set whatever price they want for any product they wish to sell, even the manufacturers Brian lists.

AT&T’s pricing is largely regulated. Companies like Exxon or Shell have been successfully prosecuted for price-fixing in the past.

Under the right conditions, the U.S. government could decide to establish price controls on Microsoft products. Within the last thirty years, the United States imposed general price controls, which were found to be perfectly legal.

Usually, this is a bad, and often foolish move, but it can be done, and sometimes it is not bad or foolish. Monopolies often have their prices regulated, or have been broken up by antitrust laws.

So let’s forget about an absolute freedom to charge what you like.

“Rambus sucks” is protected speech

Freedom of speech doesn’t just apply to speech you like. It applies to speech you don’t like, too.

Nor does it have to pass a Miss Manners test. The First Amendment does not say, “you have freedom of speech, but only if you say it nicely.”

Saying “Rambus sucks” is not the least bit slanderous. Ask someone why they think Rambus sucks, and they’ll tell you they think it costs too much. Or it’s not worth the price given its performance. Or that Rambus wants to monopolize the memory industry, and they don’t like that. None of these come close to the meaning of slander or libel, and anyone who tells you that either is clueless, or is threatening your right to express your opinion.

Saying “Rambus sucks” may be crude. It may be counterproductive to more sensitive eyes and ears. I would never say it. But those who say it have every right to say it, whether you or Rambus like it or not.

Per pricing, people are worried that they will have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for a product they can now purchase cheaply due solely to decisions made by a few private parties. I personally believe this fear is largely misplaced; if RDRAM does become the PC standard, prices will not be what they are now (though they may remain significantly rather than outrageously higher).

Nonetheless, people have the right to express their concerns, and to have their concerns considered by those who have the power to address illegal actions.

Brian unfortunately is very inconsistent. After spending a good deal of time talking about the absolute freedom companies should have to do what they like, he then says people should have choice. Many people see the actions of Intel and Rambus as precluding the possibility of choice for private gain. If Rambus succeeds in gathering a higher royalty for DDR than RDRAM, that conceivably could remove the choice Brian personally demands. Memory manufacturers could all start making RDRAM. It is quite possible RDRAM would cost more than current RAM, and DDR even more than that.

What do you do then, Brian? You could find yourself paying even more for alternatives, or not have them at all, at which point I’d bet Brian will be quite ready to do some “slandering” himself and seeking all kinds of government intervention.

I published this opinion because it echoes many others I have read, usually in connection with Microsoft. Microsoft apparently believes it has this absolute freedom to do anything it wants, and to hell with any laws that say otherwise. You might want to look at this to see this “freedom” in action.

Email Ed


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