Former Labor Secretary to FTC: “Hands off Apple”

Robert Reich
Robert Reich

Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor Secretary and current Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has penned an editorial taking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to task for even considering going after Apple for forbidding some third party development tools for iPhone OS apps. According to Professor Reich, the U.S. needs companies like Apple and people like Steve Jobs, and he thinks that it’s the four large Wall Street banks that need examination instead.

Professor Reich is referencing a story from earlier in the week that the FTC and the Department of Justice (DoJ) were considering which agency should begin an inquiry into Apple’s decision to ban Flash and other third-party app development tools that don’t directly use Apple’s own APIs.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked. “Apple says it’s necessary to maintain quality. If consumers disagree they can buy platforms elsewhere. Apple was the world’s #3 smartphone supplier in 2009, with 16.2 percent of worldwide market share. RIM was #2, with 18.8 percent. Google isn’t exactly a wallflower. These and other firms are innovating like mad, as are tens of thousands of independent developers. If Apple’s decision reduces the number of future apps that can run on its products, Apple will suffer and presumably change its mind.”

He added, “Our future well being depends more on people like Steve Jobs who invent real products that can improve our lives, than it does on people like [JP Morgan Chase & Co. CEO] Jamie Dimon who invent financial products that do little other than threaten our economy.”

The piece also delves into Professor Reich’s position that any U.S. bank that is too big to fail should be broken up so that it’s simply no longer too big. You can find his full arguments at his personal site.

The mixture of Apple, the FTC, and banking is partial misdirection in that the FTC has no power to regulate the financial sector, as he himself pointed out in the editorial. Be that as it may, he closed the piece with a simple, “Hands off Apple. But cut the big banks down to size.”