January 19, 2018
Walking through a grocery store the other day I passed a booth giving out free samples of a new lunch-meat product I'm pretty sure was called baloney-rona. "Booth" is perhaps a generous description of a card table at the end of the soft drink aisle but there stood a young man with an electric fry pan, heating up little hunks of this thing apparently called "baloney-rona." What is baloney-rona? I didn't stop to find out but it won't surprise you to hear baloney-rona appeared to be a greasy meat product with a tooth pick in it.

I never had an allowance when I was a kid so I almost never turn down free food when I'm at the grocery store, especially when it comes in convenient bite sized portions with a handle stuck in it. But when I saw the grease stained napkin the baloney-rona chunks were sitting on I instinctively kept moving so quickly that the free sample guy could barely get out the words, "Try new baloney-rona," without the Doppler effect kicking in.

And then it hit me- the makers of boloney-rona must be the most incredibly optimistic people in the history of food.

First of all, the word "baloney" is not a good foundation to build on. When we say "someone is full of it," we either mean baloney or worse. In either case, being "full of it" is not a compliment or positive condition. And when we think of classic deli sandwiches baloney is rarely in the picture. Adding "rona" doesn't transform "baloney" for me. Though, if they bought the rights to the song "My Sharonna" they could make a great T.V. commercial.

Anyway, the wonderful thing about free enterprise is that we are free to spend a lot of money making a mistake as large as baloney-rona. Because for every baloney-rona some creative genius comes up with coffee-heath-bar-crunch ice cream or extra-lean turkey-pastrami or smoked gouda. The freedom to be so passionate about baloney-rona, to be so sure of it's marketability that you are willing to put your children's college fund and various animal meat bi-products into it's production and then serve it up to strangers in a grocery store is what made America great.

What's my point? The anti-trust suit against Microsoft is a good thing. There needs to be dreamers and schemers creating software applications that are brilliant like smoked gouda or coffee-heath-bar-crunch ice cream without pressure or threat by the big bully on the block. If we have only one software company that faces no competition what they turn out will end up being a greasy, buggy, crashing, digital, high-cholesterol mess. Have you ever tried to use Microsoft's fax program? It's baloney-rona when we could be faxing with extra-lean turkey-pastrami.

In Los Angeles, I'm Tim Bedore for Marketplace.