Free To Choose Part 7: Who Protects The Consumer?

Posted: February 22, 2012 by ShortTimer in Commerce Clause, Economic freedom, Economics, free markets, Government, Health care, Milton Friedman, Progressives and Left, Regulation

Milton Friedman on economics, the free market, consumer choice, and safety.

The picture of the staggering amount of regulations cranked out by the federal government as of the 1970s is amazing.  Considering that they haven’t slowed down, it’s almost painful to imagine the number of laws you’re breaking right now due to regulations as interpretations of statutes.

The response from the bureaucrats who demand that government protect you from yourself is rather entertaining, but goes to the famous C.S. Lewis quote about the know-what’s-best-for-you tyrant:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

A lot of what Friedman tries to impart to his panel and his audience is the second and third-order effects of regulation.  Not approving an effective drug stymies the ability for the drug to do good.  The good that is lost is never seen.  And the cart full of over a hundred volumes of reports required to approve ONE drug is a frightening look at the bureaucratic block put in place to “protect us”.   Sometimes government regulators will even outlaw proven good drugs “for the greater good” as effective inhalers for asthma are being pulled off the market to appease Manbearpig.

When Friedman mentions that cars had many of the safety regulations that existed before the govt started mandating them, there were many great examples of them.  Tucker was working on laminated glass, roll bars, improved side impact resistance, disc brakes, a padded dashboard, self-sealing tires, and other features that would make his cars better and safer way back in 1948.  The market began to develop safety because safety also sells – consumers want it, and unsafe products don’t get sold.

Friedman never bothers to ask one other interesting question – where exactly does government get the authority to regulate any of these things?  Oh, right.  For the vast majority, they don’t – it’s only through judicial warping of “regulating interstate commerce” that the government then decides it can rule everything.

At least for Prohibition, which was used to murder US citizens for their own good, there was a Constitutional amendment.

Consider also who’s in charge of protecting you.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, “protects you” but there is zero accountability to it.  It’s not even funded by the government, but by the Federal Reserve.  It’s accountable to no one, and makes any regulations it likes.  If you have pull with the administration, you get favors.  So if you’re a top contributor to the administration, you will get favors, and regulatory agencies will be used to crush your competition – a point that Friedman makes.  Rule of men, not the rule of law.

It “protects” the consumer from being afforded choices; of course, some administration officials think the best way to control you is through taking choices away (consider Cass Sunstein).  It does protect certain favored businesses who are in on the racket.

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