The End Game of “Consumer Protection” is the Obliteration of Privacy and Freedom

This week we’ve seen two news stories that demonstrate the true end of regulation — government initiation of force on citizens who have not violated anyone’s rights — in the name of “consumer protection.”

On Friday’s show we discussed the recently released story about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s plan to monitor 80% of all credit card transactions. I made the obvious point (also made by politicians quoted in the article) that, given the fact that so many of us now use credit cards for virtually all our purchases — many of an extremely personal nature — that this will give the Federal Government access to a tremendous amount of personal information about us. And all this information can be (and likely will be) combined with all the other information the government already gathers about us — all of it gathered without warrant. No probable cause, no particularized suspicion. The result will be Bentham’s panopticon, except that we’re not prisoners who have been convicted of violating anyone’s rights.

This is outrageous, but even those of us who are the most outraged about government’s invasion of privacy are probably somewhat numb by now, given all the recent revelations about the activity of the NSA. And to those who approve of the NSA’s collection of “metadata” in order to protect us from “terrorism,” I ask: how could you possibly oppose the collection of such data in order to protect us from the greedy credit card companies, merchants, (fill in “evil” business of the week here)? Seriously, I’d like to know.

If the planned data-collection activities of the CFPB are not enough to convince you that a government that regulates businesses in the name of “consumer protection” is ultimately up to no good, we are now learning that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is attempting to destroy the entire notion of limited liability behind the existence of corporations (and therefore modern free markets). As reported by the Wall Street Journal recently, the Commission not only put the company that made Buckyballs out of business (using methods that, even according to the Commission’s own rules and procedures, were questionable), it is also attempting to make Craig Zucker, the company’s CEO, personally liable for the $57 million it would cost to perform the recall, should the product ultimately be deemed “defective.” If the Commission succeeds, it will be going beyond prior legal precedent, allowing for a corporate officer to be held criminally responsible for the corporation’s criminal activity. In the case of Buckyballs, as the WSJ notes, there was no criminal activity, just a product that a federal bureaucrat thinks we need to be “protected” from, because we might be too stupid to read the directions and use it properly. Besides, the Commission has said, Buckyballs “are not necessary to consumers.”

The Commission cannot be allowed to succeed in its persecution of Zucker. Entrepreneurs should be free to decide how much of their money and assets to put at risk in order to develop and sell a particular product or service (and of course all of us should be free to decide whether to patronize their businesses, accordingly). This freedom to choose the terms on which one will deal with others is the foundation of corporations and our free market system.


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2 responses to “The End Game of “Consumer Protection” is the Obliteration of Privacy and Freedom

  1. Bentham’s Panopticon is a perfect comparison — especially since that was intended as an ideal *prison*, which Bentham described as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” Well, Bentham lived in a more innocent age, and it is not without example any longer.

    One shudders at the thought of such a dehumanizing, horrific setup with such an element of psychological torture being applied to any but the worst criminals. But now it is being done to the formerly free citizens of what was once the best and freest nation on earth. And the worst of it is being focused at the very best of those formerly free citizens.

    • Well put as always, Deborah, thanks. And yes, I think you’re right that the most productive citizens are the ones who are generating more “metadata” of all kinds for the government to gather, store, and “mine.”

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