The media are in a kerfuffle about a short-term egg shortage caused by Target and other supermarket chains dropping a major supplier, Sparboe Farms, following reports that workers at its production facilities abused chickens and failed to follow the company’s animal welfare policy. The revelations were punctuated by a graphic undercover video released by animal rights group Mercy for Animals, which showed workers stuffing chickens into cramped battery cages, pulling rotting carcasses out of cages, “torturing” birds by swinging them around by their legs, and so on. No matter how you feel about animal rights, it’s not pleasant to watch.
Sparboe, for its part, has shifted its damage control into overdrive, posting updates about steps it has taken to “rectify problems” and pointing out that it is the first egg supplier to receive USDA certification. Which, given these reports, provides some insight into the worth of government certifications.
I expect a government response will be forthcoming, and Sparboe may face fines and possibly a regiment of FDA inspectors swarming over its farms in the months to come. But anything the government can do in its enforcement role pales next to the punishment which can be meted out by the market. Even if millions of consumers haven’t suddenly adopted veganism in response to the video, they still have let their displeasure be known, and the result is that Sparboe has lost significant business and is now forced to reevaluate its practices in order to regain consumer trust. Which is exactly as it should be. No amount of regulatory oversight will prevent every problem in our food supply (this year has also seen the deadliest listeria outbreak, from tainted cantaloupe, since the 1920s), but with the ease with which information disseminates online, the market will help ensure such problems do not go unnoticed by consumers, who are then free to vote their conscience. If only the market was free to punish every business, no matter how large or small, for bad decisions and unethical practices.
Supporters of free markets are often attacked for their “Do Nothing Principle” position, which tends to deeply upset policy wonks and media talking heads alike. Obviously this is buncombe, and to the contrary it is these would-be do-somethingers who are intellectually or ideologically incapable of grasping the sweeping scope of necessary changes that free market advocates are calling for.
For example, the charge that “Hangover Theorists” are selfish moralizers who want poor and middle-class families to needlessly suffer during a recession is prima facie incorrect. The interlocutor is simply misled by my yawning enthusiasm for his policy prescriptions into thinking I have no “serious” and “realistic” plan to help society, and that I want to “do nothing.”
Do nothing you say?
To the contrary, I advocate doing a lot, including the complete abolition of the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US Federal Mint, the US departments relating to labor, trade, banking, securities, etc. It is those who want to merely tweak a bit here and there who are hem-hawing over making serious policy changes, and who have the gall to accuse me of advocating to “do nothing”!
The entrance to the neighborhood where we live is very well designed and maintained, complete with manicured lawns, ponds and fountains. Just recently, while on a run, I noticed that each tree was being irrigated. Not by hand of course. Not even by one sprinkler. There were two of them–two very small sprinklers slowly misting the roots of the tree.
How great that thanks to capital accumulation it is possible to have these little wonders of the market.
“The truth is that legislatures and Courts have made lawyers a privileged class, and have thus given them facilities, of which they have availed themselves, for entering into combinations hostile, at least to the interests, if not to the rights, of the community – such as to keep up prices, and shut out competitors. The natural result of such combinations also is, that the mass of the members will do more or less to screen individuals from suspicion. The consequence is, that the people have imbibed an extreme jealousy towards them…. Now if the profession were thrown open to all, lawyers would no longer be a privileged class – they probably could no longer enter into combinations that would be of any avail to them, and the jealousy of the people towards them would be at an end.” Lysander Spooner, To the Members of the Legislature of Massachusetts, August 26, 1835.
Lawyers, like doctors, are part of a class of people who must join what amounts to a labor cartel in order to lawfully ply their trade. Bar associations have territories, and they drive up the price of legal services in those territories by limiting entry by service providers. Talk of the lawyer’s “professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay” stems from guilt about this anti-competitive status quo in the legal services market. Why should lawyers owe anyone relief if they didn’t first create the burden to be relieved? [Keep reading…]