Ilana Mercer, February 20, 2002

Fascism,” wrote the Tannehills in The Market for Liberty, “is a system in which the government leaves nominal ownership of the means of production in the hands of private individuals but exercises control by means of regulatory legislation and reaps most of the profit by means of heavy taxation.”

Friends of fascism—privileged members of the media and political punditry—have been cackling over the downfall of the upper echelons at Enron and cheering the Regulator.

Front and center is the Larry Kudlow and James Cramer combo, hosts of CNBC’s America Now, who pepper their shrill jeers with a blood-curdling call for disproportionate, symbolic sentences. Kudlow, who fancies himself a free-market guy, shamelessly champions the accretion of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), when he ought to be calling for its elimination and for the freeing of accountants from their status as stooges for the state. Cramer’s Tourette’s-inflected screeching is only slightly less terrifying than his central planner’s zeal.

But to the representatives-cum-inquisitors at the abominable congressional hearings goes the cake, or rather, the carrion.

Contrary to the claim of Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., the market system didn’t fail. Enron came up with an innovative way to trade energy. Soon, other companies got a whiff of the initial exorbitant profits, entered the same market, and, as Wall Street Journal analyst Susan Lee commented, “competed away” the Enron advantage, putting the squeeze on the company’s margins.

The market punctured the dot-com hype, and it did the same to Enron when Enron emerged as no more than hedge funds and hot air. As we speak, the same self-regulating market has companies wooing the wary investor with open accounting practices, offering transparent, cash-flow-based financial statements, as well as vouching that their auditors do not double up as consultants, à la Arthur Andersen. So why call on the Regulator?

Any serious student of economics knows that regulation hinders wealth creation, often forcing the entrepreneur to replace viable, voluntary trades and transactions with bureaucratic, politicized decision making. Rather than concentrate on satisfying consumers, proprietors must divert resources from innovation and production into getting around the bureaucrat’s tax and regulatory laws.

When Bill Gates neglected to schmooze Washington, Joe Klein, the Justice Department’s top dog, picked up the scent and gave chase. The lesson being that if he wants to survive, the entrepreneur must also pay protection money to his political masters.

If, as Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., concluded, the Enron mess is a “simple story of old fashioned theft,” why were the accused being subjected to a tribal (congressional) exorcism? Doesn’t criminal law adequately adjudicate fraud or whatever the Enron crowd’s putative crime is? Apparently not when there are votes to troll for.

This was apparent at the backslapping session of the “Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the findings of Enron.” The cringe factor peaked, as representatives attempted to outdo one another with expressions of outrage, veiled threats, libel and presumption of guilt for the accused.

Rep. Deutsch compares Enron top guns to the Mafia and, in particular, to “The Godfather.” A bilious-making Rep. Bilirakis, R-Fla., accused Enron executives of perpetrating something “almost as bad” as the terrorists perpetrated. Evidently, “destroying the faith of the American people in the system” approximates mass murder.

The foulest delivery, however, was that of Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., Cleaving to the mass-murderer analogy, Rush ventured that, unlike the Enron type, a terrorist still possesses “ideals of justice and righteousness,” if twisted and perverted. The “economic terrorist at Enron” can claim only “selfishness and greed” as his credo. To shore up his thug credentials, Rep. Rush dragged in “one of the world’s most outstanding citizens,” and demanded he be saluted. The specimen was none other than Monsignor “Shakedown,” the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson! And these scavengers are deemed fit to “regulate” decent Americans, as they go about making a living?

The accused, of course, all came under scrutiny for resorting to their Fifth Amendment rights. Rights, apparently, are reserved only for the Guantanamo gangsters.

Sadly, even Dick Cheney’s admission that regulation costs the average American household $8,000 per annum is unlikely to turn Americans against these ghouls. Some discouraging revelations about human nature emerged from an experiment designed by economists at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford. Subjects overwhelmingly chose to destroy the wealth of another, even if this, without fail, meant burning away a good portion of their own. So long as they continue to destroy and distribute property, regulators will be mirroring the minds of the masses.


February 20, 2002

CATEGORIES: Business, Economy, Fascism, Government, Regulation

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