In this instance, that man is Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, from the United Kingdom. Though Hannan is an extremely talented writer and author (visit his Telegraph blog), he has also represented South East England in the European Parliament since 1999, occasionally giving riveting speeches which have gone viral on the internet (upwards of 2.7 million views). His words and rhetoric have been well received across the Atlantic, owing to his adherence to limited government and libertarian principles.
Hannan has been an active force in rejecting the European Union, sparking and sustaining an already healthy eurosceptic movement across the European continent. He has preached the importance of sound money and peaceful cooperation in the market place, beyond the bounds of coercion and force. He has lambasted irresponsible nationalization and bailouts during the continued financial crisis, in his country and abroad. He has continuously denounced the undemocratic and overbearing European Commission, who have managed to impose a supranational government upon the unwilling European population. Daniel Hannan is, in the most modern sense, the most notorious British Jeffersonian. Hannan’s admirable appreciation of the American constitutional model has been well advertised across speeches, books, and publications, even going so far as to publicly proclaim that he would have voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 Presidential election were he an American citizen.
Daniel Hannan is an individual to follow and to value, and we look forward to his future contributions to political discourse in Europe and across North America.
Here is Hannan speaking at Cato, praising the American constitutional model and warning American citizens that they must protect the basic tenants of their society which have made them the freest people in the democratic world:
An ever-familiar hymn sung by conservative and classical liberal economists in the past 100 years has been that of regulatory burden. This is the idea that certain norms, dreamed up and enforced by the altruistic State, are actually doing more to harm innovative economic growth than anything else. In a time of economic stagnation, this is certainly a legitimate query to ponder. So, say these economists, cut the regulations!
In this same line of thinking, it is generally conceived that most business people would certainly agree: regulations and government intervention are actively hampering prosperous economic growth and expansion. They would argue that because of ordinances, regulations, and laws, they are not allowed to fully commit to their goal of providing the best service or product for their customers, and that therefore this makes the marketplace more restricted to additional income and labor.
In the ideal world, this is surely the case.
However, in the world which we inhabit, most in the “business community” (who are actually antithetical to true business), tend to favor the status quo where regulations are concerned. This conglomerate of business interests do their part to actually favor certain regulations, especially those that would save their huge corporate monopoly from the doomed-uncertainty and promise of competition a truly free market would provide.
This is a point that many in the anti-corporate progressive sphere seem to conveniently neglect, mostly because it does not fully adapt to their own world-view. In the minds of progressives, the economic reality is a constant struggle between the people and the “evil” corporations. The corporations are greedy, immoral entities willing to usurp anything at any cost. They are hell-bent on enslaving the people in sweatshops to make shoes and clothes for 2 cents a day. Their ultimate goal is to further perpetuate poverty and completely eviscerate the middle class. Big business is there to hurt you. Hence the new liberal adoration for government intervention. Government should be there to protect you. Therefore, the people lend their support to the government to protect themselves from the “evil” corporations who would otherwise, if left unregulated, trample all human life. As is often the case in us versus them scenarios, however, this just does not stand up to the facts.
The fact is that the government has been intervening in businesses for decades on end, and corporations have only gotten more powerful and more influential with each passing session of Congress. This is entirely contingent upon the rules and regulations which are proposed and adopted by the legislative authorities, supposedly for the benefit of a “safer, fairer” marketplace. Why is it then that businesses have continuously increased their lobbying budgets over the years while increased regulations, which supposedly have been drafted to restrict them, have been passed at an exponentially increased rate? It is no mistake that money spent on lobbying Congress alone has virtually tripled in the last ten years:
The numbers speak for themselves. To those who may be skeptical, it may be beneficial to mention specific regulations which have been passed under the guise of protecting society, but have actually done more to favor corporations and monopolization. Though a plethora are readily examinable, a recent one has been the ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs. According to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, passed by the democratic Congress and signed by Republican President George W. Bush, incandescent light bulbs are to be completely phased out by 2014. On the surface, this seems to be an environmentally-friendly move by the government. The government is protecting the people from the wasteful, inefficient light bulbs created by Thomas Edison over 100 years ago. The government has the people in mind and is attempting to do something great for society. This seemingly-angelic move by government, however, is far from virtuous or environmentally-friendly.
The biggest proponent of this regulation, without a doubt, was the corporation of General Electric, who spent over $39.2 million dollars lobbying Congress in 2010. General Electric is the principal provider of the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which green advocates have always been eager to promote as a more sustainable choice than the traditional and cheaper incandescents. Despite CFLs containing significant amounts of mercury, costing significantly more, and not producing the same quality of light, the government seemed to side with GE, disfavoring the traditional bulbs which continue to be quite popular and cheap today. Instead of the free and open marketplace to allow consumers to choose what type of light bulbs to buy, the government has now reduced that choice and favored an alternative, which also happens to be the product of a company that spends millions of dollars lobbying the politicians in Washington. This means that producing and selling incandescent light bulbs to compete with GE CFLs will be illegal past 2014, punishable by the force of government fines or cages.
The next case is much more emotional and personal than what type of light will be allowing us to read the Sunday comics early in the morning or providing direction for our bathroom trips late at night. I speak of accidental death insurance, provided by a private company to a family when one of its members has an untimely passing. This is normally sought in order to provide funds that a otherwise healthy family member would have provided, barring their unfortunate death. Totals normally amount from around $100,000 to over $5 million, depending upon the case and the need of the family. These are contracts which are mutually agreed to and signed by both parties, each acknowledging an obligation one has to the other. The family shall pay a small balance each month, and the company shall provide the maximum amount of funds if any accidental death is to occur. So far, this is a well-sought legitimate service which provides mutual benefits for both the companies and the customers. The problem begins, however, when the business and the government begin to collude.
The example I shall be drawing from is documented on Bloomberg News, in an article published just yesterday. It is titled Accidental Death Becomes Suicide When Insurers Dodge Payouts by David Evans. Evans analyzes the case of Todd Pierce, a 46 year old cancer survivor killed in a horrific and fiery car accident. Through his employer, Todd took out accidental life insurance that would pay his wife were he to pass away unexpectedly, as did happen. Due to the pursuant contractual obligations mutually agreed upon by both parties, MetLife was expected to pay Todd’s widow an total of $224,000. Despite the sheriff, the state medical examiner, and the official autopsy report concluding that Todd’s death had been an accident, however, MetLife made their own medical decision. They labeled the death a suicide, noting Todd’s previous battle with cancer and the toxicology reports which indicated he had a prescribed drug in his system. As any breach of contract would be submitted to, the case was brought to Federal court in Montana by Todd’s wife, Jane Pierce. What Jane didn’t know, however, is that she wasn’t just fighting for her husband’s benefits, she was fighting the corruption of the entire American corporate monopoly system.
The regulation standing in Jane’s way was the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), orginally passed as a measure to standardize all pension plans for private employers. This, again, would seem to have been done under the veil of a good cause. The government was attempting to make all private pension plans fair and standard. But, again, the law favors the very corporations which it is imposed upon. The crux of the regulation was that:
In order to achieve ERISA’s goals, federal courts ruled that employees must surrender their rights to jury trials and compensatory and punitive damages if they sue an insurer for wrongfully denying coverage.
This means that, in order to pursue any case where insurance has been denied, the plaintiff must surrender any hope of jury trial or extra compensation so that the case will be heard. In a market place free of regulation or ordinances such as this one, this certainly would not have been applied. Instead, however, under the authority of the government and the liking of the insurance corporations, the pursuit of any claims beyond the original plan and a jury trial must be forsaken. The little guy loses. The big guy wins. The regulation passed by government therefore, favors the corporate monopoly the private insurance provider holds over the customer, something that would not have been enforced where that regulation not passed. The article in Bloomberg documents multiple other cases which deal with accidental insurance cases as well, where corporations use the regulatory loopholes provided by ERISA and other legislation to avoid paying for what they were once contractually obligated to do. The corporations can twist the government rules in order to benefit themselves, where an otherwise free market would have caused their demise. In this case then, the rules are made by the powerful for the benefit of the few, not a new calling. This is what government and business collusion brings about, and should be the strongest argument for redacting and reducing regulations in certain industries today.
In conclusion, it is always beneficial to return to the casting narratives which plague the current American political landscape. While progressives cling to the fear of Big Business and conservatives rally against all-but-their-own Big Government, there is nothing more harnessing than exposing the ever-more dangerous collusion of both against the individual. When the interests of the government and certain favored businesses align, there is always a case to worry, a case for lamenting a loss of freedom or just and competitive commerce. The free market is the only place where this is guaranteed. A place where monopolies, abusive corporations, and powerful corporate lawyers cannot be sustained. A place where the small are not forced to face the mighty and justice is always in favor of those who do right and not those who are the most physically strong. In the struggle of protecting the individual from harm, it is freedom, not compulsion, that is the shield against malice.
As a student of a University prone to bouts of activism, I am no stranger to pickets, demonstrations, or volatile button campaigns. The fact that my fellow pupils were willing to skip their BritLit seminars to hoot and holler never phased me or garnered my interest, but it certainly fueled my learned apathy. Their causes and aims, anything from banning Pepsi products to lobbying for gender-neutral bathrooms, seemed to me both dull and absurd, a guaranteed yawnfest if there ever was one. I would have preferred they just walk around with “I LUV SOCIALISM” t-shirts, relinquishing the need to be so irksome. Luckily enough, the ‘Che’ shirts adequately did the job.
These activists represented, to the uncaring individual that I was, a social nuisance. Their unabashed hatred of the status quo and frothing-at-the mouth idealism was only enough to strike my nerves ever so slightly, inspiring inner-diatribes of rants for a fortnight. Little did I know, however, how much I would bow to their appeal when the forces of nature did change.
Once the Financial Panic of 2008 began to be felt in full force, the institutions of the world began to feel the sting of lost revenue. Governments, corporations, and nonprofits were looking to desperate measures to continue their model of existence, blatantly ignorant of their unsustainable nature proven by the Financial Crash. Bailouts and slush funds were shuffled about and lazily tacked together, throwing public money into dark spirals with no certain end. Massive wealth transfers were justified to “escape panic” and stabilize the world economy, now a needlepoint from the edge of disaster. Trillions of dollars were let loose into corporate boardrooms and executive suites, no strings attached and no questions asked. The bank profits soared and the stock market rallied to an all-time high, overshadowing the constant 9.6% unemployment rate in place since December 2008.
Now, it seemed, was the perfect time to call back all those debts. Thus necessitated the “Great Payback”, with all institutions clamoring for revenue wherever they could find it, either by shedding thousands of workers or finding the backlogs of cash which lay untapped. Downtrodden Main Street would not only have their coffers emptied by the faithful hand of Government, but they now faced raising costs in every encounter of their life. Gasoline prices steadily climbed, airlines became creative with new fees, restaurants began charging for water, and cell phone companies overbilled those naughty roamers. With little hope of work and the future still cloudy, thousands began enrolling in supplementary education, seeing new opportunities that would come with the prestige of an alma mater. Governments, aware of the potential that this financial crisis could afford, called for hikes in student tuition.
As University administrators claim, “the cost of maintaining and improving” schools has risen significantly, making this the ideal time to raise them without question. Tuition hikes have been proposed in Australia, the United States, Canada, and the EU, with the most brutal being in the United Kingdom: up to £9,000 ($15,000). Though the financial crisis was perpetuated and brought about by reckless lending, both by central banks and financial institutions, the students will be the ones shackled with the bill, not to mention the trillion dollar debts and budget deficits passed by Governments each year which will be paid with the incomes of future citizens not yet born. So it goes.
At last, we return to our socialist activists, always happy to protest a new cause. In most circumstances, there is little which would bind our minds in unison. Normal political occurrences assign us to opposing corners with fire, bullets, and occasional harsh words consuming the middle. On this University tuition complaint, however, I must say I side with these activists. Not only do I lend my support, but I encourage and endorse everything they do to give their governments a hard time.
Once the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of Prime Minister David Cameron, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Klegg, decided to raise the tuition cap to well over $15,000, it became the last straw for this so-called “post-ideological” generation. These students were expected to be more concerned about trivial reality shows, hip fashion styles, or whatever else dominated their cultural-centric minds, but they proved that the beating they were continuing to take would end with the augmentation of their access to adequate higher education. Though I do stress free-market values and ideas political and economic circles, I can do nothing but cheer on the revolution enticed by the British youth.
These students had been promised a certain condition of life, that being affordable education and ample opportunity, and were subsequently told that due to a “banking crisis”, all that must be taken away. And that certainly is far from their only motivation. From the terror crackdown to the rampant CCTV Police State, these students have woken up to swing their fate away from that given to them by George Orwell in 1984. The UK, as they saw it, would not become Airstrip One. It would not become a place manipulated and controlled by elites that would benefit at their destruction. It would not become a monarchical regime with all subjects forever bowed down to the Queen’s feet.
Forgoing passivity and refusing to stay docile, obedient citizens have taken to the streets to shake the authority of the government and prove that they shall not stand for the injustice that has been mandated by “popular decree”. These protests and demonstrations elicit a fervor that is stronger than any ideology, religion, or ethnic group, and proves yet untamed by the strong arm of English force. The unwillingness of the British youth to continue to be ruled as slaves for a system which does not benefit them sends a message, not just to the elites in London, but to all governments across the world, that the public shall no longer serve as the silent captives in a game which bars their participation.
I cheer the young Brits and look to my North American compatriots, so that we may use the inspiration of our English cousins to confront the very Leviathan that has usurped justice on this very continent.