Sunday, August 25, 2013

A letter to Consumer’s Report:

Dear Mr. Guest,

In your latest column, “From Our President” (Consumer Reports, August 2013), you rightly advocate the rights and concerns of consumers everywhere.  There is little doubt that CR work tirelessly on behalf of consumers, offering unbiased advice on millions of products each year.  However, the consumer protections and provisions you regularly seek from government leave us worse off, leading to fewer choices and higher prices.

Any cries you make for increased consumer choice are drowned out by the trumpet you blare for more government intervention. Your magazine routinely calls for more haughty oversight from the likes of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the Federal Drug Administration, and a plethora of other federal rule-making agencies.  By nature, the approach of these high-minded agencies is a one-size-fits-all solution.  And while your intentions may be above reproach, additional rule-making from unaccountable aristocrats will nary benefit the average consumer.

The “consumers” you allude to, far from a homogeneous glob of mitochondria, are actually comprised of individuals – individuals with unique tastes, preferences, and wants.  And satisfying the desires of this needy bunch requires firms to compete.  This requisite competition among firms all but guarantees most of the “safety provisions and protections” you solicit from government but individually fashioned to meet the demands of millions of inimitable preferences.  What competition necessarily accomplishes through an inherent process, the external regulator could never do.

Many a firm, particularly of the rent-seeking ilk, and, abhorring having to fight for its customers, would gladly join you in “advocating” for the consumer manifested through government diktats, not unlike similar ones you advocate for.  These protections come in many flavors – tariffs and quotas, minimum standards and requirements, maximum amounts of this ingredient, restrictions for this group of people, licenses to perform this trade, etc., etc., etc.

On behalf of all consumers, I ask that you step back from your relentless calls for more government and allow the free market to do what no government can do: satisfy the needs of millions of consumers on a continual basis.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

F-150 Korean Style

Despite South Korea’s reputation as a technologically advanced people, it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse of the past.  

This is the American version of the handyman’s pickup truck.  Space carries a premium in Seoul, and this go-go gadget Motruck is outfitted with all the essentials in a tiny but easy-to-navigate and park vehicle.  I doubt this half truck/half motorcycle would be street legal in any American state – but it should be. 

Consumers would benefit if transportation departments allowed such Sanford & Son contraptions on the roads.  The savings owners reaped from procuring and operating small, cheap, and easy-to-park vehicles would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices.  It also affords would-be repairmen a relatively cheap entry into the business.

However, don’t look for one of these anytime soon.  A slew of federal safety regulations all but prohibit such a conveyance.  The lack of a seat belt, functional windshield wipers, and airbag are enough to keep the Motruck sidelined in the USA.  Nevertheless, its popularity and legality in Seoul is a win for anyone who needs a quick and affordable repair.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer’s over. Back to school…and blogging.

We’ve had a nice, long summer here in Seoul.  We took a short vacation to Hong Kong in July and loved it.  If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it.  We stayed at the Renaissance and our hotel overlooked Victoria Bay towards Kowloon, and the views of the harbor and city skyline were simply amazing.

At The Peak

Also at The Peak

Night view of Kowloon

Hong Kong

The kiddos begin school shortly, and it’s time for me (and Prof J, hopefully) to start posting again.  My goal is to post one quality blog per week.  And since we try to write about matters that pertain to liberty, or lack thereof, we’ll have no shortage of topics, (which is also unfortunate.)

So, put away the sunscreen and hang up your beach towel.  There’s still a little liberty left to defend!