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.

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