The media is ripe with stories of evil corporations that take advantage of the weak for their own gain. Oil companies exploit the environment, Walmart practically enslaves millions, and Monsanto rules the world by controlling our grain supply. Because corporations are considered so evil, governments impose regulations that dictate how these companies must act. These regulations are supposed to protect the weak and helpless against the strong and selfish and are therefore cheered on by many people. However other people, such as myself, see danger in these regulations because they increase the size and scope of government power. This is not to say that all regulations are bad. There is nothing wrong with reasonable rules that businesses must follow in order to protect our environment and safety. But in our modern society government regulations are starting to control nearly every aspect of our lives, not just “evil” corporations. The government says that these rules are for our own benefit and that we shouldn’t fret over them. But I fear that they will slowly chip away at our freedom, which will result in grave consequences for our country. Here I will focus on ways the government regulates our lives instead of how it regulates business (though that could be a whole blog itself).
The problem with government rules and regulations is rooted Max Weber’s definition of government as an institution with a monopoly on the use of force in a society. Essentially, only government can legitimately force someone to act a certain way under threat of violence. This means that other than the courts, there is no way to “fight city hall”. But if the law states that the government has the right to act the way it is acting, even the courts are of little use. To further stack the deck against the citizen, it is the government that writes the laws. The reason why I fear government more than corporations is that if you don’t like Walmart’s business practices, you don’t have to shop at Walmart. But if you don’t like the way government behaves, you cannot easily chose a new government. As Federal Agencies become more powerful, this is an inconvenient truth for America.
Some will justify government’s expanding power by saying that the leviathan is benevolent and only does what is best for its citizens. This is largely true, but I don’t think Americans are as aware of government abuse as they are of corporate abuse. Take red light cameras as an example. These devices are set up to take picture of drivers’ license plates in order to ticket people who run red lights and improve public safety. The problem is that studies show red light cameras actually make us less safe as people slam on their breaks and cause accidents when lights turn yellow because they want to avoid getting a ticket. Despite this fact, traffic cameras are still being put up all around America to ensure that big brother is always watching. Why is this so? I believe that local police can’t resist the revenue that ticketing innocent citizens brings to the force. Who else will pay for their new squad cars every year? The sad part is that if a corporation was abusing customers like this, the media would be up in arms. But because it is government only outlets like FOX report on it.
Traffic cameras may be a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of life, but the government also abuses citizens in more serious ways. I bet few Americans are aware that the Federal Department of Education has an armed SWAT team that has the authority to force its way into homes unannounced and hold the occupants at gunpoint. I understand that sometimes people commit crimes that have to do with things like student loans, but are people in the education field so dangerous that a heavily armed SWAT team is needed to execute warrants? I’m sure the writers of Constitution didn’t think so. Worse yet, sometimes the government can legally confiscate your property without a warrant as part of an investigation, even if you are found innocent! The process is called civil forfeiture and is often abused by police around the country. One story from the New Yorker (linked below) tells the tale of police officers seizing money from a traveler because the cops simply accused him of carrying drug money. The cop told the man he could either hand over the money, or face prosecution and the possibly lose custody of his children. Since lawyer fees would be costlier than the money he was losing, the man decided to just hand over his property and not risk losing his kids. Plus, local lawyers were well aware that despite innocence, winning a civil forfeiture case is a tough job for a defendant because of the way the laws are written. Most people would call this scenario extortion. Many mobsters have gone to jail for doing things just like this (although as far as I can remember not even Don Corleone threatened people’s children). But because it’s the government that does it, we call it “justice”. I know that the vast majority of police officers want to protect and serve the public and are not bad people. But if they truly want to uphold justice they should take a stand against some of our most unjust laws.
These are just a few examples of government acting like evil corporations, or even organized crime. Hopefully American’s will wake up to these injustices and protest them as much as they protest big business. Like I said before, if you don’t like Walmart you don’t have to shop there. If you have a problem with government, you better empty your life savings and hire a lawyer. The lesson here is that we need to focus less on sticking it to big business and the rich and focus more on restraining the power of government.