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An old joke

but still a good one:

Three white collar prisoners are hanging around the yard comparing notes:

Former Exxon executive: They say I charged too much for oil. I’m in for price gouging.

Former Microsoft executive: They say I charged too little for software. I’m in for unfair competition.

Former Samsung executive: They say I charged the same price as everyone else for computer chips. I’m in for price fixing.

11 comments to An old joke

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so.

    “Competition law” is absurd.

    It is based on the perfect competition model, which has nothing to do with how real markets work.

  • Well, what do these fat cats expect? They should have known enough to get price increases and increases in market share by contributing to politicians’ campaigns like everyone else

  • veryretired

    While I agree with the above comments, there is more to it than that. Yes, it is absurd. Yes, it is an open invitation, nay, a demand, for money in exchange for “access” and “influence” and all the other codewords for bribery and corruption.

    But there is another aspect, another motive, which betrays all the sanctimonious blather about these regulations being enacted for the good of the public or protection of the consumer, or some other nebulous, high-minded sounding BS.

    As the joke points out, the laws are vague, the regulations contradictory, and often involve trying to guess what may or may not be illegal because the rules themselves are so poorly worded.

    Why, then, do the same legislators, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, industry analysts, and business people who would never tolerate such sloppy and ambiguous legal language in the criminal statutes, allow it here?

    (Imagine a robbery statute which never clearly defines what “force” is, which acts are illegal, what behaviours constitute the crime, under which an ordinary person going into his bank and getting angry because of a bookkeeping error, when he demanded his own money in a loud voice, might be charged with robbery because getting people upset while obtaining money is not differentiated from obtaining money by threatening their lives with a weapon.)

    Yet, any number of critics of the accumulated monstrosity that is the regulatory labrynth inflicted on anyone who dares to conduct private business charge that such is exactly the case with “commercial law”.

    And, again, why?

    The answer, in large part, is that all the noble motives are simply window dressing. The real, basic reason for many of the rules and regulations is to gain influence, leverage, over people who otherwise would pay little or no attention to collectivist moralizing or political blather.

    How better to get the upper hand than to pass laws which seem to mean everything, and nothing all at the same time? What better leverage than to make everyday behaviours and ordinary business practices illegal—maybe.

    Look at the continuing statist hysteria, for no other word will suffice, over the fact that so much of the computer industry, and the electronic world culture being created by the never ending innovations of those g*damned geeks that don’t even speak the same language as the rest of us, is beyond the understanding, much less control, of the political and legal types who make up the governing elites.

    Believe me, I have no illusions about the capabilities of business and commercial people for venality, stupidity, irrationality, and all the other flaws that flesh is heir to.

    My point is, who would you rather have the upper hand—someone who is so engrossed in pursuing some kind of creative dream that he barely stops to eat and sleep, or someone whose sole purpose is to set up legal traps to ensnare and get control over those whose accomplishments he can barely comprehend, much less duplicate?

    I know which one I choose. But then, I’m not threatened by anyone who says they want to use their creative, rational skills to make a good living.

    I am threatened by anyone who openly states they will use their skills at sophistry to confiscate another’s living.

  • Bernie

    I hereby nominate veryretired’s comment above for Radio 4’s Thought for the day.

  • I second that nomination.

  • If I join in expressing admiration for veryretired’s comment, would that be chargeable as collusion?

  • I’ll be the first to admit that veryretired’s comment puts my post to shame.

  • veryretired

    And Veryretired will be the first to admit that the daily, challenging, intellectually stimulating atmosphere prevailing at Samizdata certainly leads to an opportunity to express ideas to a wider audience than I could ever manage left to my own devices.

    I appreciate these generous comments, and the hard work that goes into maintaining this site, very much indeed.

    As I’ve said before, Samizdata is a shady tree and a glass of ice cold lemonade in a hot and dusty world.

  • Rob

    This is, of course, a reworking of an old soviet joke about three guys in a gulag (now there’s a good name for a band):

    First prisoner: I always came to work at the factory 5 minutes late and was sent here for sabotage.
    Second prisoner: I always came to work at the factory 5 minutes early and was sent here for spying.
    Third prisoner: I always came to work at the factory exactly on time and was sent here for owning a western watch.

  • Paul Marks

    I also can not better what veryretired said.