Reminder: FFF’s conference “The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination continues this evening at 7 pm Eastern time. Register at our conference website. Registration is free. We now move into the heart of the conference, with four presenters talking about the autopsy that the U.S. military conducted on the body of President Kennedy. Tonight’s speaker is Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s and is the author of the watershed book Inside the Assassination Records Review Board. Watch Doug’s pre-recorded talk here. This evening we will move immediately into Q&A.
GOP leaders in Congress are threatening to enact a law that will end Major League Baseball’s exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act. The reason is that MLB has announced that it is cancelling its plan to hold its All Star Game in Georgia as a protest against the state’s new election law, which liberals claim restricts voting rights of blacks.
The controversy shows, of course, how a regulated or managed economy keeps business leaders in line. If they don’t do what the government wants them to do, including keeping silent on governmental policy, the government threatens to come down with its regulatory or tax hammer. What better explanation for the mass silence from American business leaders to the horrors committed in foreign and domestic policy by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA?
But I’ve got a better idea: Let’s just repeal the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The Sherman Antitrust Act was enacted in 1890, a period in which economic liberty was at its apogee. Imagine: Our American ancestors lived in a society where there was no income taxation and IRS, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Reserve, fiat (i.e. paper) money, public-schooling systems, Pentagon, CIA, NSA, FBI, minimum wage laws, Centers for Disease Control, FDA, drug laws, foreign military bases, foreign interventionism, coups, torture, state-sponsored assassinations, sanctions, embargoes, foreign aid, immigration controls, and virtually no regulation of economic activity.
There has never been a society like that in history. That’s what made America unique.
But the progressive movement was agitating to move America in a different direction — in the direction of socialism, interventionism, empire, and regulation.
In 1890 they achieved a monumental victory by securing the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The law made it illegal for businesses to conspire to “monopolize” markets or to set prices.
Among the perverse justifications for the law was that it was designed to protect “competition” and “free enterprise.” Actually, however, the law set the nation on a course that ended up destroying economic liberty and free enterprise.
Economic liberty and free enterprise
Economic liberty entails the right to engage in economic enterprise without governmental interference. It is a system based on private ownership of property. It recognizes that people have the right to engage in any economic activity they want, so long as it is peaceful and consensual. After all, it’s their money. Why shouldn’t they be free to do what they want with it?
Free enterprise is a system that is free of government control and regulation. That’s why it is called “free enterprise.” By enacting a law that enabled the government to control what people could do with their own money and their own businesses, the government was destroying the “free” in “free enterprise.”
In a genuine free-market system, a person has the right to sell his products and services at whatever price he wants. By the same token, people have the right not to buy them. People also have the right to hire people at whatever wage they want. Conversely, people have the right not to work there.
Moreover, people have the right to enter into agreements with others to combine their businesses or coordinate their business activities. That includes mergers and agreements to set prices of their respective goods and services.
Once government acquires the power to interfere with this “free enterprise” system, the “free enterprise” system has come to an end. It then becomes a regulated-economy or managed-economy type of system.
What about private businesses that become “monopolies”? There is no such thing. A monopoly is when the government grants a business an exclusive privilege to provide a particular good or service. If anyone tries to compete, the government forcibly shuts it down.
A perfect example of a monopoly is the U.S. Postal Service. It has the exclusive government-granted privilege of delivering first-class mail. If anyone tries to compete, the federal government shuts it down. Ironically, except for libertarians, no one calls for the end of the postal monopoly
In a free-market system, the only way that a business can get bigger is by satisfying consumers by producing goods and services that people are willing to pay for. The more a business does that, the bigger it gets.
But in a free-market setting, the market is always open to competitors. If a large, successful business fails to continue satisfying consumers, it loses market share to competitors and possibly even goes out of business. A list of the 50 biggest companies in the United States in 1970 will be almost completely different from a similar list today. That’s because of market forces, not because of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The Sherman Antitrust Act was an opening salvo fired by the progressives, which ultimately led to the massive welfare-warfare state way of life under which we Americans live today. Now would be a good time to move in the direction of our heritage of free enterprise, free markets, private property, and economic liberty. A great place to start would be by repealing the Sherman Antitrust Act.