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Playing Monopoly in the Real World


There are three major monopolies in the United States that have plagued the American people throughout most of this century. Yet despite their professed opposition to monopolies, the American people simply cannot bring themselves to end them. But end them we must — for they are among the most tyrannical and destructive aspects of the American welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life.

The most well-recognized monopoly, of course, is the United States Postal Service. It never ceases to amaze me that the American people continue to tolerate the “service” provided by the Postal Service. For the Postal Service exemplifies every single reason that people throughout history have hated monopolies — poor service, high prices, long lines, arrogant behavior, and especially the inability to go to a competitor.

We should first understand the violent nature of the Postal Service’s monopolistic power. Federal law prohibits anyone but the Postal Service from delivering first-class mail. What does this mean in the real world? It means that if a person tries to provide first-class mail service to the citizenry, the United States government will immediately secure from a federal judge an injunction enjoining the operation of the business. The terms of the injunction, which will be served by a United States marshal on the provider of the service, will be clear: “You are commanded to desist immediately from providing first-class mail service.”

What happens if the provider of the service takes the position that he and his consumers have the natural and God-given right to engage in economic enterprise and enter into contracts with one another? The judge, through the assistance of the marshal, will slam him into jail until he acknowledges the error of his ways. And what if he resists the incarceration? He will be shot for “resisting arrest.”

Thus, behind the veil of benevolence of the postal monopoly lies the jail and the gun of the state: “Violate our monopoly position, and pay the price.” Every time I see the faces of my fellow citizens as they stand in the long lines at the post office, I wonder how long they are going to put up with this nonsense. Every single American has his own personal horror story of the poor service he has received at the hands of the postal monopoly. And every one of us, at one time or another, has felt the frustration of not being able to walk out of a postal station and go to a true competitor — not just another governmental postal station.

The second monopoly has been much more destructive than the first. For the U.S. Government has used this monopoly to wage a very real war against its own people. Unfortunately, however, very few Americans understand the tyrannical nature of this monopoly and the way it is used to wage war against them. This monopoly is the United States central bank, more commonly known as the Federal Reserve System.

The American people are forced by law into using one — and only one — medium of exchange — Federal Reserve Notes of the United States government. Through legal-tender laws and the Federal Reserve System, the U.S. government has maintained a stranglehold over the economic affairs of the American people — a stranglehold which has enabled our government, decade after decade, to confiscate surreptitiously billions and billions of dollars from the American people.

To understand the terrible destructiveness of the government’s monetary monopoly, imagine what life would be like if this monopoly were ended. In a truly free-market economy, people would be free to use any medium of exchange on which they mutually agreed — gold, silver, bank notes, or any other means of exchange that the market brought into existence. Under a way of life based on monetary freedom, the political authorities could not force anyone to use government paper money in their financial affairs. Why is this so important? Because if the government attempted to finance its operations with ever-expanding quantities of government money — as it has for the past several decades — people could still protect themselves from the inflation by using other media of exchange rather than the depreciating, government-produced paper money.

The American people have been taught by their governmental officials that it is a historical imperative that money depreciates as time progresses. For example, when Americans say, “Just think — in the olden days, a penny could really buy a lot, compared to what it will buy today,” they believe that progress over time necessarily entails money’s losing its value. They do not understand that it never had to happen — that if the monetary monopoly had never been established, their money would, in all likelihood, have increased in value over the decades.

The third major monopoly in American is, of course, the public-school monopoly. Now, it is true that this is more in the nature of a near-monopoly, since people can choose to send their children to a private school. But actually the “choice” is a charade, at least in most cases. In most states, parents are required by law to send their children to a government-approved school-public or private. And even in those states in which parents are permitted to home-school their children, the educational program often must be approved by the political authorities.

The result, of course, is that in most cases, the school and the educational program will not receive governmental approval unless government-approved doctrine is taught to the students. And one of the best examples of the success of political indoctrination of the American people in their government-approved schools has been with respect to monopolies.

For example, if we ask Americans if they favor the repeal of antitrust laws, the immediate, knee-jerk, government-indoctrinated response is, “Of course not. Without antitrust laws, individuals and companies would grow so much that they could force the consumer to purchase their goods and services at any price they choose.”

The effectiveness of this indoctrination is reflected by the fact that it flies in the face of reality. For anyone can simply read The Wall Street Journal on any day of the week and find numerous instances of formerly wealthy and “powerful” business people and corporations who are now in bankruptcy. If they really were omnipotent — that is, if they were actually able to ignore the wishes of the consumers — then how could they ever fall into financial straits? But when this is pointed out to the countless victims of governmental indoctrination, the response invariably is either silence or “But … but … but ……

And the other reason that we know that our fellow citizens are the victims of political indoctrination when it comes to monopolies and antitrust laws is their willingness to accept real monopolies — such as the Postal Service, the Federal Reserve System, and the public-school monopoly — where the providers of the service really are all-powerful — where they can truly force people, through jails and killings, to accept their “services.” For despite all of the tyrannical aspects of these monopolies — the poor service, the long lines, the ever-increasing prices, the dismal results, and all of the other traditional characteristics of monopolies — the response of the average American, when asked if these monopolies should be ended, invariably is, “Oh no! Reform maybe, but we need these institutions in our society.”

In the 1700s, the British people were being tyrannized by the same sorts of monopolies which tyrannize us. Having grown sick and tired of the privileged classes of people who manned and benefited from these monopolies, the British citizenry finally rebelled and demanded an end to them. Fearing the citizenry, the British government ended the monopolies.

Two centuries ago, our American ancestors, who had had to live under the tyranny of many of these British monopolies, also rebelled against the British authorities. And the founders of America — our ancestors — pledged that our nation would forever be free of the tyranny of monopolies. That is the reason our ancestors refused to establish a postal monopoly, a central bank, or public schools. In other words, they chose freedom over tyranny.

Oh, for the spirit that moved those wonderful people! When it finally ignites the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens — when Americans finally discover the heritage of liberty which belongs to them — when their minds finally break free of the political indoctrination to which they have been subjected — when they no longer will tolerate real monopolies — when they finally decide that, like their ancestors, they wish to live and die as free men and women — our age of tyranny will finally be at an end.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.