In Vino Veritas

by Don Boudreaux on August 26, 2007

in Politics, Terrorism, Trade

Here’s a letter that I sent today to the New York Times.  It is related to this earlier post here at the Cafe.

William Boyd rightly advises French winemakers that profitably supplying products that consumers want “requires skill, energy, talent and, obviously, a certain amount of luck” (“Make Wine, Not War,” August 26).  Mr. Boyd also correctly notes that satisfying consumers “may be harder than throwing homemade bombs.”

Alas, many French winemakers remain intent on protecting their markets not by creatively pleasing consumers but by destructively threatening competitors with violence.  But before we Americans self-righteously dismiss such greedy brutality as uniquely French, recognize that too many American producers profit from the very same sort of violence.  The only difference is that American producers almost always inflict these threats through a heavily armed hireling called Uncle Sam.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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{ 20 comments }

Martin August 26, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Don,

Do you just REALLY hate America?

What makes you write stuff like that? Was that Letter to the Editor really necessary?

Don't you read, or have you ever read, any history at all?

Don, that was just a dumb post.

John Pertz August 26, 2007 at 4:17 pm

VERY FUNNY MARTIN VERY FUNNY. Could you have made the sarcasm in your post any more obvious? LOL.

Martin August 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm

John,

I wasn't really trying to be funny; it just seemed like a really, really dumb post.

Jason August 26, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Martin,

I don't think the letter meant to imply that the US uses the military to throw rocks trucks coming in from Mexico or other displays of violence. However, protectionist legislation, lobbied into being by US producers, does essentially the same thing but it is more effective and damaging to the economy.

shawn August 26, 2007 at 6:19 pm

hmm…are there any other options, Martin?

ben August 26, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Martin, which part of it didn't make sense to you? Isn't it perfectly clear that protecting American producers does not help America if American consumers lose more than producers gain?

John Smith August 26, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Martin, the new French militant group called CRAV(Comité Régional d’Action Viticole) that uses threats of violent consequences and makeshift bombs…. is a kindergarten bully compared to what the strong arm of Uncle Sam does.

Yes, yes I know what you’re thinking Martin…. When Uncle Sam uses threats of aggression and violence it’s for true justices.

Alias…. Here is quote from one of my all time favorite essays:
I, Government
http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=4427

I the Government where “Coercion is both my vocation and my avocation;…. My nature should then be of great concern to you as I impinge on your liberty. My nature affects your life profoundly. Indeed, there is little in your life that escapes my grasp…… Some see me as benevolent, though I murdered 119 million people in the twentieth century.

Some see me as omniscient, though I face an insurmountable knowledge problem in trying to comprehend the society I seek to control.

Some see me as an absolute necessity, though people have lived in societies without me.

But those whom I use seldom recognize any of this. These naïve convictions grant me an unwarranted place in society. These misconceptions have imposed great hardships on ordinary people, though they have served an elite of rulers well….”

John Pertz August 26, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Oh my god you guys, are you all really taking Martin seriously? I know that deep, down inside, despite whatever he may say publicly, he does not believe what he said in his first post. He was just trying to be funny. There is no other way to rationalize it. I mean if you took Martin's first post seriously the the joke must be on you.

muirgeo August 27, 2007 at 12:45 am

"The only difference is that American producers almost always inflict these threats through a heavily armed hireling called Uncle Sam."

I absolutely agree. Using the military to procure oil and sell your weapons is very uncompetitive and against everything a free-market stands for. Using the public treasury and Medicare to procure immense profits for medical insurers and for drug companies is all about what the biggest industries are best at. Avoiding true market competition and feeding at the public trough. Using the SEC and the Fed as insurance for the banking and securities industry…Using the farm bill ect…in other woirds almost all of our largest multinationals get that way by skirting competition and with good doses of government support.

The Albatross August 27, 2007 at 1:21 am

"The only difference is that American producers almost always inflict these threats through a heavily armed hireling called Uncle Sam."

I absolutely agree.

Excellent! Now do you see why some of us get so perturbed, when you advocate ceding more power to Uncle Sam. Every regulation is another opportunity for political profit, as is every boondoggle "Manhattan Project" for (insert percieved problem here). The larger government gets, the more interest groups will exploit it, and no amount of rules, regulations, or wishing for the "right" people in government will ever change that. Admittedly sad, but true.

Respectfully,

The Albatross

Martin August 27, 2007 at 2:34 am

Folks,

My apologies if my line of thinking wasn't absolutely clear.

Don wrote,

"…many French winemakers remain intent on protecting their markets not by creatively pleasing consumers but by destructively threatening competitors with violence."

Now, for sure the French have a very long tradition of violent political discourse – long before the Terror, heads on pikes were among the French Revolution's grislier trademarks – but I would certainly be interested to hear examples of producer-on-producer violence in French economic activity. I'm only asking because I can't think of any off the top of my head.

The Comité Régional d’Action Viticole is a political, not economic group – and their threats are directed against the French state; not other French producers.

For Don to characterise anything done by the US government in the economic sphere as 'violence' displays, with the greatest respect to him, a childish, careless, sloppy, in fact almost slobbish disregard for the nuances of language. At all times and under all circumstances 'violence' connotates the use of physical force by single human beings. Other activities may result in coercion, but not violence. If ou don't like it – vote against it.

And to refer to the US Congress and Executive as 'a heavily armed hireling called Uncle Sam' shows an enormous lack of understanding of both the historic nature and character of American government and what oppressive government is really like.

Shame on you, Don. You should know better.

It never ceases to amaze me that libertarianism has always been most popular in the UK and USA; historically, the two societies that least need it.

ben August 27, 2007 at 6:21 am

Martin, so your complaint is that Don used hyperbole when he said 'violence'.

Looks like the egg is on your face.

The link Don provided to an earlier post described French winemakers' attacks on trucks carrying wine from Spain IIRC. Yes, that means physically attacking the trucks, not waving placards or lobbying politicians.

If you follow the link you can listen to the audio.

Shame on you, Martin, for not doing your homework.

Troy Camplin, Ph.D. August 27, 2007 at 8:34 am

What is refered to are "threats" of "violence," which is precisely what any government does when it has a law on the book it must enforce. When making laws, we should always ask ourselves the following, "Would I shoot someone and kill them for doing this?" because that is what we are ultimately asking an armed police force to do when we ask them to enforce our laws.

Suppose, for example, that the U.S. decided to put a heavy tarriff on French wine. There are those out there who love French wine, and would be willing to get it throgh illegal means to pay less for it, if the tarriffs were high enough of course (let's assume they are to make smuggling profitable). Now we have people who are willing to break the law by smuggling goods bringing in French wine. If we are serious about enforcing the law, we would have to go arrest those people. This involves armed raids, which can result in someone getting shot. When we propose tarriffs, we are proposing violence against those who would try to supply us with cheaper goods. You may not like the fact that now it's organized crime who bring in the cheaper goods, but it is the fault of the government that wine is now expensive enough for organized crime to do so profitably — even with having shipments seized and people arrested. And, of course, organized crime itself does not exactly engage in violence-free trade practices, so one would expect wine wars among criminal gangs, and perhaps even sabotage of American wine.

I went a little extreme to make a point — but is it really all that extreme? What I just described is exactly what happened during prohibition and is happening now with drugs. And is beginning to happen with cigarettes, where taxes on them are making them so expensive that people are robbing stores just for the cigarettes.

Per Kurowski August 27, 2007 at 8:47 am

Re Martin: "It never ceases to amaze me that libertarianism has always been most popular in the UK and USA; historically, the two societies that least need it."

Lookup Yin and Yang!

Isaac Crawford August 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

"I absolutely agree."
Muirgo

You defy all logic, that last post of yours sums up the libertarian point of view almost perfectly, and yet you want more of the same in order to "fix" those problems. Was that really you that posted here?

Isaac

John Smith August 27, 2007 at 10:40 am

Off Topic:

In regards to criminals who break the Law.

During the colonist era a crime (breaking the law) consisted of the accused wrongdoer(s) and victim(s). If found guilty the wrongdoer was responsible for compensating the victim for there actions.

Today breaking the law usually consists of the accused wrongdoer with no Human-victim being involved. Most criminal acts today have a Rule-breaker (not following the laws, statutes…) and the State.

John Pertz August 27, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Martin, I want to know if I am understanding the logic behind your last post correctly. Your world view essentially argues that it is unfair to brand government action as violent within the democratic context. Therefore, if it is democratically decided then you must respect the decision of the majority? So, lets say for the sake of argument that the U.S government implements price floors and subsequent sellers ignore the law. Unsurprisingly, the police come put a gun to sellers head's, and physically escort him to a jail sell where he is to be locked away. You would not describe that action as violent? I see now why I originally argued that you were being sarcastic. There is no way you actually believe what you arguing. I am thoroughly convinced.

Martin August 27, 2007 at 2:04 pm

"If we are serious about enforcing the law, we would have to go arrest those people. This involves armed raids, which can result in someone getting shot."

The commissioner of customs in Edinburgh in 1778 might have agreed with you.

His name was Adam Smith.

Oops…

". When we propose tarriffs, we are proposing violence against those who would try to supply us with cheaper goods."

Garbage. We are promoting our own industries while seeking to collect revenue against those who seek to supply us with goods we can make ourselves.

"I went a little extreme to make a point — but is it really all that extreme?"

Absurdly so.

"What I just described is exactly what happened during prohibition and is happening now with drugs. And is beginning to happen with cigarettes, where taxes on them are making them so expensive that people are robbing stores just for the cigarettes."

Drugs, drugs, drugs…what is it with libertarians and drugs? Friedrich von Krackpipe has a lot to answer for…

Ben,

"The link Don provided to an earlier post described French winemakers' attacks on trucks carrying wine from Spain IIRC. Yes, that means physically attacking the trucks, not waving placards or lobbying politicians"

Er…they're attacking 'Spanish' producres…not 'French' producers…which was my point.

Troy Camplin, Ph.D. August 27, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Except that we don't actually end up promoting our own industries, just subsidizing bad business practices and high prices, making the consumer worse off, and all just so a few people can make a product at a higher price than they should and won't have to be bothered with finding another job in the near future. We end up sacrificing the majority to the minority — a minority who is apparently too lazy to try to find something else to do. Maybe we shold get back to subsidiging buggy whip manufacturers.

I don't see why we should punish people for wanting to provide us with things we want. I would suggest that you remain consistent, then, and slap your wife or mother the next time she gives you a Christmas gift you wanted.

Trinca Viorel April 16, 2008 at 7:02 pm

verry intresting , cool

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