Control Without Responsibility

by Don Boudreaux on July 18, 2009

in Competition

My friend, and co-blogger at Market Correction, Andy Morriss has this superb letter in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Holman Jenkins asks “Does Obama Want to Own the Airlines?” (Business World, July 8). I am sure he does not. Rather than own them, the president and his congressional allies want to control the airlines — a crucial difference as ownership implies taking responsibility.

As Mr. Jenkins notes, the Justice Department’s belated intervention against Continental’s efforts to join the Star Alliance appears aimed at extorting concessions for the Democrats’ union allies. That is not the action of an owner of airline assets but of someone determined to redistribute wealth from airline passengers and shareholders to favored special interests.

If either the administration or Congress cared about competition in air travel, they would relax the protectionist rules that prevent foreign ownership of U.S. airline assets and deregulate American airspace to allow foreign carriers to operate here.

Andrew P. Morriss
Champaign, Ill.

Be Sociable, Share!



49 comments    Share Share    Print    Email


vikingvista July 18, 2009 at 1:10 am

Control without blame.
Investment without failure.
Consumption without cost.

Politicians love divorcing actions from consequences–destroying checks and balances.

SheetWise July 18, 2009 at 2:15 am

"Politicians love divorcing actions from consequences–destroying checks and balances."

The recent eccontalk podcast with Collier would confirm your beliefs.

The current administrations reactions to events in Honduras makes me believe that they agree with you and Collier re: destroying checks and balances.

dg lesvic July 18, 2009 at 3:09 am

Just posted this at Marginal Revolution, following their report of the Wall Street Journal review of the economics blogosphere.

"Obscurants like Krugman may be the shining stars of the blogosphere to the Wall Street Journal, but to those of us outside the maintream, and way ahead of it, the guiding lights are two scholars and gentlemen named Roberts and Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek."

vidyohs July 18, 2009 at 10:33 am
Mace July 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

This is very similar to what's going on here in California (and elsewhere) with the investor-owned electric utilities. Government edicts beget higher rates and the angry letters from consumers always criticize the utilities, not the government regs. The bureaucrats never feel the heat.

Control without ownership and enough funding for all sorts of social engineering.

A nice scam, isn't it?

Eidolways July 18, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Reminds me of an article I read in the Phi Kappa Phi "Forum" periodical last night. It was espousing a tax on fatty/sugary foods to try to curb obesity. One of the things it suggested taxing was, a seemingly obvious choice upon reading it, soft drinks.

Of course the soft drink companies get the blame for using high fructose corn syrup and "making America fat". No one ever talks about the subsidies and regulations that benefit American sugar farmers by keeping prices here artificially higher than outside our borders, making real sugar a less feasible choice. This is, however, one of the reasons you can still get naturally sweetened Coca-Cola in Mexico en masse.

Again, somehow the guilty party goes free.

Don'tcha just love politicians?

vidyohs July 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm

So what do we do? Trust in God? Somehow in 68 years I haven't noticed that he is all that interested.

You can look in the scrap barrels of the nation's busiest slaughterhouse on its busiest day, and not find as many assholes as there are in this administration, specifically this congress, and presidency.

See the exchange between Methinks and myself at the end of the previous LIARS thread. "Those that make the law do not have to live by the law." Think how Michael Milken must feel reading the news about that insider trading.

Do we seriously think that congress or the Presidency is going to give up power?

It is no longer a question of more. They already have it all.

vikingvista July 18, 2009 at 7:42 pm

"Do we seriously think that congress or the Presidency is going to give up power?"

The element of democracy in the US political system, along with lack of infringement of at least some of the rights recognized by the first amendment, leaves open a possible peaceful legal means to remove the kleptocracy and restore constitutional rule. That fact, I think, is a testament to the wisdom of the Founders. However, there is no guarantee that the US will not become a more common state, where such peaceful means are obliterated.

vidyohs July 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

vikingvista, I am sorry good sir, I see no hope for a peaceful resolution of the problem of run-amok government. If there were one then I believe it would have been accessed by now. You and I aren't the first to believe government has burst its bonds, there were lots of others before us.

It isn't the ballot box for sure. As long as that flaw sits at Art 1, Sec 5, para 2, "Each house may determine the Rules of its proceedings," then the only way to regain control is to write an amendment canceling that and make them present their plans and subject them to approval of the citizens. You might take note that those Rules of Proceedings are not exposed to examination or approval by you and I? Yet, we pretend that they work for us? Bwa ha ha ha ha! What a fu.king joke!

Yes, the founding fathers left us guidance to fixing government. I believe it was along the lines of "The tree of liberty has to be refreshed frequently with blood."

And, it is the right of the people to form a new government when this one no longer represents them, and the 2nd amendment was to give us means.

I lost my misty eyed view of this thing in D.C. once I got close enough to it to actually see how it works.

There is no actual democracy in our government, there is tyranny with populism.

Yep Congresscritters can create the committee system that allows the party in majority to deny equal representation to other than citizens of their own party. You can trace that directly back to the precise place in the Constitution I quoted above.

Yep Congresscritters can partake of the benefit of insider trading, but you and I go to jail if we try, how sweet is that? You can trace that directly to the precise place in the Constitution I quoted above.

Yep, congresscritters can retire with full salary after just one term in office. You can trace that directly…etc.

Yep congresscritters can get pay raises now by not voting. You can trace that directly to….etc..

Yep, congresscritters can campaign at the public's cost, it's called the Franking Privilege. you can trace that directly to….etc..

Need I go on? I don't think so, even though I have not even began to cover all the abuses of power allowed by that one little flaw.

Crusader July 18, 2009 at 9:11 pm

vidyohs – everything you point out leads to the obvious conclusions – we need a 2nd American Revolution! This time to free ourselves from our own government.

vidyohs July 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm

You got that right Crusader.

Two ways to do it.

First is dangerous and it consists of simply refusing. Refusing to give them a dime no matter what threats they bring or what actions they bring. go to court, go to jail, let them take productive people off the street and then have to feed, house and clothe them. That kind of stupidity isn't cheap. Enough people denying them money will bring it to a halt and no one has to form armies, prepare to die in mass numbers, or have to fire upon kids you helped raise who happen to be in uniform.

I think the first needs to be tried. I do not expect it to ever happen, there are simply too many gutless people in America, but it should be tried, so that it can be shown that "the people" exhausted every peaceful means.

The second I believe I don't have to voice.

Foster July 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Vidyohs & Crusader,

While I agree with your disillusionment of our current federal government I just want to add a word of caution. Revolution is not a pretty thing. It will be (if it every truly happens) VERY ugly and VERY deadly. Most of the Founders lost everything because of the their stance and they knew this going in. That is why they pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.

While I am not opposed to the idea of such an undertaking – it can become necessary as our Founding Fathers recognized – I think many entertain romantic visions of revolution. Think of it this way, when things are so bad that you are willing to die to institute real change, or more importantly you are willing to risk the future of your children for the sake of your grandchildren (if they ever come about) then revolution is the answer. Until then, we must labor under the slower but peaceful methods provided within the US Constitution.

vidyohs July 18, 2009 at 10:36 pm


Don't take this as nasty or snarky, just plain talk.

I think that neither Crusader or I were ignorant of our founding history. I can't speak for Crusader but I know that I am well aware of what an actual armed revolution would be like.

I have seen my share up close, thank you very much.

Now to the meat, could you point me to the particular Article, Sec, and paragraph where this peaceful method is in the constitution? Give us a quote of the precise Constitutional wording, please.

Gil July 19, 2009 at 3:58 am

Of course, vidyohs, Foster meant to 'educate' people and elect those who would do the right things. However a geniune revolution is virtually out of the question since very few revolutions have ever taken place in history. On the other coup d'etats are far more common. Then again I'm sure you couldn't stir the masses when most people would dutifully pay their taxes whilst rioting over a bad soccer outcome. Priorities, priorities . . .

Foster July 19, 2009 at 9:08 am


Gil has it right. I mean that until life becomes so abhorrent or that encroachments on our liberties so severe we should strive to use education, persuasion, and the amendment process to fix our system. I like amendments that would eliminate "safe" districts by using shortest-line districting (existing municipal boundaries), removing the regulations that give incumbents such a huge advantage, limiting the growth of the federal gov't, rediscovering the limits of the commerce clause, and repealing the 16th and 17th amendments. All of these things are ways we can create change without the death necessary for a revolution.

Not intending to play one-ups-manship here but I too have lived war. I waged war as an infantryman for this country for over 2 years combined combat duty. I have no regrets about what I did and sleep soundly. The thing that gives me pause about a revolution here is not that I might die but that I might have to kill another American, particularly a soldier or police officer, who will be following orders from the statists. That would haunt me.

All of this aside, our problem right now is that a majority of the American people simply don't care. They would oppose any attempts at revolution (because that might interrupt the next episode of whatever) and they simply cannot be bothered with amendments or the like. Political apathy is our greatest obstacle right now in the United States of Entertainment. I'm afraid things must get much worse before they can get any better.

Mandeville July 19, 2009 at 9:19 am

Things aren't as bad as they appear, and in the distant past, they weren't as good as we've been educated to believe. Democracy is a vehicle, or a market place, for the quest for power. Despite the protests here, the general will of the majority exists in America as well as the rest of the Western countries.

There are real people who desire and vote for the policies that this blog spot argues against, and these people outnumber you. My advice is not to get yourself thrown in jail by doing foolish things.

Contrary to what most here might think, our parents grew up in a much more authoritarian society than we are now, and the same was true for their parents before them, and so on. The devices of authority in the past were mainly cultural rather than political. These have dwindled away leaving people freer than ever. Some of the authority has been replaced by leviathan government, and it is mainly money (property) that the great political tug of war is about.

The wise method of revolt is to devise ways of hiding money.

dg lesvic July 19, 2009 at 10:50 am

I just posted this at the liberal economist Brad de Long's blog.

"There is just one slight problem with the liberal-socialist-conservative position.

It very largely depends on the assumption that taking from the rich to give to the poor reduces income inequality, and, it doesn't, it increases it."

That's how to revolt.

dg lesvic July 19, 2009 at 11:50 am

It looks like that was deleted. They sure don't waste any time on that side of the spectrum. I at least had a few innings with the pussies on this side of it.

dg lesvic July 19, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Just posted a follow-up there, to make sure, and that was deleted too.

Those people sure are liberals, like Hitler and Stalin were liberals.

dg lesvic July 19, 2009 at 12:14 pm

And, by the way, to Sam and Vike, and the rest of you who have been so skeptical of this approach. That just goes to show how the enemy feels about it.

vikingvista July 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

"It very largely depends on the assumption that taking from the rich to give to the poor reduces income inequality, and, it doesn't, it increases it."

But if it did decrease it, then it would be okay?

Alan H July 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Did anyone really think that a Chicago politician would back away from using power to hurt his enemies and help his friends? While there have been times in the past when we've arguably had a more authoritarian level of government control over our lives, outside of the war years, this level of control over the economy has only proven to be disasterous. And, at least during the war years, the level of control was deemed part of a shared sacrifice, not a sacrifice for the sake of Union thugs who helped to elect the current occupant of the white house.

dg lesvic July 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm


You wrote,

"But if it did decrease it, then it would be okay?"

You know the answer to that as well as I do.

To our enemies, yes.

The question for us is, how do we respond to their answer?

With your approach, that they have thrived on, or mine, that they run and hide from?

vidyohs July 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Damn, I like it when you're sober and coherent, Gil.


I am afraid this statement, "I have seen my share up close, thank you very much." implies something that ain't true. I was not a gun-toting troop fighting in anything like pitched battles, I was an other. However, I meant that I did see the results a lot fresher than I'd often like for it to have been. My work involved other things and other methods, and only for the brief period of a year in post colonial Africa.

In answer to you and to Gil, my comments were meant to remind you that to fall into the trap of using the Constitution as justification for things when in fact the Constitution is silent on them, is a mistake.

Using the Constitution as your scapegoat or justification gives blame or credit to the wrong people; in other words normally it is the scum that have sat, or are sitting in Congress or the Whitehouse, that are the source of the problems, not the Constitution.

I will also remind you that neither the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble to the Constitution are actual law and have no meaning in reality or in a court. They are expressed principles, nothing more, and certainly not legal requirements for the corporate government of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA formed by the corporation document, the Constitution.

Lastly, any time one attempts to determine whether something is or is not constitutional, always remember to use strict interpretation and look at the parameters as being inflexible.

Like abortion. There is no constitutional basis for abortion, nor is there any prohibition of abortion.

There is no constitution guarantee of privacy outside your home and in your personal possessions or papers.

The constitution simply does not specifically mention you, the free man, in any way at all, not even in the amendments.

Now, Foster, you might think this is overly cynical but trust me it isn't anything but an intelligent and long experienced observation: How do we know that there was waste, graft, and squandering of public funds on the space program…simple it was done by government.

If government is involved there will be waste, graft, and squandering, absolutely 100% guaranteed. Oh, and did I also mention some measure of insanity as well?

Gil July 19, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Of course, it could be argued why bother to argue whether the U.S. Consitution is/was Libertarian? A member of the Libertarian Party once wrote they don't go for the "it's Constitutional" argument rather they go for something because "it's a natural right". The writer conceded that taxes are Constitutional as per the 16th Amendment. So he feels the 'appeal to the U.S. Constitution' argument a type of logical fallacy.

vidyohs July 19, 2009 at 10:05 pm


Now I am sorry, but I did not understand that. You've gone cryptic on me again.

Gil July 20, 2009 at 1:25 am

Uh huh . . .

vikingvista July 20, 2009 at 3:05 am

"With your approach, that they have thrived on, or mine, that they run and hide from?"

To win minds, you have to do more than point out their contradictions. You have to show them the solutions. You defeat yourself by reinforcing their own misguided objectives.

dg lesvic July 20, 2009 at 5:36 am

You're a Viking?

You must have been one of those who stayed home.

You wrote,

"To win minds, you have to do more than point out their contradictions. You have to show them the solutions."

To what?

You wrote,

"You defeat yourself by reinforcing their own misguided objectives."

You mean I defeat myself by defeating them.

Vike, you're nuts!

Randy July 20, 2009 at 5:58 am

Revolution isn't necessary. A strike will do the trick.

JohnK July 20, 2009 at 7:11 am

Changing the leaders without changing the machine is pointless.

The only way to get real change would be to start firing federal employees by the tens of thousands.

Who's got the stones to do that?

Gil July 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

Me try planer English to hoping vidyohs mite understandz wot me typez:

"There is no constitution guarantee of privacy outside your home and in your personal possessions or papers."

Who cares? Do you care if the 16 Amendment allows for income taxes or not? Aren't 'taxes merely theft' regardless of whether it's in the Constitution or not. Is the 'right to bear arms' a 'natural' right for Australians even though the Australian Constitution gives no protections for the firearm ownership of Australians? Do you really care whether or not the U.S. 2nd Amendment only protects 'members of the State militia' or not?

If to all of the these question would you not answer: "these are all natural rights and I don't care what any Constitution does or doesn't say – I'm going to fulfill all of my natural rights because I'm a free person and I don't need the consent of a government to do what I like"?

vidyohs July 20, 2009 at 10:22 am

There you go Gil, no encryption unless you give out the ciphers.

As the answers to your questions apply to me personally the answers would be no I don't care. As I have no intention of going to Australia, so any such trip would be definitely spontaneous, what Australian laws are do not concern men personally.

As the answers to your question apply to others who also put personal and individual freedom as their first priority, the answers would have to be yes I care.

The difference is obvious. I want others to know what I know and believe what I believe, and make the moves I have made.

That is one reason I come back here to comment, and keep putting the knowledge out there, in the awareness that with the passage of time more and more people will actually stop and ask that all important question, "How does the state presume to have jurisdiction over me, what is the legal mechanism if there is one, and what do I do about it"?

There is one very solid and bright piece of logic that I offer to you, Gil.

If something is immoral and illegal when done on a person to person basis, one on one, man to man, then it will also be immoral and illegal when done to many. Increasing the numbers in any part of that equation does not change the immorality and illegality.

If it is immoral and illegal for me to subdue, chain, and own you so that I may reap what rewards from your labor that I may; then, it is also immoral and illegal for many (govt of the people, by the people, and for the people) to subdue, chain, and own you so that they may reap the rewards of your labor.

Where in your mind do you stand in relation to your government?

vidyohs July 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

A wild uncontrolable n got loose and snuck in to this sentence: "what Australian laws are do not concern men(sic) personally."

That, of course should have been the word me.

Sam Grove July 20, 2009 at 10:27 am


I'm bet you could come up with a list of things that, placed as comments on lefty site would result in their deletion. I recall reading complaints by C.H. regulars to that effect.

Maybe we could do a study to see which subject comment gets deleted quickest to determine which will get the left to surrender.

Gil July 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

I don't mind it – it's a working system. ;)

vidyohs July 20, 2009 at 11:42 am

My garden and myself together are a working system, but the plants are becoming aware that it is only I that gets to enjoy the fruits.

It could get dangerous out there.

dg lesvic July 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm


You wouldn't need any studies if you'd just use your intellgience. And it ought to tell you what it told Hayek, Mises, and Bourdreaux, that the "bottom line" was redistribution, and that the conclusion that it didn't reduce but increased inequality left nothing else that could be said for it.

Sam Grove July 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm

And it ought to tell you what it told Hayek, Mises, and Bourdreaux, that the "bottom line" was redistribution, and that the conclusion that it didn't reduce but increased inequality left nothing else that could be said for it.

When, and only when, sufficient numbers of citizens come to the same conclusion.

That's gonna take a lot more than assertion.

brotio July 20, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Where in your mind do you stand in relation to your government?

From the discussions I've had with Gil, I can only conclude that if evil people intend to ransack his home, rape his wife, and murder his children; and the government tells him that he may not defend himself or his loved ones – that his only legal recourse is to hope for government agents to get there in time to prevent some or all of those atrocities, then Gil will sit there and wait for government agents to (hopefully) Save The Day.

Methinks July 20, 2009 at 6:48 pm

…that the "bottom line" was redistribution, and that the conclusion that it didn't reduce but increased inequality left nothing else that could be said for it.


IS that the bottom line? The power to decide who gets what and who pays what is absolute power. I think the "bottom line" is absolute power concentrated in the hands of the very few. We're getting closer in the U.S.

BTW, don't waste a moment of your time on DeLong's blog. He isn't interested in anything that doesn't tumble out of his bloated mouth. After Milton Friedman's death I posted a brief comment in response to a few comments full of rage and indignation about Chile. All I asked was why so much indignation over Chile and none over his role as adviser to communist China? Deleted. Forget little ole' me, other economists who posted as themselves on his blog were deleted.

Brad supports the "Fairness Doctrine", btw. Which just tells you how fair it is.

S Andrews July 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Not one of my half a dozen comments on de Longs blog stayed there for more than 2 hours, and often they lasted only a few minutes.

dg lesvic July 20, 2009 at 9:25 pm

But that isn't just De Long or the Left. You get plenty of the same sort of thing on the Right. So we ought to appreciate the freedom we have here, and every once in a while express our gratitude to the two scholars and gentelmen to whom we owe so much.

Why ddo you think Boudreaux, Hayek, and Mises, and many more that I could name, thought it was the "bottom line."

Becuase, without it, there is no other issue of political economy. Take away that one issue and all the other vanish.

Now, you're bright people.

Tell us why, or do you really need obnoxious old DG to explain it to you?

vidyohs July 20, 2009 at 10:08 pm

For those of you out there who might frequently wonder about conventional wisdom and how it hinders our thinking.

It is all about not operating on conventional wisdom and being just one step ahead of the people who do.
From my good friend Mike P. here in Houston.

"just wanted to pass this on…it is from a friend in PA who just beat the credit collection agency.

So check out the link!!!

Oh…and by the way….I sued my "collection agencies" in JP court (6 individual cases) and walked away with 6 wins.


— On Mon, 7/20/09, suave john wrote:

From: suave john
Subject: Re: I'm Winning – Credit Card Holder Agreement Is Not A Contract
Date: Monday, July 20, 2009, 5:52 PM

I'm waiting on opposing counsel to defend against the premise that the credit card holder agreement attached to the complaint is not a contract.

If opposing counsel failes, the judge will dismiss with prejudice, which means I win and pay nothing.


In case you miss it, he won. The pleadings by the plaintiff were dismissed with prejudice, which for the ordinary man like you and I, means it can never be brought back in a new pleading. It is done, over. And, it was Pro Se.

You are not helpless in this world. The truth is there for you if you simply look. One truth is that if you are paying for a home and your mortgage has been sold and resold, chances are the current owner has no more means of proving the validity of his claims than the collection agency did on behalf of the credit card company.

dg lesvic July 21, 2009 at 2:42 am

Are there any of the "liberal" blogs that tolerate dissent?

Seems like silly question doesn't it, like asking if there are any totalitarian states that hold free elections?

Gil July 21, 2009 at 2:48 am

Can anyone explain why dgl thinks forced restribution increases inequality? Shouldn't those who forcing society to be equal will get their wish even if it means everyone one is equally poor? Even if talk is cheap and an 'egalitarian' society ends up with a tiny privileged minority and the rest is poor then how is inequality necessarily greater than a free society? Yes there may be no middle class whatsoever but the elite are merely millionaries in a sea of poor people as opposed to a free society with people of differing wealth from the free poor to free billionaires. I could see a situation where there's more technical inequality in a free society (there's 1000 times the difference between the richest and poorest in the free society versus the unfree society) than a unfree society yet there need not be a spittle of injustice in this.

Gil July 21, 2009 at 2:55 am

Do tell brotio if you shoot someone on your own property in the U.S.A. do the cops pat you on the back and put their notepads or do take you to trip to the local police station where you're on trial with the burden of proof on you to show that you were acting in self-defence? The right to own a gun is meaningless without the right to self-defence. The right to self-defence is meaningless if it means you have to go court every time and prove your innnocence. (There was one guy who went to court after shooting a home invader dead on his own privat property in Australia before the 1997 gun laws and he ended up in court, he got off but had to pay $25,000 in legal fees.)

brotio July 21, 2009 at 4:14 am


Colorado has a 'Make My Day' law, which affirms that a homeowner has the right to use deadly force to defend his property.

You were right (in another post) that I assume that right, whether the government affirms it or not. It's too bad that more Australians don't have my attitude.

However, even if it meant I went to prison, or paid $25,000 in legal fees, I will not accept your government's position that only they have the right to defend my home and my family. Again, it's a pity that too many Aussies share your view about the right to life.

Gil July 21, 2009 at 8:31 am

What you really mean when you presume you have a 'natural right' when the actual real life equivalent is lacking? There are the occasional Libertarians who have shot dead police officers and are spending their rest of lives in jail. Do you think they did the right thing?

Previous post:

Next post: