Free market libertarians will say(with a straight face) that corporations would never cheat or harm their customers because the “free market” would punish them. Grown ups keep telling them that there is no such thing as a free market and that corporations will absolutely lie, cheat and even poison their customers if they think they can get away with it. There are so many examples of this in history that there simply isn’t enough room to list even a fraction of them. But, because it’s fun popping the fantasy that free market libertarians live in, here’s the most recent example of why government oversight is absolutely needed and free market libertarians are morons.
Via Wired UK:
A laser tool funded by the European Space Agency to measure carbon on Mars has been reappropriated to detect fake honey.
The counterfeit goods trade might more commonly be associated with handbags and watches, but it turns out that the world of honey trading is also a murky one, riddled with smuggling and fakery.
According to a Food Safety News investigation, more than a third of honey consumed in the US has been smuggled from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. To make matters worse, some honey brokers create counterfeit honey using a small amount of real honey, bulked up with sugar, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar) and other additives — known as honey laundering. This honey is often mislabelled and sold on as legitimate, unadulterated honey in places such as Europe and the US.
The European agency in charge of this is the counterpart to our Food and Drug Administration, you know, the same FDA that free market libertarians say we don’t need. This is where reality intrudes on the magical unicorn tale of heroic businessmen who would never abuse their customers.
The FDA was created to combat the rampant adulteration of food and “medicine” that was making American citizens sick and even killing them. The free market did nothing to stop bread makers from adding cement or wood dust to their products to make them heavier. They used to sell it by the pound, you see. Heavier bread = more profits. If a bunch of people got sick and died? Well, you couldn’t PROVE it was because of the bread, could you? Hooray for the free market!
So now we have the FDA to watchdog companies and make sure they are not lying to the consumer and feeding them garbage (sometime literally). Free market libertarians find this unfair and complain that it “punishes success” or “strangles innovation” or some such nonsense that never seems to actually happen. Ron and Rand Paul claim they want to do away with the FDA and let the free market take over. It’s unclear how LESS regulation will somehow stop scams like “honey laundering” but this begs the question: if the free market will force companies to stop killing their customers, why didn’t it work BEFORE the FDA was created?
The answers will range from the sound of crickets to “Caveat emptor” to boldly stupid statements like “Consumers are more savvy now.”
What makes this story of high technology exposing lowlife criminals even worse for libertarian theology (it really isn’t a philosophy so much as a religion) is that the technology wouldn’t even exist but for government spending. The ESA is Europe’s version of NASA and there is no compelling reason for a private corporation to develop technology that will easily reveal adulterated or counterfeit foods. The “free market” has zero interest in policing itself and a vested interest in deceiving the public. On the other hand, government is the will of the people made manifest and we most certainly have a vested interest in knowing whether or not our food contains toxins or is even real food.
Corporations will never act altruistically as long as scumbaggery is most profitable. Without the government to do for the people what the people cannot do for themselves, namely, keep tabs on the corrupt greed of corporations, we would be even more at their mercy than we are now. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for libertarians but maybe it will go down better with a spoonful of honey. Or at least a honey-like substance laced with heavy metals and antibiotics.