General Mills Retreats an Inch on Its Mandatory Arbitration Overreach

Law Professor Adam Levitin argued that we peons should make counterclaims against General Mills. Recall that the New York Times reported yesterday that the food producer asserted that anyone receiving a “benefit” from the company, such as downloading coupons, and even buying its products or liking it on Facebook had agreed to give up their right to sue and had to submit to arbitration in the event of a dispute.

Levitin’s language, from the Credit Slips website:

In light of General Mills policy of claiming that its binding mandatory arbitration requirement (with class action waiver) applies to anyone who purchases its products, including via third-party vendors, I have decided, to post the following legal notice, applicable to all persons, everywhere:

By permitting, allowing, or suffering me to purchase any of your products or services, whether directly from you or indirectly through dealers, vendors, agents, or other third-parties, you agree to irrevocably surrender all rights to compel me to arbitration or to waive my rights to proceed against you as a member of a class action. In order to make this provision effective and allow effective vindication of my rights, you also agree to irrevocably surrender all rights to compel arbitration and to prevent class actions against all other purchasers of your products and services. You also agree to cover all of my costs associated with bringing an action, including attorneys’ fees and any damages awarded against me, irrespective of the outcome of the action.

Is General Mills notice any more effective than mine? I don’t see why it would be. Let’s get this long-range battle of the forms on!

As much as Levitin’s riposte might get some traction, it appears that the New York Times article on General Mill’s overreaching policy hit a nerve in the public at large. The Grey Lady reported today that General Mills had amended, as in climbed down an itty bit on its policies:

General Mills, the multibillion-dollar food company behind brands like Cheerios and Pillsbury, said on Thursday that an update to its new legal policies, which stated that consumers “joining our online communities” could not sue the company, did not apply to people who visit its Facebook pages and Twitter accounts….

In an email received Thursday, Mike Siemienas, a General Mills spokesman, said the “online communities” mentioned in the policy referred only to those online communities hosted by the company on its own websites. He later elaborated in a second email: “No one is precluded from suing us merely by purchasing our products at the store or liking one of our brand Facebook pages. For example, should an individual subscribe to one of our publications or download coupons, these terms would apply. But even then, the policy would not and does not preclude a consumer from pursuing a claim. It merely determines a forum for pursuing a claim. And arbitration is a straightforward and efficient way to resolve such disputes.”

But lawyers remained skeptical. More from the Times’ account:

Lawyers had pointed out that the new terms were vaguely written, leaving them open to a wide range of interpretation. A pop-up notice on the company’s home page, for example, says that the new terms “require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.”

“It is very clear that if you do any number of things, you are covered by these changes,” said Julia Duncan, director of federal programs at the American Association for Justice, a trade group for trial lawyers. “If you use a coupon, go on their website, participate in a promotional campaign of any sort, sign up for email alerts or ‘participate in any offering by General Mills.’ That is so exceptionally broad that it may be possible anything you purchase from them would be held to this clause.”

“Purchase or use”? That means if you were visiting a friend’s house and everyone got sick from consuming a General Mills product, you couldn’t sue even though you hadn’t made the purchase, as in you had no commercial relationship with General Mills whatsoever.

Adam Levitin, via e-mail, says the General Mills position is bunk:

There has to be an agreement to arbitrate. I don’t think that I am agreeing to anything with General Mills when I purchase Cheerios from the supermarket. My agreement is with the supermarket, and it is limited to the price listed for merchantable goods. Similarly, I don’t think that liking something on Facebook constitutes an agreement—there’s no exchange of value. Downloading the coupon is perhaps an exchange of value, but it’s so lopsided that it doesn’t even approach the situation in AT&T v. Concepcion, so I could imagine a court ruling it unconscionable.

But the overreach of binding mandatory arbitration (which is really about class action waivers, not arbitration) and the Supreme Court’s recent approval of this in Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurants is one of the greatest threats to democracy today because it has effectively closed the courts to the small against the powerful. They are a license for business fraud and theft done in small amounts on a large scale. Overcharge everyone by $5 and there’s no remedy available because no one will arbitrate this individually and there’s no class action remedy. Do this to 10 million people and that’s real money. Concepcion and Italian Colors are going to be remembered in history as travesties of justice akin to Lochner.

While I am loath to disagree with the good professor, let me point out another layer to the General Mills chicanery: how many people will know that the General Mills assertion that consumers have consented to arbitration is rubbish? How many will write complaints or threaten litigation and have General Mills write back and tell them falsely that their only option is arbitration? I imagine most NC readers are at least somewhat legally sophisticated and have some lawyers in their personal networks that they can sound out for sanity checks. But General Mills sells products to a mass market. Many of its consumers aren’t as savvy and no doubt can be successfully bullied into going the arbitration route when they likely would have done better in court (among other things, it would be difficult for General Mills to get a case sealed, so litigation has PR downside missing in private arbitration hearings).

This continuing, successful campaign by large corporations to inflict one-sided contracts on consumers demonstrates how the notion of “free markets” is a fantasy. Recall that libertarians argue that all commercial interactions can be handled by contract; there’s no need for government oversight save for a court system. But they ignore that most industries have scale factors (barriers to entry, increasing returns to scale, network effects, etc) which means that over time, they will evolve into having a comparatively small number of incumbents who have pricing power (as in oligopoly status either across the industry or in certain product/geographic niches). Being an oligopolist is a good business model; all the standard textbooks show it is more profitable than competing in a more level playing field. And one of the things these large concerns have done is to subvert the judicial process to favor corporate interests over those of ordinary citizens, assuming they even have access to courts at all.

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238 comments

  1. Dave Narby

    OK, I’ll take the bait…

    IF you can name ONE oligopolist who got there without government protection/largess/favor, I’ll grant your point.

    …But there aren’t any, are there? Which is a major point of Libertariansim, that government should not be meddling in the markets, determining winners and losers, and definitely not “nudging” society and the marketplace “for our own good. Most of us would eliminate the legal fiction that is a corporation entirely, opening up the monopolists to damage suits (y’know, like those benefiting from fracking while shoving the cost of ruined water supplies off on the rest of us).

    Please, do yourself a favor and quit straw-manning Libertarians.. At best it makes you look ignorant, and at worst dishonest.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Nothing like dealing with true believers, is there? And I suggest you Google “psychological projection”. Your closing comment is a textbook example.

      Sun Microsystems. Oracle. My buddies at O’Connor & Associates, who were dominant players in the OTC equity derivatives and FX markets when they were acquired for a ginormous premium (reflecting their strong market position!) by Swiss Bank.

      And your use of fracking as an example is bizarre and is proof of the failure, or perhaps more accurately, the internal incoherence of the libertarian position. Fracking and pollution generally is a textbook example of why regulations are necessary, because the difficulty of proving damage to an individuals of pollution in court is too difficult. You can’t prove harm (bad health outcomes) for years, potentially decades, and then individuals are put in a dueling experts battle with the corporate polluters.

      1. Dave Narby

        Seriously?

        Both Sun and Oracle are corporations (and therefore benefactors of those legal protections offered by gov’t), and both lobbied for (and got) huge tax breaks!

        http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Tech-titans-lobby-Congress-for-giant-tax-break-2295106.php

        Even though IMO they are poor examples of oligopoly (there’s huge number of hardware and software vendors out there), do you REALLY think they could get that powerful without being crony capitalists?! Face it, these oligopolies you (rightly) despise couldn’t exist without a government corrupt and powerful enough to enable it.

        …And did you say that OTC/FX player got… BOUGHT OUT?! Well then, they weren’t members of an oligopoly… So the Swiss Bank must be the oligopolist! Wait… Are you seriously arguing that the oligopoly in banking is not a direct result of government intervention?! Holy cow!!!

        Looking at that link I provided, and some of the (now fairly well known tax avoidance schemes, e.g. the “Dutch Sandwich”), it should be mind bogglingly clear that without gov’t collusion, these (rightly) loathed oligopolies couldn’t even exist.

        Again, face it. You can’t get an oligopoly or a monopoly without BIG GOV, baby! But please try again, maybe I’m wrong… Even though we both know I’m not (but it will be fun to watch you try!).

        You also (mysteriously) missed the point entirely regarding suing for environmental damages. If the corporate shield that the hydrofrackers were hiding behind didn’t exist, then they would be subject to damage lawsuits, and since their personal fortunes would be at risk, most likely wouldn’t engage in that business – because the damage to water supplies by fracking is pretty damn obvious (and nobody would insure them). So why is it so hard to sue? Perhaps they did buy “insurance”, more accurately called “protection”… Gee, who offers protection from damage suits… Hmm…

        Since it’s pretty clear government regulation isn’t working to protect the environment (the Gulf of Mexico is still reeling, etc., etc. and well, …Fracking!), perhaps we might now try it our way instead (that would be us quazy wibbertarians)?

        Fact of the matter is, oligopolists and monopolists only exist because they are protected by government.

        Also, I don’t have to Google “psychological projection” to know that doesn’t remotely apply. You are blatantly straw-manning Libertarians. So you don’t have to Google it, straw-manning is saying something is different from what it is, and attacking the fiction you created of it. Stop it, it’s beneath you… Maybe.

        1. Ben Johannson

          An absurd argument. By your own logic any business which comes to exist within a society by definition benefits from government and is therefore a form of interference. Any individual receiving a public education is a labor market distortion due to government subsidizing skills those individuals would not otherwise have.

          You’ve made what I refer to as the “infinite regression” argument, whereby you simply state “but government exists” each time someone successfully challenges a condition of your argument. If all government in the U. S. were abolished you would simply claim its existence elsewhere in the world is distorting markets (a word which you have repeatedly misused, by the way; market does not mean non-government).

          So pleas drop the vague platitudes about not interfering with markets when you clearly do not know what one is other than in the sense of political ideology. Corporate status and tax breaks for Sun did not give it an advantage over its competitors, as they gained access to precisely the same subsidies and protections enacted into law.

          1. Dave Narby

            First, you simply ignored the central argument, which was that Libertarian principles do not lead to oligopoly, it can only exist with government help! It was clearly argued with evidence (you did at least glance at the article, didn’t you?) as being the result of government favoritism. Congrats! No logical fallacy required, just pretend the argument doesn’t exist!

            Second, you are right! Government education does interfere with the marketplace! The world is replete with government educated voters, which got us into this mess!

            Third, no one has challenged the conditions of my argument, they have ignored it (I detect a pattern here)!

            Fourth, I never called for abolishing government, but you said I did! Congratulations, you finally used a fallacy (straw man)! I have called for reducing the power of the federal government, and thereby it’s ability to dole out favors in subsidies and tax breaks! When did it become the job of government to pick winners and losers in business?! (Note that I did not call for necessarily limiting state or local government, but quite a few of them could use quite a bit of reduction IMO).

            Fifth, you accuse me of being vague, what part of “the oligopoly in the banking sector (and other sectors) is a direct result of government intervention” is not only crystal clear, but screamingly obvious to everyone at this point?! Good GAWD man! (Oh, and where did I use a platitude? Oh, I didn’t!)

            And Sixth… Oh come on! You don’t think big tax breaks and subsidies gave Sun (and other companies) an advantage over those who DIDN’T GET THEM?!

            WOW!

                1. Dave Narby

                  Expecting the New Yorker to give an accurate presentation of Libertarian solutions is like expecting a Koch brother to provide a solution to Crony Capitalism or Soros to provide a solution to market manipulation.

                  Do try harder next time. I know you are capable of so much better!

              1. Dave Narby

                Classical Liberalism came as a reaction to Feudalism.

                History has proven Classical Liberalism to have provided the greatest growth in commerce and personal rights in all of human history.

                Libertarianism is the next evolutionary step from Classical Liberalism.

                Libertarianism as a form of government *has yet to be tried*.

                You keep using this word “Libertarianism”… I do not think it means what you HOPE you think it means…

                  1. Dave Narby

                    Actually, I go by the dictionary definition.

                    ib·er·tar·i·an
                    [lib-er-tair-ee-uhn] Show IPA
                    noun
                    1. a person who advocates liberty, especially with regard to thought or conduct.
                    2. a person who maintains the doctrine of free will (distinguished from necessitarian ).
                    adjective
                    3. advocating liberty or conforming to principles of liberty.
                    4. maintaining the doctrine of free will.

                    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/libertarian?o=

                    1. Vatch

                      From the very beginning of On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill:

                      The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so
                      unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical
                      Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the
                      power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the
                      individual.

                      Mill knew enough to get that misunderstanding out of the way immediately.

                1. Ben Johannson

                  History has proven Classical Liberalism to have provided the greatest growth in commerce and personal rights in all of human history.

                  How do I get in touch with History; do you have his email or can I send him a tweet? Hopefully he’ll agree to show me his proof.

              2. Bob Robertson

                “LIbertarianism is the pathway to feudalism.”

                Interesting idea. Let’s see… Feudalism is government control of all land, with government restrictions on travel, laws concerning trades that may be engaged in, Sovereign Immunity (one of the Feudal elements that still exists), and so on.

                Please, if you will, show me where respect for individual private property and individual choice is in the definition of “Feudalism”. Show me where no Sovereign Immunity what so ever is in the definition of “Feudalism”.

                Please.

                1. Ben Johannson

                  The feudal system was not government control of everything. Any decent medieval historian will tell you this.

                  1. Nathanael

                    The feudal system involved NO government control of ANYTHING. Everyone was simply a private citizen, and if said private citizen happened to “own” a bunch of land and a bunch of serfs were “tied to the land”, why, said private citizen had the private right to enforce their private law, by sending out thugs to drag the serfs back and force them to work.

                    Central government is what got rid of feudalism. Any historian will tell you this.

                    Feudalism was all about individual private property — so was slaveowning. If you don’t have a government, but you do have “property”, you pretty quickly end up with serfdom and slavery.

                    I can respect European left-wing “abolish property” communist libertarians.

                    The idiots in the US who call themselves “libertarians” but support private property don’t understand anything. They’re espousing the exact doctrines which led to *slavery* and *serfdom*. “These slaves are my property. I hired a private police force to keep them enslaved. Why are you interfering with my property?”

            1. Scylla

              Pray tell, once the magical libertarian reset button is pushed, and all regulations and government protections are removed, what is to prevent business owners with wealth from influencing legislators to grant them protections in some form?

              People like you can never grasp that the free market fantasy that you all masturbate to is inherently unstable. A free market can only be a starting point. There will be a progression of distortion that is directly related to greed and corruption. Your free market will very quickly cease to exist.

              This is the simple truth. None of you are capable of considering the ramifications of this system. You are blind to actions that would be committed by the same people that work to corrupt the markets now.

              Fail.

              1. Nathanael

                Our giant corporations are already run like feudal fiefdoms. Remove government, and they’ll get even more extreme.

                “You want food, serf? Then you will follow my religion” (as Hobby Lobby is trying to do to its employees). “You shall not leave my property; you are my serf, and may not work at any other fiefdom” (this is the Google/Apple/etc. “noncompetition” deal did). Et cetera.

                Government isn’t the only source of force. Private corporations are now quite able to hire their own security thugs to beat up the serfs. They don’t need government for that.

          2. zapster

            What is most shocking about libertarians is their absolute lack of knowledge of history. A good chunk of ours is replete with examples of unregulated corporate abuse, up to and including the massacre of coal miners by snipers from the hills, without any interference, or even knowledge of, by government. Regulation is never introduced *before* the damage is done, it’s always triggered by malfeasance. Why did those miners not sue? Because they were dead. Why didn’t their families sue? Because there were no laws against what the companies did, no police, no judges and no juries who would hear their cases against the all-powerful companies that did what they pleased without the slightest need for incorporation. If the corporate form was abolished today, this very minute, do they really believe those companies would just apologize and cringe in fear? Hardly. They would simply ignore libertarians’ silly lawsuits and tie them up in courts until their money ran out–exactly as they do already.

            1. Dave Narby

              You realize a corporation is a legal entity created by government, right?

              And you also realize that without the asset protection provided by the corporation, the owners and operators of that corporation could be held personally liable… Right!?

              And you also realize the failure of government to prosecute the murder of coal miners is a failure of… Government. …Right!?

              And you do realize that if legislators, judges and prosecutors were all elected, and had term limits, and could be sued (all of which limits government), that they would be less likely to act in a way that would affect them when they got out of office, right?!

              You keep using this word, “Libertarian”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

              1. Ben Johannson

                Shorter Narby: we need perfect officials enacting perfect legislation.

                Which illustrates the utopian, thumb-sucking fantasy of non-government fetishism.

                P.S. Your conception of markets continues to be ideological rather than economical. They are specific things with specific limits.

                1. Dave Narby

                  See, there you go doing what everybody else here did: Straw manning.

                  I never called for abolishing government, jerk. I called for limiting the federal government’s power and provided numerous practical examples of how to do that. Stop the grade school debating crap.

                  It’s spelled L I B E R T A R I A N not A N A R C H I S T. Don’t conflate the two, it just makes you look biased and ignorant.

                  Also “P.S. Your conception of markets continues to be ideological rather than economical. They are specific things with specific limits.” Expand that please, a specific example would help.

                  1. Ben Johannson

                    I never called for abolishing government, jerk. I called for limiting the federal government’s power and provided numerous practical examples of how to do that. Stop the grade school debating crap.

                    Arguing with yourself now are you? By all means, continue.

                  2. Lambert Strether

                    OK, so if a libertarian is somebody who maintains the doctrine of free will (your definition), and anarchists are not libertarians, does that mean that anarchists do not believe in free will?

                2. redleg

                  Why don’t you move to Somalia. It has no government and therefore is completely free of any government interference a.k.a. a Libertarian Utopia!
                  Or as I am sure you are a US National patriot sort of person, stay here and use Somalia as a gold standard of what a free society should be.

                  1. Dave Narby

                    Ah, the creaky olde “why don’t you move to Somalia” not-actually-an-argument.

                    Why don’t you read k’know, a scholarly paper on Somalia and git some educatshun’ on the subjekt, k’know, sum aksusul faks?

                    Better off stateless: Somalia before and after government collapse, Peter T. Leeson George Mason University:

                    http://www.peterleeson.com/Better_Off_Stateless.pdf

                    1. redleg

                      Oh I’m SO sorry. Of COURSE the Somalis are better off without government.
                      Maybe you should get some real world experience instead of pontificating about dogma. Go there. Kick the tires. Or perhaps talk to Somalis that fled to the US and ask them how much better off they were and why they wanted to move to a place with so much gubbmint oppression.
                      Real people – asksusul people, the basis of a society and economy? They’ll tell you all the faks you wants once (if) they trust you.

                    2. Dave Narby

                      When did the Journal of Comparative Economics become a political activist?

                      Oh, that’s right: Never.

                    3. Dave Narby

                      Redleg:

                      “Oh I’m SO sorry. Of COURSE the Somalis are better off without government.”

                      If you actually bothered to read that paper – Yes, they are.

                      Facts are funny things, ain’t they?

                    4. Nathanael

                      Somalia is a pretty good example of no government.

                      Dave, you apparently actually like it. I suggest you move there. The rest of us think that it sucks.

                  2. Bob Robertson

                    Before you advocate someone else move, do so yourself so that you’re not a hypocrite. North Korea is excellent this time of year.

              2. Scylla

                And what prevents these elections (with term limits…blah blah) from being influenced in the campaign stage by money? By lobbyists? By another revolving door?

                Right?

                Fail

        2. cwaltz

          You know what else wouldn’t exist without “big government?” Safety standards to keep lead out of toys, or businesses from selling products with salmonella or E coli. Rules and penalties that exist to keep businesses from polluting waters or land. Rules that keep businesses from exploiting.children that might not be fortunate enough to have parents that can give two bits about them.

          The idea that the market would magically do these things automatically is laughable. Some people might do the right thing. Many would not. Heck, as it stands even with penalties in place many businesses consider cheating people or ignoring safeguards the fiscally prudent choice. Yet somehow if the rules were to disappear we’re to believe BP would have totally had a plan that didn’t include polluting the ocean and then leaving it to the region to clean up. Or that Walmart wouldn’t lock cleaning crews from other countries in a store and potentially kill them the same way workers in third world Bangladesh perished. You’ve got to be kidding. Even Adam Smith knew that a truly free market was something that could only exist in theory and would never exist in reality. Believing they should exist is like the equivalent of believing in unicorns, leprechauns, and fairies. It just defies logic and reason.

          1. Dave Narby

            Ah, the old “government keeps us safe” argument.

            Much like government is keeping us safe by considering not letting us sue companies like General Mills if they sicken or kill us with a defective product?! (You did read the article these comments appear in, right?!)

            Or perhaps how government keeps us safe by bailing out companies like GM, which then go on to make defective products that kill people, and then seek protection from lawsuits in bankruptcy?

            Or perhaps how government keeps us safe by suing and (assuming they win) seizing the assets of companies like BP, that ravaged the Gulf of Mexico, and then selling those assets to compensate the people who… Oh wait…

            Perhaps the answer lies… Elsewhere!? Perhaps by limiting the power of the federal government to dole out favors and protect the oligarchs and oligopolists, and by reforming the court system by allowing for impeachment and suits against corrupt judges and legislators, jury nullification education, term limits, removing lifetime appointments for ANY judge, etc..? Just a start, mind you.

            1. Dave Narby

              Oh, and the marketplace does somehow manage to come up with solutions for public safety and consumer awareness w/o government, k’know…

              e.g. maybe you’ve seen these http://www.nongmoproject.org/ on the food you buy at the supermarket? You do shop at the supermarket, right? Guess who came up with that: NOT GOVERNMENT. Lawl!

              1. Ben Johannson

                Entrepreneurs created the supermarket, not “markets”. Your centralized, collectivist mindset is not leading you in a productive direction.

              1. Dave Narby

                Really? We the people, can petition directly to impeach a judge, without having to use a legislative body as a proxy?!

                In which country? ‘Cause we sure can’t do that here.

                1. Nathanael

                  If you’d like to advocate direct democracy rather than indirect democracy, go for it.

                  This has nothing to do with “libertarianism” or the size of government. You can have a huge government bureaucracy with direct democracy (see California, home of initiative and referendum).

            2. cwaltz

              Does the government keep everyone safe? Nope. Then again the reality is that life is finite and random. However, does it keep incidences like what occurred in Bangladesh from occurring? You betcha. The rules that we created to govern the market didn’t occur in a vacuum. At one time unsafe work environments were prevalent.

              Is the system perfect? Nope. And it probably never will be for the same reason you can’t have a “free market”-people. People are fallible, they’re corruptible, they’re not even always governed by “rational self interest..” That being said, I’d rather have an imperfect system that I work to fix then fling my arms up in the air and declare that because the system isn’t perfect that it should be done away with in entirety. I do think its adorable though that you think that if there were term limits that legislators or judges wouldn’t engage in quid pro quo with the expectation that when they left office they wouldn’t get a cushy position in exchange for their “help”(and it’d likely be entirely legal since we’re “limiting the power of government to actually do anything.”) The reality is that things like term limits would only speed up the revolving door process, not remove it from existence. I also think its interesting that you think that a more limited government would be able to even effectively deal with corruption. Part of the problem with the system right now has been this focus on “smaller government” rather than on right sizing the government so that it can address problems in a time efficient manner. For example, the DOL has such a limited number of field agents that 2 complaints in a region at one time result in the second complaint being shunted out of the normal field office. Since the office only has limited resources if a business makes less than half a million a year the DOL won’t touch your complaint other than to tell you that you have the right to sue(that’s after they’ve already spent the money to come out and investigate mind you.) You also forget that the government doesn’t just dole out favors to big business it’s pretty much responsible for advances that most businesses wouldn’t touch without the promise of a return. Areas out in the middle of nowhere have electricity. Why? Is it because the electric companies figure they’d make a killing on that one customer in the middle of nowhere. No. It’s because the government steps in and acts where most businesses wouldn’t. It subsidizes things like electricity. It doesn’t have to act like a business. It can do things for the common goo As a matter of fact that IS why it was created. Or let’s not forget how many businesses were able to start because a business person had an idea and went to Uncle Sam. Many of those businesses don’t make it. However, some of them do(and some of them grow up to be those behemoths that then use their influence) So when you say do away with favors you aren’t just doing away with “favors” per se, you’re doing away with opportunities for individuals too. The area that doesn’t get electricity may not ever be able to contribute because it can’t attract businesses who don’t want to deal with the costs associated with starting from ZERO.

              Is there room for improvement in our system? Absolutely. Is the solution as simple as limiting the power of government? Nope. The reality is that once upon a time we had a limited government. It failed. Why? It lacked the teeth to deal with problems. That’s why our founders went with a strong, central government. I see nothing to suggest that diminishing the power today on an already uneven playing field would magically right things. It IS nice to know though that you do seem to understand that there needs to be some sort of rules even if you seem to limit your position to the idea that the rules should be strictly for government and not for business(something I find odd since I’ve seen nothing to suggest that if rules didn’t exist that businesses would behave better and history suggests that many of our rules exist because businesses behaved badly.)

              1. Dave Narby

                You make an awful lot of false assumptions about Libertarianism, which is my second biggest problem with critics of Libertarianism: IGNORANCE. My first biggest problem is with people who willfully misrepresent it, because they have some agenda to do what “they think is best for everyone, even though they won’t like it”.

                First, I am calling for limiting the power of the federal government. Ways to do this include: Making government employees (all of them!) liable for civil suits (make them put a bond!), term limits, repeal of direct election of senators, direct impeachment, prohibition on government debt, prohibition on bailouts, prohibition on favored tax status, prohibition on income tax, and moving all taxation to a Georgist system (for starters).

                I am NOT necessarily calling for limiting power of state and local government. They are generally more honest and responsive (as they actually have to live in the communities they govern). I am a Minarchist on the federal level, a Libertarian on the state level, and a “localist” on the county/town/municipal level (whatever people want to do in their county, assuming it’s with consenting adults, and not unconstitutional/in violation of civil/natural rights, is none of my business… Unless I live in that county).

                Second, I am ALSO talking about fixing the system, but by removing the principle problem, the power of a government that can create several train car loads of law & regulations and then selectively enforce them. The incrementalism and favoritism of the previous 150 years got us into this mess, I fail to see how more incrementalism and favoritism will fix it.

                Third: What if a judge had to put up a bond (perhaps his pension) that could have a judgement against it from a civil suit? How likely would he be to bend the law to breaking, if he knew when he got out the next term, he would likely be sued and tried by a fresh, new judge (who would also be out the door in one term)?

                Fourth: If you think the founders “went with a strong central government” you are woefully ignorant of history.

                Fifth: Use some paragraph breaks, the wall ‘o text is hard to navigate.

                1. Klassy

                  Sixth: Don’t call people jerks.
                  Can you give me an example of some of these libertarians fighting government subsidies to business? What sorts of actions are they taking?
                  I am only familiar with the ones that want to (selectively) cut regulations.

                  1. Dave Narby

                    You seriously want an example? Are you blind? You must think Libertarianism is what the Koch brothers are trying to say it is!

                    This is from the national LP platform http://www.lp.org/platform , but it’s hardly inclusive of what Libertarians are doing locally and worldwide:

                    2.3 Energy and Resources

                    While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.

                    2.6 Monopolies and Corporations

                    We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.

                    3.6 Representative Government

                    We support election systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. We call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. We advocate initiative, referendum, recall and repeal when used as popular checks on government.

                    And the catch all:

                    4.0 Omissions

                    Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.

                    …And if someone is being a jerk by attacking me with logical fallacies (straw man, ad hom, handwaving), I’m going to call them out as a jerk.

                    1. Ben Johannson

                      So now you’re conflating libertarians with Libertarians.

                      And they say you people are confused.

                  1. cwaltz

                    They’re against good government too. That’s why even though Ron Paul admitted that the Civil Rights Act improved things for minorities, he still argues that it shouldn’t have existed. I’ve talked to a variety of libertarians and essentially they think government is the problem. Nevermind that what the problem actually is, is the fact that businesses are essentially writing their own rules. The problem isn’t too much regulation. The problem is that the regulations lack teeth and that corporate entities are willing to exploit that to make profit. Yet somehow in the mind of the libertarian if we let the markets roam free and fetter government they have this weird belief that businesses are magically going to do the right thing even though the reasons regulations exist to begin with is some business did the wrong thing and society decided to make it against the rules. They divorce the idea that in a functional democracy that the government is just acting on behalf of us.

                    1. Bob Robertson

                      “They’re against good government too.”

                      Nope. The error you’re making is assuming that just because a government does it it cannot be done any other way.

                      Name something that is “good government”, and you will see that there is a demand for that service. Meeting demands for service is what private, voluntary efforts do best.

                      The monopoly of government introduces waste and abuse that could not be sustained by private providers in a competitive environment.

                    2. Lambert Strether

                      “… in a competitive environment.” Petitio elenchi. Do you seriously think that markets don’t (a) require the state* and (b) are made by people who want competition?

                      NOTE * Many of us have been amused by the bitcoin players pleading for regulation.

                    3. cwaltz

                      Seriously? Are you arguing that the guy who ran for President under your party platform in 1988 isn’t a real Libertarian or are you arguing that I’m misrepresenting his position?

                      The reality is from how you’ve represented things it sounds like the libertarians want to cherry pick which societal rules government should be allowed to enforce(government okay for some environmental standards but not for labor rights. In what way is that different than the oligarchs who right now cherry pick which laws they think they should have to follow? It almost sounds is the problem is either cognitive dissonance or envy.

                2. cwaltz

                  I’m not making any assumptions. The reality is that you and most libertarians place the blame solely on the Federal government and ignore the fact that in most instances it is THE MARKET that seeks to create, distort, and drive holes through rules in any way they can to seek profit.

                  Yes it’s problematic when oil companies write energy policy. Guess what? That isn’t ALL the result of the awful, horrible government. Some of what is occurring is because of that oil company and it doing what businesses do when not properly regulated-seeking profit.

                  We saw the same thing with health care. Government officials went behind closed doors with health care officials and let them cherry pick. It’s no surprise that if you help write the rules that it’s easier for you to drive a Mack truck through them.

                  My biggest problem is that blaming everything on the Federal government and saying the solution is to limit it, is a simplification of our problems. The reality is that limiting governmental power isn’t going to change the behavior of business- they exist to profit and they will sometimes exploit circumstances to create that profit.

                  Hope that was easier for you to read.

                  1. Dave Narby

                    “I’m not making any assumptions. The reality is that you and most libertarians place the blame solely on the Federal government and ignore the fact that in most instances it is THE MARKET that seeks to create, distort, and drive holes through rules in any way they can to seek profit.”

                    And we are tired of you NeoLiberals missing the point that without the excessive power the federal government has, those market distortions COULD NOT EXIST.

                    If there was a law on the books prohibiting bailouts, the banks that should have gone under would have, and we wouldn’t be currently burdening future generations with even more debt to keep them in business; and that’s just one of a mountain of injustices caused by fedgov picking winners and losers.

                    Preventing bailouts is limiting federal power. I am baffled and amazed you keep ignoring this fact.

                    You do realize that individual states sue, and win against oligopolists… Right?!

                  2. Bob Robertson

                    “that seeks to create, distort, and drive holes through rules in any way they can to seek profit.”

                    Why? Why would someone, for example, hire a lobbyist to get a law changed to favor their business? Why waste the money and time on a lobbyist when they can simply produce or supply whatever it is they believe will make greater profits?

                    Because government either prevents that action, or they want to use government to prevent competition.

                    Without government interference in the first place, there would be no reason to buy lobbyists and politicians. The reason to go to Washington (or your state capital, or the mayor’s office) is because that is where the power is to be bought.

                    To assume that a powerful govt can exist without being corrupt is to dream of what never was, and never will be.

                    Plato was wrong.

                    1. cwaltz

                      If there was no government you’re right there would be no lobbyists. There also would be no rules. Some businesses would exploit the resource market and the resources we all depend upon. Why?

                      For profit

                      For example, it is positively insane to believe that businesses that pollute even with fines would all of a sudden not pollute when there weren’t fines. Furthermore without any metric to measure things they’d probably do it at a faster rate.

                3. Ben Johannson

                  Calling for a perfect government as a solution to societal ills. You’ll have a few trillion years to wait, hope you let the dog out.

                  1. Dave Narby

                    Hm… Where did I call for a perfect government? Nope, not me. GAWD you love to straw-man.

                    I did give multiple practical proven solutions on limiting the power of our central government that would improve it. Jerk.

                4. Scylla

                  Do you seriously think that moneyed interests would stop corrupting officials once your free market were to arrive?

                  Without protections, we the people would have even less voice than we do now.

                  Fail

                5. Scylla

                  “I am NOT necessarily calling for limiting power of state and local government. They are generally more honest and responsive ”

                  What kind of fantasy land are you living in? Many states are thoroughly corrupted. Why do you think this would alter if your farcical conditions where applied?

                6. Nathanael

                  You need to learn something about money, since your tax policies are bad and will lead to the creation of powerful feudal lords. It is vital to break up accumulations of too much money in the hands of one person, because that person will inevitably convert that money into power and start trying to become a feudal lord.

                  I agree that government officials need to be responsible for their actions, rather than “immune”. Please learn the history of “sovereign immunity” — it is a FEUDAL doctrine. Originally it applied to ANY lord — so, if you worked for Baronet X, you could not sue Baronet X, because he was your lord. (This was a doctrine invented during the lawless, libertarian period after the fall of the Roman Empire.)

                  We have abolished most of sovereign immunity, but it’s still left over as a doctrine with respect to our government (which replaced the King).

                  We need to abolish sovereign immunity entirely. The Roman legal system had the opposite principle, known as “Responsiblity”, under which every official was personaly responsible for everything they did.

        3. Charles LeSeau

          “Since it’s pretty clear government regulation isn’t working to protect the environment (the Gulf of Mexico is still reeling, etc., etc. and well, …Fracking!), perhaps we might now try it our way instead (that would be us quazy wibbertarians)?”

          It’s pretty clear that murder laws don’t prevent people from murdering each other either. Let’s get rid of those too. The market will sort it out.

          Actually, I’d like to hear your explanation of the minarchist government you’d like to see, so that – like you repeatedly do here – I can point out examples of it not working in our current crap government or some previous one to prove that your conception of minimal government wouldn’t work either. Or would that be a strawman? Madge, you’re soaking in it.

          This is a technique libertarians use all over the internet. They use the term “government,” a catch-all, and then try to make people defend the specific indefensible, horrible government we have here, or Stalin’s, or what have you. “Government” doesn’t work, see? Because such-and-so government doesn’t/didn’t. But my marketarian one would!

          Hello, religion.

          My advice to the people of the future: Don’t trust anyone who self-identifies as a _______________ (fill in political affiliation here). They have something to sell. To you, you, and you too.

              1. Dave Narby

                Handwaving is not an argument. You presented those fallacies as argument.

                If you care to have an adult discussion, I suggest you first perform the ACREP (Auto Cranial Rectal Extraction Procedure (TM) (R) ).

                1. Lambert Strether

                  Personally, I regard insulting the moderator as a disqualification for the serious strategist. YMMV and, apparently, does.

                  And if you want to make the claim “You presented those fallacies as argument,” then you need to show where I did. Really, I’ve just been sitting back in the ol’ easy chair, adding the odd little bit of humor and snark occasionally.

                  1. Dave Narby

                    Well then… I find your handwaving and threats of heavy handedness incredibly insulting!

                    Equating Libertarianism to religion is a SWEEPING GENERALIZATION.

                    Your “Stalin” argument is a WEAK ANALOGY. I advocated specific ways to reduce federal power to eliminate the problems we have now.

                    Equating removing laws against murder to reducing federal power is a SLIPPERY SLOPE.

                    Frankly, all you have is snark, and not very impressive snark at that.

                    1. Charles LeSeau

                      What’s funny is that you conflate “snark” with argument at all. The murder bit was not an argument. It was an intentionally absurd bit of facetiousness/snark, one that you took seriously, like you did the New Yorker piece and the Calvinball comment, apparently because you are utterly humorless, like most people who think they’re right about everything they say and brook no criticism. The last sentence of that para should have clued you in.

                      The “government is the problem” bit was an indictment of all the libertarians I’ve ever seen.

                      The Stalin bit was not an analogy at all, and I find it hilarious you’re calling it one.

                      And the equation of libertarianism and religion – fundamentalist religion at that – is precisely because “you people” apparently never admit that your proposals might have flaws – big ones. Remind you of anyone?

                      Frankly, I think you’ve got it all wrong anyway. The murder bit should be the weak analogy. The indictment of online libertarians should be the sweeping generalization, and the religious bit should be ad hom. But you’re the expert. Right!? Right!?

          1. Bob Robertson

            “It’s pretty clear that murder laws don’t prevent people from murdering each other either. Let’s get rid of those too. The market will sort it out.”

            Someone is charged with murder only if there is a victim. Even attempted murder requires evidence of prior actions to that end.

            To apply the same rule to business, or personal actions, would require that there be a victim first (so no licenses for anything), that there be harm done (no prior restraint on anything) or, at the very least, a credible threat _first_.

            Sounds great to me. And it would abolish business regulation entirely.

            1. cwaltz

              I can’t wait for the rivers to fill up with toxic sludge since we’re doing away with regulatory bodies.

              And I’m sure that little kids really could benefit from lead in their diets. Hey, who cares if a few of them die, what really matters is that the markets are freeeeeeee.

            2. Nathanael

              Get a clue. Without regulation, a large number of businesses promptly start dumping toxic waste in the rivers — or even in the products they sell — and waiting to get caught. If they get caught, they stonewall and lie.

              Prior restraint on businesses is absolutely necessary to prevent them from committing these types of pollution and poisoning crimes.

              We need the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1909 — the one that says that all products have to have an ingredients list and contain only the ingredients on the list. And that requires prior enforcement, not after-the-fact enforcement.

    2. lolcar

      Libertarians want to abolish the corporation ? Someone ought to tell the Kochs. How does one bring suit against the monopolists for polluting the water when the market-distorting government regulations against polluting the water have been removed. Am I to understand that in libertarian utopia polluting the water is still illegal and subject to sanction in the courts despite there not being any specific law written against it ?

          1. Dave Narby

            “He broke with the Libertarian Party in 1984 when it supported eliminating all taxes[3] and Koch has since been a Republican.[3]”

            No true Scotsman, indeed.

            1. Lambert Strether

              Perhaps he’s pursuing libertarian principles under a different political banner. Reading on: “Koch supports policies that promote individual liberty and free market principles.”

              1. Dave Narby

                “Koch says he supports policies that promote individual liberty and free market principles.”

                Fixed it.

      1. Bob Robertson

        “Libertarians want to abolish the corporation ?”

        What part of “get government out of regulation of business” is so hard to understand?

        “Someone ought to tell the Kochs.”

        The Koch brothers are not libertarian. They may be minarchist, as much as Alexander Hamilton might have been what would be called today a “minarchist”, that doesn’t mean they don’t want the power of government to favor their own business interests.

        “Republican” is a much better description.

              1. Dave Narby

                Sorry it’s so hard for you to understand that someone can be a Libertarian in general, but advocate for more or less Libertarian government depending on scope and region.

                1. Dave Narby

                  Oh and:

                  “(or, elsewhere, a believer in EU-style subsidiarity)”

                  YOU said that, not me.

                  My god, you must have a box car full of straw men there!

      2. Bob Robertson

        “Am I to understand that in libertarian utopia”

        Non-sequitur. Utopia was a 100% planned society. I do understand what you meant to say, which is “in a libertarian society”.

        “polluting the water is still illegal”

        No. “Illegal” means that there is a specific statute used to punish someone for a particular infraction of that statute.

        “subject to sanction in the courts despite there not being any specific law written against it ?”

        Of course. Pollution is trespassing. My waste flows onto your property, I am liable for that damage. Your water supply, I am liable. Your air, I am liable.

        The problem now is that all pollution prosecution has been taken over by government. The politicians and bureaucrats get to exempt their cronies and vested interests from the rules imposed on the peasants every day. That’s why the US Federal Government is the biggest polluter of all, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Just look up how many “Superfund” sites are military bases.

            1. Lambert Strether

              Hilarious. Thomas Paine was a geo-libertarian. Without even knowing it! Oh well, history is just a grab bag to rummage in for talking points, I suppose. Libertarianism is a timeless essence!

              1. Dave Narby

                “Geolibertarians are generally influenced by Georgism, but the ideas behind it pre-date Henry George, and can be found in different forms in the writings of John Locke, the French Physiocrats, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, James Mill (John Stuart Mill’s father), David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Spence.”

                So the ideas behind Geolibertarianism/Georgism can be found (in part) in the writing of Thomas Paine, but you state this is a claim that he was one?

                Wow, looks like we’re getting off the fallacy train and into outright lying. Fabulous! Take the gloves off boyz! Show us your true nature!

        1. Ben Johannson

          The term Utopian includes both planned and unplanned societies, but you should notice that a libertarian society is planned. Every time a right-libertarians asserts an economic law such as “competitions will result in X”, as our old pal Narby has done, they are describing a system more akin to a Soviet-style command economy than an entrepreneurial one.

          1. Dave Narby

            “…you should notice that a libertarian society is planned.”

            Wrong.

            A Libertarian society is mostly self-ordered.

                1. Ben Johannson

                  A whole 1500 people in a few years, subject to all state and federal laws. Doesn’t meet the definition of libertarian or successful.

    3. Vatch

      Hi Dave. I would like to know how private property would even be possible without government. If there’s no government, there’s no possibility of a law against theft. So property “rights” would only be what individuals could enforce by their own strength. They would form groups for self defense, that is, governments. And things would continue from there….

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, we had a long-form treatment of that earlier to show how utterly ridiculous that position was. See this series, it’s actually very funny and sort of sick when you watch where the libertarian winds up (and this is almost entirely based on actual quotes from Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s book “Democracy: The God that Failed” or footnoted summaries)

        Journey into a Libertarian Future: Part I –The Vision

        http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-–the-vision.html

        Journey into a Libertarian Future: Part II – The Strategy

        http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-ii-–-the-strategy.html

        Journey into a Libertarian Future: Part III – Regulation

        http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-iii-–-regulation.html

        Journey into a Libertarian Future: Part IV – The Journey into a Libertarian Past

        http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-iv-–-the-journey-into-a-libertarian-past.html

        Journey into a Libertarian Future: Part V – Dark Realities

        http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-v-–-dark-realities.html

        1. Dave Narby

          Those are ANARCHIST positions/arguments/scenarios. You are straw-manning again.

          I think they’re nutty too, and so do most Libertarians.

          I agree the Libertarian movement has an anarchist “problem”. While I am sympathetic (some of them have been subject to horrible abuse at the hands of the state), it is not a workable solution for governing a country. It has proven to work on a local level (as has Communism and Socialism), but nationally? Um, no.

          1. Vatch

            I’m not sure whether you were accusing Yves or me of “straw-manning”, but I’m not, and she can defend herself. It’s not necessarily government that creates oligopoly, although that can happen; rather, it is monopoly, oligopoly, or an early stage of oligopoly that creates or expands government. A laissez faire economy is impossible, except for a brief period of time. Before long, someone will be more successful than the others, and he or she will break the laissez faire status quo.

            Perhaps a free market would be possible if there were strict laws that require a periodic reset of the economy. That is, in the economic reset all large companies would be broken up, and all large fortunes would be shared among the population. Then the cycle could start anew, until the next reset. But the successful companies and individuals would probably not want their fortunes to be reset, so they would overtly or covertly work to prevent it from occurring. No doubt they would find allies among the slightly successful and among the delusional people who hope to achieve success, despite the power of the oligopolists.

            I think we may have a chicken and egg conundrum; except it’s oligopoly and government.

              1. Vatch

                From the Wikipedia article on natural monopolies:

                As with all monopolies, a monopolist who has gained his position through natural monopoly effects may engage in behaviour that abuses his market position, which often leads to calls from consumers for government regulation. Government regulation may also come about at the request of a business hoping to enter a market otherwise dominated by a natural monopoly.

                So it would seem that a “desirable” natural monopoly may need government regulation to be desirable.

                1. Dave Narby

                  Via that same article:

                  “”The superiority of reward is not here the consequence of competition, but of its absence: not a compensation for disadvantages inherent in the employment, but an extra advantage; a kind of monopoly price, the effect not of a legal, but of what has been termed a natural monopoly… independently of… artificial monopolies [i.e. grants by government], there is a natural monopoly in favour of skilled labourers against the unskilled, which makes the difference of reward exceed, sometimes in a manifold proportion, what is sufficient merely to equalize their advantages. If unskilled labourers had it in their power to compete with skilled, by merely taking the trouble of learning the trade, the difference of wages might not exceed what would compensate them for that trouble, at the ordinary rate at which labour is remunerated. But the fact that a course of instruction is required, of even a low degree of costliness, or that the labourer must be maintained for a considerable time from other sources, suffices everywhere to exclude the great body of the labouring people from the possibility of any such competition.” -John Stewart Mill

                  So, no government required for a Natural Monopoly.

                  1. Nathanael

                    Indeed. But natural monopolies are bad. Very bad. It is vital to society to get them under control.

                    If you think they’re good, I suggest you look at your ever-increasing cable/Internet bill. Comcast will be your new feudal lord.

              2. Ben Johannson

                Natural monopoly is desirable.

                Argumentum ad nauseam

                Government protected monopoly results in anti-competitive practices

                Argumentum ad ignorantium

                Booooooooring!

                1. Dave Narby

                  Arguing from Ignorance? Au contraire.

                  We have numerous examples of state-sanctioned monopoly. None are desirable. If I am wrong give an example.

                  Natural monopoly results in the most efficient production, but it happens to be concentrated in a single firm. An advantage which in a free market, would cease shortly after it failed to maintain the most efficient production.

                  I agree, this is getting nauseating. The central argument here seems to be “He’s a Libertarian, and the Koch’s/ThinkProgress/Yves say Libertarians are “X”, so he must be “X”, followed by a flurry of handwaving and grade school debating tactics.

          2. GrkStav

            Is this institution, set of habits, whatever you think it actually is, you refer to as “free markets” autopoietic? Does it have a tendency to continually reproduce itself? Does it make itself?

            Assume a “free market” has somehow come into existence? Please describe how it and its own operation prevents it from ‘de-generating” into something that is not a “free market”.

            Is a ‘free market’ a ‘structure’. a ‘form’? If it is, how does IT negate ‘entropy’?

            1. Dave Narby

              Division of labor creates markets, it is a natural outcome, and absent coercion they are always free.

              We haven’t had a free market in this country in over 100 years.

              1. Lambert Strether

                1) Anybody who knows anything about the enclosure movement knows the deeply bogus and historically ignorant nature of “natural outcome” with respect to the division of labor.

                2) Please point to the exact “free market” you are talking about that you claim existed over 100 years ago.

              2. Ben Johannson

                Division of labor creates markets, it is a natural outcome, and absent coercion they are always freeWe haven’t had a free market in this country in over 100 years.

                Argumentum ad aserti

        2. Dave Narby

          And by the way, I’m going on record here: Hans Herman-Hoppe is an ass.

          Trust me, that ain’t gonna make me too many friends in the circles I run it.

          But to base your criticisms of Libertarianism on Hoppe is similar to basing one’s criticisms of Communism on Stalin. Not that national Communism is remotely workable, mind you, but then neither is national Anarchism.

            1. Dave Narby

              He engages in much of the same debating tactics the commenters here have used on me, for the same reasons (but for his own desired ends).

  2. harry

    Mr. Darby,

    First of all Yves does not require any help putting your arguments to bed. But I dont want you to go away thinking you are making sense.

    There are many problems with all of your arguments. For example….

    You have a chicken and egg problem. Sun and Oracle are both large corporations and large corporations lobby. So which came first the oligopolistic market position or the government favouritism? Indeed in many industries, government picking winners is inevitable – you cant share the radio spectrum. Cell companies bid for temporary oligopolistic licenses. Networks inevitably benefit from scale. You are avoiding an obvious but inconvenient argument – natural monopoly.

    Your points referring to O’Connor and Swiss Bank are also incoherent. Swiss Bank bought O’Connor because they had better software and therefore a competitive edge. How does getting bought out change that at all? If I sell you a tax farming business in 1st century Judea would you describe it as free enterprise? The paid more for it because they thought they would make excess profits.

    “Without government collusion you would not have oligopoly”? Its an incoherent point. Why not say without government collusion you would not have crime? Or prostitution? The goal of business is profit maximisation and the best way of maximising profit is improving your competitive position. You will be more profitable if you can eliminate your competition and make your suppliers dependant on you.

    If you want to comment on business or economics you should do us all a favour and read some of the conventional wisdom before you decide to formulate your own theories. As useless as Porter is its sounds like you would benefit from reading him.

    For what little its worth, I dont want to be at the mercy of General Mills, or the Koch Brothers. My best hope in limiting their abuses is the good sense of my fellow citizens and in their ability to organise good government. Mr. Market wont protect me.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      He has a problem with explaining how Sun and Oracle GOT large. Notice how he skips past that? There are huge costs to customers to switch software (particularly enterprise software) once they’ve adopted it. And Oracle became the dominant player because 1. basically Ellison got there first with a good product and this was a difficult product to develop and 2. his competitors (my SQL being the biggest) didn’t compete head to head but went after the lighter-weight end of his market.

      You can see the huge switching costs even at the consumer level. Let’s say a new player launched an unquestionably superior spreadsheet that also imported and exported perfectly out of Excel. Who would adopt it? Only people who have tolerance and the time to learn new software and are such hard core spreadsheet jockeys that they were willing to learn the new program. That is certain to be very small % of the market.

      And you see similar factors that operate to foster the emergence of dominant or important players in other markets. These features are NATIVE to those industries. But the libertarians insist that every market is naturally fully competitive. Hogwash.

      1. Dave Narby

        Getting “large” isn’t the issue. Economy of scale is a proven fact, and leads to greater economy of resources.

        The problem develops when they then engage in “political entrepreneurism” and bribe government to give them a bigger piece of the pie than they earned in the marketplace.

        I’m also really surprised that you made the argument about cost switching spreadsheet applications and Oracle being the firstest with the bestest? The market provided a solution to that, there are tons of free spreadsheets out there. And if one company had IP for a cost saving solution, that’s their market advantage for the length of time of the IP, and their reward for being innovative.

        There is a point at which economy of scale reaches it’s natural limit, and becomes inefficient as a result (banks get too big, get to lazy/greedy, fail) and then smaller companies rush in to fill the gap (big banks fail, smaller banks take over).

        The issue is when fedgov has the power and authority to dole out future generation’s wages to the oligarchs. Call me crazy, but I think that means it has too much power.

        1. harry

          Let me cut to the chase. You are an idiot.

          Just go back and address the natural monopoly point. Then go and address the first mover a stage point. Finally go and address the Civil rights movement took how many years point.

          Stop trying to prove market failure doesn’t exist. Just look it up u muppet.

      2. Bob Robertson

        “There are huge costs to customers to switch software (particularly enterprise software) once they’ve adopted it”

        And yet, people change all the time. Or not. The important factor is not market dominance, it’s _monopoly_. There is only one way to have a monopoly, and that is government grant.

        Without that grant, any provider, no matter how big, must constantly innovate in order to stay ahead of the competition, or just the threat of competition. Oracle adopted Linux, when they had been using UNIX. Why? Because UNIX had competition.

        If dominance in an industry mattered, you’d be using a ZUNE. Even Microsoft could not overcome the competition.

        “Only people who have tolerance and the time to learn new software and are such hard core spreadsheet jockeys that they were willing to learn the new program.”

        As a user of LibreOffice, I can tell you that learning LO was no harder than learning a new version of Microsoft Office. It’s not “certain to be very small % of the market” either. LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and the other direct competitors to Microsoft Office are doing quite well.

        Now, Excel is an excellent program, and I know people who do things with it that are truly amazing. They pay thousands of dollars over time to maintain that utility. I do not, I don’t use it, and we get along just fine.

        “But the libertarians insist that every market is naturally fully competitive.”

        Straw-man. Only markets where government does not interfere are fully competitive.

        Like the one which lead the computer you’re using to drop in price so fast that people couldn’t even take loans out to buy them, their value dropped faster than the loans were paid off. Decreasing costs and increasing utility are a sign of a competitive market. The greater the decrease in cost and increase in utility, you will find occurs where there is less government interference.

        1. Ben Johannson

          Only markets where government does not interfere are fully competitive.

          What does that mean?

            1. Lambert Strether

              I can’t speak for Ben, but I’m guessing that his point would be that only the most trivial, lemonade stand-type markets can exist without “government interference.” As the bitcoin libertarians are in the process, hilariously, of discovering.

            2. Ben Johannson

              It doesn’t exactly say anything. No definition of competition, no specificity in what is determined by it, no coherent explanation of why one sector cannot be involved with another.

                1. Lambert Strether

                  I’ve noticed that when Narby gets pushed to the limit, he just refers people off site. Presumably, that’s because he himself is not able to answer the point made.

                  Is it part of libertarian philosophy to demand that others do work that you yourself cannot do?

                  And if it is, cannot we do better than Wikipedia?

                  1. Dave Narby

                    You asked for definitions, I provided them.

                    Would you prefer I wrote out the definitions personally?

                    1. harry

                      Do you know the preconditions for an arrow – debreu equilibrium? The point of them is that they do not and have not ever existed.

                      Can you cite the theorem demonstrating that if we are close to the required preconditions we are close the the welfare optimizing result? No, cos it doesn’t exist.

                      So shut up and sit down. You think you know what you are talking about but that just reflects your ignorance.

  3. Skeptic

    Love the FARCEBOOK tiein. They must not be too happy about being dragged into General Mauls legal quagmire. If FARCEBOOK wanted to gain some membership and popularity with the hoi polloi they should institute a HATE IT button. Pushing said button would preserve all your legal options against any of the corporate perps. Maybe even get a HATE IT sponsor like ACLU.

    1. Dave Narby

      ” If FARCEBOOK wanted to gain some membership and popularity with the hoi polloi they should institute a HATE IT button.”

      …I think you’re onto something there…

  4. allcoppedout

    Yves’ argument on this is pretty subtle, until distracted by ire. The defacto position in the UK for years on being sold faulty goods was to grin and bear it. This despite law that firmly lumbered retailers with responsibility to refund money. All General Mill has to do is get people thinking they will need to go to litigation (expense in money, time and stress) and their battle is won, barring consumer revolt (who believes in any collective boycott?). South Park did an episode on just what the consequences of our clicking on pages of small print could become. General Mill was watching, taking notes.

    Marx and Spencer has an excellent returns policy. This made them a target for shoplifters who would nick the goods and return them for cash. The old idea was to get a good reputation. In race to the bottom trading a very different notion of markets is in play. Stuff Betty Crocker and all who sail in her. I have the ire too.

    1. Dave Narby

      If collective boycotting doesn’t work, why did they take the GMO’s out of Cheerios?

      Then there was that whole “civil rights” thing in ‘Merica, which had some boycottin’ goin’ on.

      And http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/successfulboycotts.aspx …And there’s more if you care to Google it.

      And as far as “ire” is concerned? Don’t misrepresent peoples positions, and you won’t draw ire. There have been a lot of underhanded slimy slams on Libertarians by Yves, I just got sick of it.

      1. cwaltz

        You act like it is a big thing that they took the GMOs out of Cheerios. General Mills owns the organic brand Cascadian Farms. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just used the Purely Os from the Cascadian Farms brand in the Cheerios boxes.

        You’ll also find it interesting that General Mills is one of the companies that lobbied heavily AGAINST laws that would allow consumers to know whether something contains genetically modified ingredients(probably because they can make a pretty penny selling an organic item for MORE.) So NO they didn’t do it because they care about consumers, they did it because they think it will improve their revenue stream(because SURPRISE that’s how businesses are supposed to operate- they’re supposed to maximize profits.)

        1. Dave Narby

          Why so quick to ignore the rest of my examples?

          Including the link, there’s close to a dozen. I could dig up more!

          Yet, you ignore those. Been a lot of ignoring the facts I bring up here. Strange (NOT).

          1. Klassy

            Disclosure! We just need more disclosure. Then we can study the provenance of ever item we purchase– health claims, environmental impact, labor practices, etc. Then we can make an informed decision or perhaps even start a boycott of the product and in this way we will have a more perfect and just society. And our life will be about researching. And we won’t have time to worry about anything else.

            1. Dave Narby

              …And that is why we have organizations that do it for us, because they can earn a profit providing that information to the customer in exchange for a licensing fee, k’know like

              Certified Organic
              GMO free label
              Good Houskeeping
              Consumer’s Union
              Better Business Bureau
              Big freakin’ PARTIAL list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwriters_Laboratories#Similar_organizations

              …And guess who wanted to PROHIBIT GMO LABELING?

              THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT via the FDA.

              http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/millenium/fdadisallowsgmo-freelabel.php

              …Still think we don’t need to reduce the power and scope of the fedgov?

              1. Ben Johannson

                That isn’t a market. You’re just recreating the public bureaucracy in the private sector and then patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Same concentration of power.

                    1. Lambert Strether

                      Oh puh-leeze. William R. Black:

                      The rating agencies never reviewed samples of loan files before giving AAA ratings to nonprime mortgage financial derivatives. The “AAA” rating is supposed to indicate that there is virtually no credit risk — the risk is equivalent to U.S. government bonds, which finance refers to as “risk-free.” We know that the rating agencies attained their lucrative profits because they gave AAA ratings to nonprime financial derivatives exposed to staggering default risk. A graph of their profits in this era rises like a stairway to heaven [PDF]. We also know that turning a blind eye to the mortgage fraud epidemic was the only way the rating agencies could hope to attain those profits. If they had reviewed even small samples of nonprime loans they would have had only two choices: (1) rating them as toxic waste, which would have made it impossible to sell the nonprime financial derivatives or (2) documenting that they were committing, and aiding and abetting, accounting control fraud.

              2. cwaltz

                Guess who else wanted to prohibit labeling- the businesses who make a profit off of the “organic” market, just like they’ve gone out of their way to ensure that the word organic have plenty of exemptions.

                The government is a non profit. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the one initiating and instigating. It’s responding to the business lobby- who happens to be very good at finding the right palms to grease to get things written the way they want.

                In the case of the government it’s win-win because if they make the regulations loosey goosey then they can cut budgets and not bother hiring more people to enforce rules.

                Let’s hear it for “small government.” It ain’t efficient but it doesn’t contribute to the deficit as much and gosh darn it that means the rich don’t have to pay more in taxes.(rolls eyes)

        2. Bob Robertson

          “You act like it is a big thing that they took the GMOs out of Cheerios”

          It’s huge! It’s a fantastic win against Monsanto and their vested interests. The people demanded that a product change, and it did.

          This is the market in action. That’s why your grocery store has an “organic” section now, when 20 years ago it did not. People want fresher, less poisoned food, and it is being supplied.

          If all that government did was enforce truth in labeling, I’d have a hard time arguing against it!

          1. Ben Johannson

            The non-gmo project is not a market action. It’s a 501(c) 3, a non-profit which exists due to special legal status provided by government.

            1. Dave Narby

              So they sought tax exempt status. Big whoop.

              Does that make them a government agency? Nope.

              Is it a market-based solution? Yep.

              Keep grasping, there’s a couple straws left somewhere.

              1. Ben Johannson

                So you’ve already forgotten the argument you made earlier today that corporations are government distortions because they have special status.

                Shorter Narby: my arguments are valid until I find them inconvenient.

                1. Dave Narby

                  The GMO project could easily exist without tax-exempt status, much like the vast majority of the other (ignored) examples I have provided.

                  I must say, it’s amusing to see the level of discourse of Yve’s regular commenters.

          2. cwaltz

            You do realize that Kraft once upon a time was saying they were going to ditch Monsanto- guess what? It didn’t.

            Not only that but so far a variety of companies have had to pay out money because they’ve misrepresented their products to consumers.

            You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not cheering about the fact that I get to pay more for them not to shoot the meat I wish to eat full of antibiotics and hormones because some enterprising market folk decided that it was profitable to fill cows with drugs so that they produce more milk or could be placed in close quarters with bunches of other animals to the point where you worry about them becoming ill.

            Let’s hear it for THAT market.

            Cabot and Naked Juice both spring to mind.

  5. PopeRatzo

    I would like to state, unequivocally, that the General Mills policy has nothing whatsover in any way to do with its increasing use of GMOs in their food products.

    It’s just outrageous to think that has anything to do with the company’s keenness to prevent its customers from making use of the legal system.

    Shame on you for even thinking it.

    1. Dave Narby

      Big food sucks. Hard. I have been encouraging everyone I can to eat local & organic.

      Even if they came out with organic products, I would never give them another penny.

        1. Dave Narby

          Haven’t seen it, but if it’s not on my “DO NOT BUY THIS CRAP” list I’m adding it. Thanks.

        2. Ned Ludd

          General Mills also owns Muir Glen. Almost all the organic and natural food vendors have been bought by large corporate conglomerates. Honest Tea is now part of the Coca-Cola Company. Boca Burger is owned by Kraft.

          Santa Cruz Organic and R.W. Knudsen are both owned by the J.M. Smucker Co., which contributed $555,000 to the $46-million war chest that helped narrowly defeat California’s Prop 37. Prop 37 was [a] citizens’ initiative that would have required mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs.”

          Hain Celestial lists all the brands their corporate conglomerate has gobbled up.

          1. cwaltz

            Now, now our corporate saints would disclose stuff if only that mean ol’ horrible, terrible government weren’t forcing them to lobby against disclosure.

            You see it’s all the government’s fault, NOT the business community that exists to make a profit and their manipulation of the system.

            Heh, I had a really hard time saying that with a straight face.

            The sad thing is that if I didn’t know history and all the good things government has done previously I could get where a libertarian might be coming from. Our government sucks big time right now. I just disagree with them on the solution-

            1. Dave Narby

              First you have to properly identify the problem.

              The problem, as I see it, is the central government is too strong, and the state and local governments too weak. I have provided a slew of proposals here, but for some reason people are just ignoring those, and instead stating my positions for me and then knocking them down. :D

              Again, I’m a Minarchist at the federal level, a Libertarian at the state level, and a “Localist” at the local level (you can have anything from fascism to anarchism at the local level, as long as it doesn’t violate Constitutional/Civil/Natural rights).

              But if y’all are going to keep putting up straw men, calling them Libertarians, and knocking them down, y’all ain’t gonna get much change…

              1. Lambert Strether

                “I’m a Minarchist at the federal level, a Libertarian at the state level, and a “Localist” at the local level.”

                So I take it that, given your definition of libertarian, you believe in free well at the state level, but not at the federal or local levels?

              2. skippy

                Libertarianism has turned into a scared white boy club, see Fred Foldvary and posse.

                Libertarianism fails from inception on its foundational a priori and axioms, metaphysical rigidity that not even most mainstream religions can rival.

                The exhumation of this ideological rubbish must be remembered for what it is… a Corporate PR – Marketing – Lobbying front by those that made their wealth off the actions government took in WWII [command economy w/ hard demand]. Then blinded by false positives attempted to – make the world – in their own image. Then it blew up in their faces [Greenspan – “rational self interest” Oops].

                skippy… the great thing about it now – is – after having been largely a singularity cult, its had its Babylonian moment and now is fragmenting off into various sects [Hopples – you guys are all socialists if not pure like me shtick]. Too funny….

                PS… Dave Narby you do realize its a religion right? You have to believe in libertarianism, you have to – believe – in the reductive logic opinions as universal truths.

                PS. the Fallacy parade is always a huge tell, what a convoluted mess that becomes.

                1. skippy

                  BTW libertarians wanted the Government run like a business and now cry about it – when it is one. Then they wonder why so many point out the childish mentality of libertarians.

                  1. Dave Narby

                    “BTW libertarians wanted the Government run like a business and now cry about it –”

                    We cry because if the government was run like a business it would already be dissolved in bankruptcy court.

                    1. Ben Johannson

                      If you had an understanding of monetized economies the crying would be unnecessary. But you seem to prefer making normative statements.

                    2. Dave Narby

                      “Bankruptcy? I don’t think you understand how our money system works.”

                      The FED is insolvent, I believe.

                      Pretty sure I got it figured out, thanks…

                    3. Dave Narby

                      “If you had an understanding of monetized economies the crying would be unnecessary. But you seem to prefer making normative statements.”

                      You realize that statement has nothing at all to do with the subject of government being run like a business, right?

                    4. cwaltz

                      If the government were run like a business this country would still look like a third world.

                      Every year our government spends money for things like roads, schools, and innovation. It makes the investment in things that most businesses wouldn’t because it doesn’t exist to make a profit- it exists for the common good.

                  2. Lambert Strether

                    “Government should be run like a business” is one of the most vacuous slogans going.

                    For one thing, anybody who’s ever worked in a cube knows that business can be just as fucked up as any other institution.

                    More importantly, government handles problems at a scale that, in general, business has get to cope with. Check the head counts for major corporations. Trivial by the side of government.

                    Even more importantly, the idea that government should be run to make a profit is daft. Why should it?

                    1. Dave Narby

                      Point of fact, I never asserted government should be run like a business.

                      One of the regulars here did that for me.

                      Strawman gonna need some new stuffing after all this…

                    2. Lambert Strether

                      “We cry because if the government was run like a business it would already be dissolved in bankruptcy court.”

                      Implies that government can be run like a business. In fact, they’re as commensurate as fish and bicycles. I move from “can” to “should” because I assume that “already be dissolved in bankruptcy court” is not desirable in your eyes. (Leaving aside the counterfactual; a government sovereign in its own currency cannot go bankrupt.)

                  1. Lambert Strether

                    I get it. You’re in favor of EU-style subsidiarity. Not exactly my idea of what libertarianism is, but heck, we’re here to be educated. Either that, or you’re eliminating perceived contradiction by redefining your terms.

                    1. Dave Narby

                      “I get it. You’re in favor of EU-style subsidiarity”

                      Nope!

                      Care to try and fail again?

                    2. Lambert Strether

                      Dave burbled:

                      “I advocate greater self-government at the local level, with less control at the state, and even less at the federal.”

                      Wikipedia’s entry on subsidiary:

                      [A] matter ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralised authority capable of addressing that matter effectively.

                      Do feel free to entertain by working your way out of self-contradiction by redefining your terms, as per usual.

                2. Dave Narby

                  Skippy:

                  LOL, generalize much?

                  “PS… Dave Narby you do realize its a religion right? You have to believe in libertarianism, you have to – believe – in the reductive logic opinions as universal truths.”

                  Yeeeahh… Who you gonna believe, Dave? Me, or your own’ lyin’ eyes? XD

                  1. skippy

                    OK then why don’t you get granular and lay out the foundational a priori and axioms that establish the validity of libertarian theory and why you believe in them.

                    1. Dave Narby

                      “OK then why don’t you get granular and lay out the foundational a priori and axioms that establish the validity of libertarian theory and why you believe in them.”

                      OK.

                      Most of it is in these:

                      http://mises.org/books/anatomy_of_the_state.pdf

                      http://www.mises.org/TRTS.htm

                      http://mises.org/books/economics_in_one_lesson_hazlitt.pdf

                      http://www.constitution.org/jl/tolerati.htm

                      http://www.constitution.org/cmt/bastiat/the_law.html

                      Read those, and we’ll have something to discuss (since you haven’t, or you wouldn’t be parroting Koch tripe).

                      Be warned, they will make you lose all your friends (but you’ll make new ones).

                    2. Ben Johannson

                      @Lambert

                      That’s always the tell, when someone doesn’t actually make an argument but refers you to someone else because they’re too undisciplined to master the material on their own. It’s been grade-school stuff like this all day.

                    3. skippy

                      [von] Mises theology is the dogmatic and reductive of all the libertarian sects, unquantified reductive logic taken to the extrema.

                      Tho if its link wars you want I can proffer one that will suffice instead of many [dragging the question off into the fog to kill it].

                      http://fixingtheeconomists.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/kant-and-his-categories-versus-mises-and-his-praxeology/

                      A wafer thin taste – “Now, what Mises is trying to do in his Human Action and his doctrines of so-called Praxeology is to derive something similar to Kant’s categories but which rather than form a basis for understanding the conditions that allow thought to be possible, they set out the conditions that allow action to be possible.

                      If that sounds a bit weird that shouldn’t surprise you. It should sound weird. Because it is weird. Deeply weird. Saying that the experience of time and space are necessary for our intuition is very different from saying that we can crystallise out conditions on which our actions rely. The former, as we shall see, is problematic. The latter is downright madness.

                      Kant’s was an epistemological project. The idea was to try to figure out the base-determinants of our thinking. Mises’ was more so a neurosis; an obsessive search for justifying the “correct” manner in which people should act. Actually, we can call such a project by its name: it was an attempt to form a rigid and codified doctrine of ethics and morals. I hesitate to call this moral philosophy because that’s not what it was at all. Moral philosophy tries to hit at Universal principles by which to evaluate Particular choices we must make. What Mises was doing was more so laying out a guide to life. Again, we can and should call this what it was: Mises was trying to write a Bible.”

                      skip… me…. I just flog the “Free Will” thingy right from the start, maximize time and space thingo i.e. its a maxim derived from early monotheism ergo a means to put – all responsibility – on the individual [gawd decides]. Hence the the guttural hatred of any group establishment that forwards – societal – responsibility.

                      skippy… look if you can’t engage in the material on a p2p base just say so, spewing dogma is not a nuanced exchange.

                    4. Dave Narby

                      Well “Skippy”… Those are some of the foundations of Libertarianism and Classical Liberalism. You asked me to get granular, so there you go!

                      You want a central axiom?

                      You person and the fruits of your labor are your property, and no-one else. Anyone laying claims to those without prior agreement is an aggressor.

                    5. Lambert Strether

                      Well, given the typos and grammatical errors, at least we can be sure that’s original.

                      So, bedrock! Well done. And after a whole day’s work, too.

                      Good to see the support for unions implicit in “fruits of labor.”

                    6. skippy

                      So who grants the rights of property?

                      BTW if my DNA is a cross section of various proto humans and other species like Neanderthal interbreeding [randy bi pedal buggers we are] to which celestial agency should I contact wrt property rights?

                      Skippy… labor is a fruit? I did not know you were so inclined, I do hear such copulation can be aggressive tho…

  6. Chromex

    At least legally, I am skeptical that this clause would do what the Gen Mills lawyers want it to do.
    There is at least one case, having to do with jurisdiction, where one side argued that sufficient contact with a jurisdiction was established when a benefit occurred. The side for jurisdiction argued that the person who claimed not to be subject to that state’s jurisdiction had “derived a benefit” by sending spousal support payments to the jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, back when it actually functioned with a modicum of jurisprudence, said, “benefit MEANS benefit” and rejected that claim.
    By analogy , if you visit a friend who serves you a general mills product that injures you, it is difficult to see that your “use” of the product conferred the necessary benefit. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that argument will be made by the vampire squids on the other side I just think it is not a winner ( or possibly was not,as the courts and legislatures have been busy repealing my law school education as well as common sense and democracy for the last 30 tears or so)
    There are also a number of cases about contracts of adhesion and notice and overbroadness. etc. But goodness knows if they apply in this country any longer,
    However, if they don’t, it has more to do with the oligarchy and power than the inartful and clumsy legal language above

  7. Rob Levine

    Here’s a new one: Saw on the TV machine last night a PR campaign from General Mills (whose corporate HQ is here) touting a program where they are enticing you to help local food banks by signing up to their website and they will by dint of your signing up contribute some insignificant amount to a food bank. The TV “news” didn’t mention the news about GM – just how great they were for helping food banks!

  8. jfleni

    RE:General Mills Retreats an Inch…
    How can people allow Buttbook, Twitchy, and all the other shills and hucksters to put words in their mouths (effectively) and then complain when the same shills try to swindle them into saying things that they never said and didn’t mean, just so the hucksters can make a fast buck by pretending something else?

    Make your OWN statements in clear English (like the comments on NC), without filtering and without anybody else’s permission, and pox on General Mills and the “social networks”.

  9. JTFaraday

    Okay but, anything with 21grams of sugar per serving made by Ferrero is probably, to quote Elmo, “a sometime food.”

    “Athena Hohenberg used to serve her kid Nutella first thing in the morning. She says Ferrero’s labeling and television marketing convinced her that the chocolate-and-hazelnut spread could form part of a wholesome, balanced breakfast for her 4-year-old daughter. Then a friend told Hohenberg that, nutritionally, Nutella resembles a candy bar, and Hohenberg—shocked and angry—filed a lawsuit against Ferrero…”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2011/08/go_ahead_eat_chocolate_for_breakfast.html

    Do be reasonable, people. Eat the chocolate truffles at your own risk!

    1. Dave Narby

      “On packaging and on TV, no one tucks into half a jar with a spoon, or a bare finger; it’s applied judiciously on a slice of wheat toast. The label’s example of “a tasty yet balanced breakfast” includes a glass of skim milk, orange juice, and Nutella on whole-wheat bread.”

      Sounds to me they got it right.

      Sugary breakfast ‘cereal’ GMO faux-foods? There’s probably a case there.

  10. Hugh

    It is important to remember that corporations are entities sanctioned by society through government only to the extent that they serve some good or purpose of society. They do not exist separate from government. In the kleptocracy in which we live, corporations and the concentration of wealth and power in general are severed from these social purposes. They are made ends in themselves. Libertarianism and neoclassical economics are mythologies created to justify corporate power and extreme wealth inequality. They are propaganda of the haves against the have nots, of the few against the many. They are not meant to be creditable systems. They are there to dominate the discourse so that the looting of society can continue unopposed. As such, there can be no real debate with them. They do not represent legitimate positions but rather are ploys to allow the massive thefts we have seen and experienced over the last 35 years from working Americans.

    1. Dave Narby

      I am a Libertarian, and I would drastically reduce corporate protections, if not abolish them entirely. It is a very common position among us. Please note that.

      The pro-corporate position you speak of is promoted by Koch & co., who are corporatists desperately trying to herd us Libertarian cats into their clutches. LAWL

      1. Lambert Strether

        So somebody who is a minarchist at the Federal level can be a libertarian. Good to know, but frankly, I’m finding all these fine distinctions a wee bit confusing. Kinda reminds me of Garrison Keillor’s sanctified brethren.

      2. Hugh

        It isn’t just about corporate protections. It is about the responsibilities of corporations to serve the interests of society. It is about eliminating great concentrations of wealth which serve no social good and create great social harm.

    2. Bob Robertson

      “only to the extent that they serve some good or purpose of society”

      Har har har! Only to the extent they serve GOVERNMENT, that is.

      Repeal “limited liability” so that the executives of these corporations can be sued PERSONALLY for the damage they do.

  11. Vatch

    Public opinion may force General Mills to back down, but they won’t stay down permanently. We already see unfair pseudo agreements controlled by credit card, brokerage, and computer software companies. It won’t be long before a few other consumer companies try to do what General Mills is trying. Procter and Gamble, General Electric, Johnson and Johnson, Kimberly Clark, Kraft Foods, and Mattel are all probably watching this situation with great interest.

    1. Dave Narby

      Hope it’s abundantly clear they don’t just want to roll back the Bill of Rights and The Constitution.

      They want to roll back the freakin’ Magna Carta.

      Don’t worry, us waskilly wibbertarians are there hacking the roots of the source of their power… BIG G!

      http://thekronies.com/karacters/big-g/

      1. Vatch

        That seems like a load of bovine manure to me. Most libertarians hack away at the ability of government to restrict the abuses of large businesses. The ones who actually hack away at the tendency of big government to augment big business are few and far between. The Koch brothers are often described as “libertarians”. They have absolutely zero interest in restricting the abuses of large businesses.

  12. El Guapo

    This thread is a laugh riot. Of all the religious faiths observed in the world Libertarianism is surely the most ridiculous. I’d rather worship Zeus than THE MARKET.

  13. allcoppedout

    Dave’s a hoot. Still, he’s noticed there are things to overthrow. Soon we will recognise our allies by the direction of the rocks they throw. We already have libertarianism. It’s a default in our biology. You can always tell the biological stuff. It ain’t thought through.

    We want freedom. Let’s have free markets. Bugger now the markets control us. Why didn’t we see that one coming?

  14. Peter Pan

    My perception is that libertarianism leads to the crapification of the comments section.

    Hence, the need for good regulations and good regulators.

  15. MWBrown

    It would seem all each of you have done is argue past each other. None of you seems particularly interested in what the other has to say, or in what they believe.
    Well, I suppose this is the internets and I shouldn’t expect reasoned discussion. That is the role of the saloon still. (Note: I did NOT accidentally insert an extra “o” in that second to last word).

Comments are closed.