The Farce Of A “Free Market”
We here at QandO are big fans of the free market. But there are lots of enemies of the free market and they’re not just ideologies or governments. Sometimes – no, many times – corporations or associations go into cahoots with government to use the power of government to limit competition. Here’s an example of that:
A lot of focus has been directed toward the destruction of the world’s forests during the past few decades. The truth is that deforestation is happening with alarming frequency. Millions of acres of forest land are harvested illegally throughout the world every year, which contributes significantly to global warming and the destruction of wildlife habitat. Because this activity adversely affects our environment, the National Wood Flooring Association worked diligently with several key organizations to promote the illegal logging ban with Congress. The ban was passed this past summer as an amendment to the US Lacey Act, which originally was mandated more than 100 years ago to prohibit the illegal trafficking of wildlife. This new amendment has expanded the Lacey Act to include wood and wood products. Specifically, the ban prohibits the import, sale or trade in the US of wood and other forest products that are harvested through illegal means.
This legislation is significant for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, it protects our world’s forests from irrecoverable loss of trees and wildlife habitat. Second, it protects lumber buyers who verify the origin of lumber when importing wood into the United States from other countries. Third, it eliminates the influx into the US of low-cost, low-quality wood flooring produced from illegally harvested forests.
The penalties for noncompliance with this new legislation are severe. Penalties can include the forfeiture of the illegally harvested material, fines of up to $500,000, and jail time of up to five years. From a consumer’s perspective, however, the ban helps you have confidence that the wood you are buying is not depleting our world’s forests.
This is classic stuff. Let’s look at their three “benefits”, shall we? First this ban no more “protects our world’s forests from irrecoverable loss of trees and wildlife habitat” than a gun ban keeps guns out of the hands of criminals. That’s because those who do actually engage in what this association would label “illegal logging” will simply sell to someone else. It’s not like wood isn’t in huge demand throughout the world or something.
The second “benefit” is a “join our club or pay the price” benefit at best. The obvious implication is if buyers don’t “verify the origin” to the satisfaction of the association (and the law), they’re open to accusations that what they’re bringing in are “illegal” whether true or not.
And, of course, in reality it all boils down to the last “benefit”. In fact it is a benefit only for the industry at the heart of writing this legislation. You the consumer, on the other hand, won’t get what the NWFA considers to be “low-cost, low-quality wood flooring” because, well, they’ve decided it just isn’t a decision which should be left up to you.
This is what passes for a “free market” these days. In this case, restricting the flow of goods to you in the name of a greater good, when, in fact, the greater good is just an excuse not to have to compete in the market place. It places the consumer’s right of access to such goods in second place to the association’s desire to “benefit” from special legislation which restricts that right.
When the price of that flooring you have been planning to buy goes through the roof, you’ll now know why.