John Singleton with Bob HowardRip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 173-76, under the heading “Monopolies”.

A frequent criticism levelled at laissez-faire economics is that under such a system it wouldn’t be long before a few greedy people control everything. In other words, unless the government steps in to stop them, monopolies will rear their ugly heads. These, we are told, are bad, for three reasons: (1) they charge very high prices with im[p]unity; (2) they don’t have to offer a fair or good service; and (3) they are powerful enough to forcefully prevent competition. Because they have a monopoly, they do not have competition to worry about, and therefore can hold the helpless consumer over the proverbial barrel. In addition, so low has the reputation for businessmen sunk (and not without some justification), it is claimed that should someone try to compete, the monopolist will stop at nothing to bankrupt them.

Our personal experience over the last few years has shown that these beliefs are perhaps the most widespread and tenaciously held of all the beliefs about a free market. It has been particularly noticeable that they exert great influence over economic students in our high schools. It is important, then, that they should be carefully examined.

If we look around the Australian economy today, using the above three criteria, what, if any, “anti-monopolies” can we find? What companies are there that charge exorbitant prices, offer lousy service, and act to prevent (by force if necessary) competition? By these criteria, there is at least one such monopoly and it stands head and shoulders above its rivals: Australia Post. Nearest to it on the scale of extortion, inefficiency and standover tactics, are Telecom, and the various Public Transport Commissions. Crazily the government which is supposed to step in and protect us from monopolies, actually creates the worst of them.

Private enterprise could and would compete with the Post Office, Telecom and the field of public transport if it wasn’t stopped by law from doing so, and could easily provide better services and products at lower prices.

To add insult to injury, those monopolies that have existed, or do exist, that are generally viewed as free market monopolies are nothing of the sort. A genuine free market monopoly would be one that comes into being on the open market without the benefit of any government granted privileges: no tax concessions, no tariffs, no wage restrictions, no subsidies, no quotas, no government competition restrictions, no land grants, etc. Analysis of the economic history of many of the largest companies in, for example, the United States, has clearly shown how these companies have grown, not in spite of government restrictions, but precisely because of government restrictions.1 They have used the government to gain advantages over their competition and have grown up in an artificial and protected environment. It can probably be said that multinational companies would not be so large or so dominant today had they not had this assistance throughout their history.

A company trying to hold a monopoly on a truly free market is like a football team trying to remain premiers forever. When a team is last in the competition, they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They have incentive, because they have a real, visible goal, and a struggle ahead that dominates irrelevancies such as personality conflicts within their own team — such trappings are a luxury they cannot afford. They train harder, try harder, think harder. They experiment and develop new combinations and styles. They have to if they are to win. Once they have won, however, then troubles start. Incentive gradually or quickly dies, ego problems arise, players become so involved in the glory they forget about the work. Pressures increase, conflicts grow and eventually the team falls apart. Good players get bought up by the up-and-coming clubs at higher and higher prices, and the club is back to square one. And the cycle continues.

The same tendencies are true of businesses. There are, in addition, other factors — the problems of size. The larger a company becomes, the more bureaucratic and inefficient it becomes. Its staff work rigidly to schedule, whereas in small companies they are more likely to work any and all hours of any and all days. These simple human factors ensure that enough small companies will always start and survive to challenge the big ones. They are assisted by several important economic factors.

If a monopolistic company charges low prices and offers a good service, then, even though it’s a monopoly, we have no cause for complaint. If, however, it increases its prices, or its product or service deteriorates, then it provides an opening for a competitor. A bad service or product means that people would be willing to try an alternative and so there is a chance for a competitor to establish itself and make a profit. High prices means that the profitability of that industry is high, which attracts investment money, and also offers the chance of undercutting to gain a share of the market.

This new competition could be supplied by single small companies, single large companies, or groups of either of these. Either way, they could muster the economic strength to survive in most cases if the monopolist tried to bankrupt them using its economic power. Another economic factor that is often overlooked is the strange paths that competition can take. Stainless steel, for example, is normally much more expensive to use than copper. However, if a copper monopolist raised his prices high enough he would not only soon have to compete with competitors in his own field, he would have to compete with stainless steel as well. If the price of refrigerators rose too high, many people would repair or simply make do with their old one, and buy a new lounge suite instead, figuring that if they have to spend that much money, they’d rather spend it on the new lounge than a fridge. Similarly, airlines compete with roads, rail and sea traffic. Manual labour competes with automatic equipment (it is interesting in this regard that even very expensive automatic equipment becomes feasible as the incidence of industrial disputes increases). As long as the government doesn’t interfere, domestic products compete with imported products. Natural materials and fibres, compete with synthetic ones.

All of these possibilities offer us, as consumers, alternatives in the face of monopoly. Thus, even if a company succeeds in the difficult task of establishing a free market monopoly, there are many constraints on the abuse of that position. The only time that we can get into trouble is when government interference prevents us from exercising our right to choose among the alternatives. This has frequently happened, but it hasn’t been the government that has been blamed. It has should have been in every instance.

After successfully creating a number of exploitative and coercive monopolies, the U.S. Government turned around and compounded its original error by passing the anti-trust legislation. Alan Greenspan, former President Ford’s Chief Economic Adviser, had this to say about the U.S. anti-trust laws: “The entire structure of anti-trust statutes in this country is a jumble of economic irrationality and ignorance. It is the product: (1) of a gross misinterpretation of history, and (2) of rather naive, and certainly unrealistic economic theories.”2 These laws are non-specific, and can be applied ex post facto: that is, you can do something today that is legal, but find that next year the government decides it should have been illegal and thus fines you for it. In fact, the anti-trust laws provide for the possibility of retroactive or ex post facto treble damage suits. Because the laws are non-specific, they have to be interpreted. Thus far, they have been interpreted as follows:3 (1) If a business charges prices that are judged to be too high, it can be prosecuted for monopoly or “intent to monopolise”. (2) If prices are too low, it can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”. (3) If it charges the same prices as everyone else, it can be prosecuted “collusion” or “conspiracy”. As has been said before, such is the tyranny of non-specific law.

There are perhaps no better examples to be found of completely irrational and absurd mental gymnastics than some of the decisions handed down in anti-trust cases in the U.S.A. If they weren’t so grotesque, they would be funny. Anti-trust laws in this country would be the worst thing we could do to prevent market abuses. And yet this is frequently suggested as a desirable step for the Australian Government to take. The best protection we can have is the free and open competition of a free market.

If businesses are not able to use the coercive power of government to help line their pockets, they can only resort to providing customers with products that they want at prices they can afford. Whatever problems arise in such a situation will have to be solved by other means. That they will arise is certain — life would be dull without them — but they will not be nearly as bad as those that government meddling has already caused, and will continue to cause until we can get it out of the economy. Because government is the one and only monopoly we should all properly fear.


  1. See in particular Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism; and Railroads and Regulations: 1877-1916; Arthur Ekirch, The Decline of American Liberalism; James Weinstein, The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State 1900-1918; and Murray Rothbard and Ronald Radosh (eds), A New History of Leviathan.
  2. Alan Greenspan, “Antitrust”, in Ayn Rand, Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, Signet Books, New American Library, New York, N.Y., 1967, p. 70.
  3. See Ayn Rand, Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal; A.D. Neale, The Anti-Trust Laws of the U.S.A.; Harold Fleming, Ten Thousand Commandments; and D.T. Armentano, The Myths of Anti-Trust.
(in order of appearance on
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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