John Singleton, “The great consumer protection trick,” Nation Review, May 28-June 3, 1976, p. 802. An earlier version titled, “The consumer protection confidence trick,” was published over two issues of Advertising News: October 3, 1975, pp. 6-7; and October 17, 1975, pp. 8-9.
Business in Australia today is, as usual, allowing itself to lie down and be raped by government intervention without even a whimper of protest. And in the case of the consumer protection legislation, business is even going one step further, and publicly welcoming the legislation which says in effect that business is dishonest, irresponsible and immoral.
Business just doesn’t seem to realise that the consumer protection legislation being administered by the trade practices people, plus the departments of health and media and etc, are really nothing more than a vicious attack on the integrity of everyone concerned in all business, of which advertising is the most public part.
To understand just how real and dangerous the attack is business had to reappraise itself. It has to first look at its own real assets and it will then ascertain that the single most invaluable ingredient to the present and future profitability of any business is its reputation.
Without a reputation for a quality product and honest dealings, all the other assets of any business will inevitably become worthless. When business now accepts and even welcomes the consumer protection legislation, what it is accepting and saying is that all reputations of all businesses are all equal which is blatantly untrue. Reputations are not and never will be equal unless the consumer protection legislators continue to have their way; and then the equality of reputation will be only that each business is equally untrustworthy and irresponsible.
By business accepting this governmental judgement, then it will come to pass that business will only be allowed to operate with the permission and under the control of legislation set up and enforced at the point of a gun by the petty bureaucrats and socialists in Canberra. This means that business today is accepting that its integrity is zero, but on the other hand the integrity of the Canberra bureaucrat is unimpeachable, which is not only naive but grossly misleading, dangerous and self-destructive.
Reputation for a quality product and honest dealings takes business years, generations, to build up — whereas a clean bill of health by some petty government official can be bought through the bribery and corruption which is an inevitable part of all legislation handed over to frail human beings who are granted immense power through big brother legislation.
What I say is not crystal-balling. The destruction of business and its reputation is apparently as much the intention of the Libs as it was of the honest socialists in Canberra.
In the first major speech delivered by Mr Clyde Cameron in his new portfolio as minister for science and consumer affairs at the Indian National Academy in New Delhi on June 16 last year, he said:
My aim will be to use science to assist consumers to combat the efforts of those who seek to exploit them by deception and by the manipulation of prices. I will need greater coordination between government and the forces, between science and technology and, secondly, I will need the constitutional power to control prices. Unless this is done consumer exploitation will continue, prices will sky-rocket and the rate of inflation in Australia will pass the 20 percent ceiling before January next year.
As Minister for Labour, I had the great satisfaction of having presided over the most massive redistribution of income in favour of labour that Australia has ever seen in any one year. It is now my job to see that gain is retained. I must see that it is not filched away by shoddy goods, by misrepresentation or by overcharging.
Working people can be cheated in many ways. One way is to underpay them for the goods they produce and another is to overcharge them for the goods they have to buy. They are usually cheated in both directions at once.
Multinationals have one concern and one concern only and that is to make money. The majority of them are not concerned about serving humanity or of saving the earth and its atmosphere from being poisoned or permanently sterilised.
Multinationals are in pursuit of profits. That’s all. If by chance they discovered a way of helping humanity, then that is merely accidental.
When Mr Clyde Cameron makes these accusations, he is talking about you and everyone else involved in business. When the Libs leave the legislation untouched, they are agreeing with Cameron. They both fail to understand that it is precisely the “greed” of the businessman, his profit-seeking, which is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.
Drug companies can only sell their drugs because of their reputation. The sale of any dangerous product immediately reduces the market value of the drug company.
If there is the slightest doubt as to the trustworthiness of a stockbroker’s word or commitment, he would be out of business overnight. In exactly the same way, would an SP bookmaker be bankrupted if his reputation was in doubt.
The A. V. Jennings reputation for the building of houses in Australia is a far greater guarantee than any amount of building regulation agencies with their weird and wonderful rules and corrupt officials.
The Heinz name on a can of baby food is a greater guarantee of quality than could ever be achieved by some power-lusting official in the department of health. If a doctor is shoddy or is seen falling over drunk on his way to practise, his business will disappear.
When the housewife had to decide whether she would pay a higher price for the friendliness of the corner grocer or a lower price for the cold world of a supermarket, she chose the supermarket.
And who protected the business of the greengrocer?
The real issue is that it takes years of consistently excellent performance to acquire a reputation and to establish it as a financial asset. You only have to imagine the risk any company takes by letting down its standards of quality to realise that in the free market place, competition and profit is the greatest consumer protection of all.
Government regulation is not and will never be an alternative means of protecting the consumer. All it does is contribute to a society of envy and hatred. It sets out to give protection to one human being at the expense of another in the name of equality.
Government’s only contribution to consumer protection is the substitution of force and fear for incentive as a protector of the consumer. At the bottom of every pile of endless paper which characterises all our existing and proposed legislation, lies a gun.
The forced protection drives out the good and natural. It places the reputable company on the same basis as the newcomer and the fly-by-nighter. It declares all business is equally suspect and years of evidence to the contrary does not free a man from years of suspicion. It pretends to grant an automatic guarantee of safety to the products of all business by setting minimum standards without understanding that those minimum standards automatically become maximum standards.
The government “guarantee” undermines the necessity of a good reputation. It tells consumers that no choice or judgement is required and that the record of a business and its years of achievement are irrelevant.
Protection of the consumer by regulation is one of the greatest brainwashing confidence tricks perpetrated by socialist governments throughout the world in this campaign to destroy business and move all power to the state.
“The socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange” is the written objective of the Labor Party. Business does not seem to believe it, but the Libs have changed not one thing. Not even the PJT. And instead of isolating the consumer from the dishonest businessman, government is rapidly and urgently destroying the only reliable protection the consumer has: competition for reputation.
It is an act of expropriation of wealth created by integrity. The value of a business — its wealth — rests on its ability to make money. The act of any government seizing a factory or business or devaluing its reputation are in the same category: both are acts of expropriation. Businessmen are being subjected to government coercion before the commission of any crime. Business is guilty until proven innocent.
If Australia were a free economy, the government would only be permitted to step in when a fraud had been perpetrated or demonstrable damage done to a consumer; in such cases, the only protection required is that of criminal law.
Government regulations don’t eliminate dishonest individuals. They merely make their activities harder to detect or easier to hush up. Reputation is bought in exchange for a bribe.
The possibility of individual dishonesty applies to government employees fully as much as to any other group of men. There is nothing to guarantee the superior judgement, knowledge and integrity of an inspector or a public servant — and the deadly consequences of trusting him with arbitrary power are obvious.
The hallmark of the socialist is his deep-rooted distrust of freedom and the free market process. The socialist advocacy of so-called “consumer protection” exposes the industry to his basic premise most clearly. The Australian consumer protection legislation is doing no more than showing the socialist preferences for force and fear over incentive and reward as a means of human motivation. This confesses the socialist view of man as a mindless animal whose self-interest lies in fly-by-night, quick kills.
The socialist denies the role of individuals in the production process — its confesses the socialist’s inability to grasp the moral values which are the motive power of capitalism and free enterprise.
Capitalism is based on self-interest and as a consequence, self-esteem; capitalism holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them pay off in the market place. In a free market, business only survives by means of virtues rather than vices.
But business in Australia does not see things in this way. Or if it does, then its cowardice in accepting and paying lip-service to government regulations will result in business destroying itself.
When business accepts consumer protection legislation of any kind, let alone to the degree it does in Australia, it is in effect saying that it is unworthy of any trust and in fact is prepared to pass to government its own future and its own freedom.
These opinions are not just my own.
Those in business who have been brainwashed to the degree where they don’t see the validity of what I have said may find some reassurance in the knowledge that these stated views are also exactly those of Mr Alan Greenspan, who is chairman of president Ford’s economic advisory council in the United States. In the book Capitalism: the unknown ideal, these philosophies are spelled out in full.
Greenspan’s appointment in the US gives that country every chance of reversing its socialist inroads and gives the US the best chance of any country in the world to regain and retain freedom. If Australia is to have a similar opportunity, then it demands that business and all who are involved with it stand up and fight the “consumerists”. It demands that they regain their self-respect and say to the governments of this country that business believes its reputation is held in far greater esteem than that of any petty power-hungry politician.
If business in Australia does not do this and do it urgently, then business in Australia has no future and once the freedom of business is destroyed, then all individual freedoms are destroyed naturally and automatically with it. Business can win and it must win, but first it has to decide whether or not it is even going to fight.
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