Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Predators" and Printing Presses

Apparently unable to go more than two days without an editorial calling for more government intervention, the Chronicle now wants more regulations on "payday lenders"--companies that offer short-term loans at high interest rates.
In recent years, the payday lending industry has done a lot of high-powered PR to clean up its image. But some things have not changed: These lenders can still be a menace, and their targets are frequently those who can least afford it — mostly poor folks and minorities with little financial sophistication. Under certain circumstances, the payday lenders can be downright predatory.
In other words, some people--those with little financial sophistication--might be taken advantage of when using this service. Therefore, concludes the paper, we should place more controls on these companies.

I could make a strong case that some people--those with little philosophical sophistication--might be taken advantage of when reading the Chronicle. For some reason I don't think that the paper would support controls on its editorial positions, and I wouldn't either. But the same argument the paper uses in calling for controls on another industry could be used to control the media.

According to the Chronicle, some individuals may take actions that aren't in their best interest. This is certainly true. But each individual has a moral right to take the actions that he deems best, for right or wrong. By what authority does the Chronicle, or the government, believe that it can force others to act contrary to their judgment?

While payday loans can certainly be financially damaging, embracing the wrong ideas is far more destructive than wasting a few dollars. Embracing the wrong ideas can lead to far worse actions than taking out a loan with high interest rates. For example, if one advocates rights-violating controls on a particular industry, one has no grounds upon which to defend one's own rights. If it is proper to dictate how payday lenders use their property (money), then it is equally proper to tell the Chronicle how it can use its property (printing presses). The fact is, such controls are never proper or morally justifiable.

What the Chronicle doesn't seem to realize is that when individuals are free, they will sometimes take actions that others find objectionable. Like take out payday loans or print editorials calling for more government control over our lives. But so long as they do not violate the rights of others--by using force or fraud--individuals have a moral right to use their property as they choose.

Of course, maybe the Chronicle does realize this and isn't concerned with individual freedom. Maybe the paper doesn't care if government officials dictate how it uses its printing presses.

In either case, the paper's endless calls for more regulations and controls have only one logical end--complete government control. And that would make the "predatory" practices of payday lenders look like a walk in the park.

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