"Consumer" Unaware

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I ran into an article whose title, "Why Your Phone, Cable [and] Internet Bills Cost So Much", is somewhat misleading. The closest it gets to explaining why such services are more expensive than they ought to be is the following excerpt from an interview with an anti-capitalist author:

"The telecos got the rules changed while we weren't watching," says [David Cay] Johnston ... Basically, the phone and cable companies lobbied Washington to change laws and regulations to favor their business over their customers.
The article also notes that many people don't even understand their complicated telecommunications billing statements. Regarding the quote above, I'd like to know why the Pulitzer Prize winner doesn't bother to question why the government should have the power to cause any transaction to favor either party. Regarding the billing arcana, shouldn't "consumers" take some responsibility for how they spend their money? And why would anyone just sit there and take a snow-job where their own money is concerned?

The real answer, I suspect, lies in a synergy between the entitlement mentality and the kind of government that inevitably results. First, too many Americans have grown accustomed to the government running everything in their alleged interest to be especially discriminating or proactive about what they get for their money. And second, pragmatist, short-range, "businessmen" know how to game the resulting system of pressure group warfare.

Whatever the nitty-gritty cause, I doubt such a state of affairs -- or even my pet peeve, billing for stateside long distance (in this day and age!) -- would exist on such a long time scale or natonwide under actual capitalism. This is what has happened to our cable and phone bills, as well as to the disappearing admonition, "Buyer beware."

It is up to us -- and not the government -- to improve this state of affairs.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

I ran across this little gem online and thought you might find it interesting.

Despite parasailing's inherent risk, few federal or state safety regulations exist for it. In Florida, which has by far the largest number of parasail operators at about 120, repeated efforts to enact new rules following fatal accidents have gone nowhere. Florida is seen by safety proponents as a national bellwether because of parasailing's popularity in a state highly dependent on tourist dollars.
The lack of safety regulations frustrates Shannon Kraus, mother of two girls who crashed into a Pompano Beach hotel roof in 2007 when their parasail line snapped during a storm. One of the girls, 15-year-old Amber May White, later died of her injuries, while her sister Crystal, then 16, has had a long road to recovery from head injuries.
"Nobody has listened to me from day No. 1," Kraus said. "I've just been shoved aside. I've kind of been ignored and I'm pretty angry about that."

My reaction to this was, "What, you needed some gov't regulator to tell you that being suspended from a parachute in the middle of a storm at sea is a really bad idea?"

Consumer Unaware indeed.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

As if the threat of a fine or jail is worse than the obvious risk of something like what actually happened...