Archive for the Economic Controls Category

Smoking Bans: Private vs. Government Property

Recently a reporter contacted me regarding smoking bans. She did not use my comments in her story, so I’m pleased to make them available here:

I am opposed to smoking bans on private property in general, at every level of government.

When government restricts smoking on private property, including in restaurants and the like (even if “open to the public”), government violates people’s rights to control their property and associate freely with others. Restaurants and other establishments have a moral right to allow smoking in their establishments or to ban it—and their potential customers have a moral right to decide whether to seek to do business at any given establishment. If you don’t want the smoke, don’t go. There’s no such thing as a “right” to use another’s property against that person’s consent. That said, given historical trends of reduced smoking, absent a ban many establishments would have voluntarily banned smoking long ago. (I personally hate smoking and would go out of my way to find smoke-free establishments.)

To give you an indication of how smoking bans violate civil liberties, consider that some bans prevent people from smoking on stage, in the course of presenting a work of art, and hence violate rights of free speech and expression. Moreover, the First Amendment recognizes “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”—but smokers are often denied this right.

Smoking bans regarding government property are more complex. Government may legitimately ban smoking in government buildings and tight public spaces, such as court houses. Government has no good reason to ban smoking in open outdoor spaces controlled by the government, such as sidewalks. As to what government property ought to be converted to private property, that is a broader subject for another day.

Regarding campuses, the fundamental problem is that many campuses are government controlled. Private colleges—like all private establishments—have a moral right to allow, restrict, or ban smoking, at their discretion. Regarding government-controlled campuses, often there is no clear way to protect everyone’s rights—quite simply because government controlling a college campus inherently violates people’s rights, primarily by forcibly seizing people’s wealth. When government does control a college campus, the best the government in control can do is seek to draw up rules that balance different people’s interests while not horribly trampling the Bill of Rights. To my mind, colleges can reasonably ban smoking inside, but not outside. If a college wants the ability to ban smoking everywhere, it should first stop violating people’s rights, stop collecting people’s money seized by force, and become a private institution.

Image: Van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons

Legislature Should Not Meddle with Liability for “Fake Gun Free Zones”

I think it was a moral crime for Cinemark to create a “fake gun free zone” at its Aurora theater, prohibiting law-abiding patrons from carrying defensive guns while doing nothing to stop armed aggressors. But not everything that is morally wrong should be legally prohibited or even legally disfavored.

Still, a Colorado bill sponsored by Kent Lambert—S. B. 13-062—is not nearly as bad as the Denver Post led me to believe. The Post wrongly claims the bill “would require business owners to allow concealed-carry permit holders to pack heat or else provide one security officer for every 50 customers and face increased liability.”

That newspaper description is not quite right (or at least it’s ambiguous). The bill would render a private business “liable for damages in any civil action” if the business forbids lawful concealed carry while failing to provide at least one armed security officer per 50 people present.

Still, the bill is pretty bad, and its effect would be to strong-arm businesses into allowing concealed carry.

Colorado is a “shall issue” concealed-carry state, meaning that any non-probited person can apply for a permit and be assured of receiving one. However, Colorado law has always recognized the right of business owners to set their own policy.

The legal rules of liability have long been established, and the Colorado legislature has no legitimate business expanding liability in this case.

In the Aurora case, the business clearly posted that it prohibited the lawful carry of firearms. Any patron could plainly see that the theater offered no security and thereby created a “fake gun free zone.” But they chose to go there anyway. This was a matter of free and voluntary association.

If Republicans start the game of expanding liability for its pet causes, the Democrats will no doubt follow suit. Remember, the Democrats have the trial lawyers on their team (for the most part). I’m sure they could think up reams of statutes expanding liability for law-abiding gun owners, gun stores, tobacco stores, liquor stores, and so on. The list is potentially endless.

Vincent Carroll offers some good reasons why Cinemark should not be held liable for its failure to provide security. To me the most compelling reason is that the risk of an event like that is extraordinarily low. We cannot justly hold someone liable for an event that they could not reasonably have predicted.

That said, I think Cinemark richly deserves public condemnation for creating a “fake gun free zone,” thereby helping to provide crowds of defenseless victims for a mass murderer.

Image: Ari Armstrong’s Creative Commons Photos at Picasa

Land-Use Restrictions Set Stage for Mortgage Crisis, O’Toole Argues

Randal O’Toole recently visited the Independence Institute to discuss his new book, American Nightmare: How Government Undermines The Dream of Homeownership.

In an interview, he argues:

I looked at the financial crisis [in the book] and showed that the crisis wasn’t caused by things that people often attribute it to, such as low interest rates, subprime mortgages, or other national features. They really were only housing bubbles in some states: California, Oregon, Washington, Florida. A few other states had housing bubbles, but the other states didn’t have bubbles. And all of the states that had bubbles had one thing in common. They had land-use restrictions that prevented homebuilders from meeting the demand for housing. And that caused housing prices to shoot way up.

My view is that these regional restrictions worked in conjunction with federal policies to create the bubble.

Birth Control Mandate Violates Individual Rights, Muell Argues

At a recent talk at Liberty On the Rocks in Denver, Amanda Muell argued that the birth control insurance mandate violates individual rights. She compared it to a law forcing restaurants to offer more extravagant and more expensive meals that customers wish to buy. The mandate does not merely violate religious liberty, she said, but individual rights.

With ‘Cake Bill,’ Have Your Freedom and Eat It, Too

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong was originally published February 3 by Grand Junction Free Press.

“Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man. Bake me a cake just as fast as you can!” But if you’re a Colorado cottage baker: “They’ll stop you and they’ll fine you, and if you don’t pay, they’ll throw you in the pokey, that’s the bureaucrats’ way.”

Thankfully local State Representative Laura Bradford sponsored a bill (1027) to legalize cottage bakeries. By the time you read this, the fate of the bill may have already been decided, so see Ari’s web page FreeColorado.com for updates. (You an also find a video there of Ari performing the opening rhyme.)

We called Mande Gabelson of Ava Sweet Cakes to ask her why she supports the bill. (Ari released most of the interview early online.) She said that working out of a professional kitchen works great for large-scale caterers, but it isn’t cost effective for smaller operations.

Gabelson said that, under current law, you “can’t bake a cake and sell it to your neighbor.” If you’re running a bake sale and “the money goes to a school, that’s okay,” but bakers “can’t put the money in their back pocket.”

“I couldn’t even sell a cake to my mom,” she added; “That would be against the law.”

And why shouldn’t she be able to sell her gorgeous cakes? Gabelson said, “You have to think about the man hours that go into something like that. I’m an artist. The typical wedding cake takes between 15 and 20 hours, and I should be paid for my skills. People come to me because of my abilities, and they want to pay me… and I should be able to take that.”

We asked her how she settled on a name for her business. She replied, “That’s my daughter. When I was 7 months pregnant with her my husband got laid off from Halliburton.” She took baking classes, and “that’s when I discovered I have this talent. When Ava was six months old I decided to name it after her.”

We first learned of the “Cake Bill” from a Republican release, which summarizes: “House Bill 1027 allows cottage industry food producers to directly sell nonpotentially hazardous foods to consumers at off-premise sites—like farmers markets and roadside stands—without being commercially licensed.

“Under the bill’s guidelines, cottage food producers would still need to register with a county or district public health agency for a fee up to $100 and carry home baker liability insurance. Their products would also need to be labeled and include specific information, like the producer’s name, ingredients and a disclaimer.”

We agree with what Bradford said in the release: “This is a common sense bill. Freeing the cottage industry from regulatory burdens intended for large-scale producers helps them grow their businesses and helps their local economy.”

This bill isn’t perfect. People should be able to sell baked goods without registering with the county or paying fees. But on the whole this bill moves us closer to economic liberty and legal sanity.

We suspect that different groups might oppose the reform. Larger-scale bakers who want to forcibly limit their competition may try to keep the law in place. Frankly, we wouldn’t trust any baker who needs to use political force to wipe out the competition. Any baker worth his salt will have enough pride to bake goods that people want to buy voluntarily in a free market.

David K. Williams, Jr., a liberty lobbyist with the Gadsden Society, said, “I think the opposition is going to come from the baker industry that wants to minimize their competition. They want to keep the consumer from buying from somebody else. From a liberty position, if someone bakes a cake, and someone else wants to buy it from them, they should be able to. A regulation preventing that kind of option is harmful to the consumer and the economy.”

Some of the professional kitchens might oppose the reform, as the law would no longer compel small-scale bakers to use their facilities. Again, the law should protect people’s rights, not give some businesses an unfair advantage.

Finally, the Nanny State whiners hate liberty and want to shackle everyone with bureaucratic controls.

Gabelson offered the appropriate answer to them: “If you don’t want to eat cottage food, you don’t have to.”

Williams pointed out that consumers direct the market: “Obviously anybody selling bad cake isn’t going to be in business anymore.”

Today, far too many stupid laws impede entrepreneurs and give politically-connected businesses unfair advantages. Such laws squash economic progress and kill jobs.

The “cake bill” is a bit of welcomed yeast to help leaven the spirit of liberty here in Colorado.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Update: See also my February 2 note, as well as today’s article on the topic by the Independence Institute’s Krista Kafer.

Also check out my sweet video:

Cake Bill Advances

Update: Read the Grand Junction Free Press column by my dad and me!

Westword‘s Melanie Asmar reports that the Colorado “Cake Bill” (the “Cottage Food Bill”) passed the House yesterday on an anonymous vote. (This was despite the troubles of the bill’s sponsor, Laura Bradford.)

I wrote about the story a few days ago.

The bill was amended, but none of those seem to seriously compromise the bill. Now the bill heads to the Senate.

Asmar even embedded my short video on the matter:

CO Cake Bill 1027: Let Them Eat Cake (No, Seriously)

If the Colorado legislature passes a “cake bill” (1027) to legalize cottage bakers, Mande Gabelson of Ava Sweet Cakes can bake me a cake, just as fast as she can.

Otherwise, she’ll get a $1,500 fine for it.

My dad and I are working up a column for Grand Junction Free Press on the story. However, according to Mande, the bill may be heard as early as next week (it already passed through its first committee), and our column doesn’t pop until Friday. Thus, I asked Mande if I could release her interview early here, and she said I could. (She also said I can release the images seen here, two of which were distributed in a Republican media release.)

Mande said she used to rent space at a commercial kitchen for $100 deposit, $135 monthly rental, and $12 per hour for usage. “I had to leave the commercial kitchen due to the cost.”

But, she said, “I knew the law, I knew I could not sell out of my home, but I knew that other states would allow it with a cottage food law. I wanted to figure out a way to get it done.”

And so she contacted her local legislators. “Rep [Laura] Bradford gave me a call over the summer, and we talked about cottage food bills in other states… and here we are.”

Mande said that, while professional kitchens work great for large-scale caterers, “If you’re someone like me, who just wants to make a cake every once or a while… it just doesn’t work.”

Right now, you “can’t bake a cake and sell it to your neighbor. If the money goes to a school [at a bake sale], that’s okay, but they [bakers] can’t put the money in their back pocket. I couldn’t even sell a cake to my mom. That would be against the law.”

The bill, Mande said, “would let me sell from my home. So I could take orders, and people could pick it up at my home… I could sell at farmers markets and roadside stands.”

I asked whether she could deliver cakes under the bill. “Yes, you can.” But you “cannot sell to say a restaurant, it has to be sold directly to the consumer.”

Under the bill, she said, counties can set up a registration process and charge a fee: “It’s up to each county as to whether they want to enforce licensing. I’m suspecting that each county is going to go ahead and do that, because they get income from it.” However, counties “cannot prohibit individuals from participating in this bill.”

Mande said that the bill applies only to “nonhazardous foods” (as defined federally) “that can be left out at room temperature for several days without harboring any harmful microorganisms.”

Mande opposes attempts to restrict the revenues of cottage bakers: “The reason there is no cap on that, if I make a wedding cake every weekend, a wedding cake typically sells for $2,000. Not that I would bake a wedding cake every weekend, but that’s just an example. You have to think about the man hours that go into something like that. I’m an artist. The typical wedding cake takes between 15 and 20 hours, and I should be paid for my skills. People come to me because of my abilities, and they want to pay me that much, and I should be able to take that. If they put a cap on that, I’d be able to bake only one cake a year? Only two cakes a year? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Why did she name her business “Ava Sweet Cakes?” “That’s my daughter. When I was 7 months pregnant with her my husband got laid off from Halliburton.” Mande took baking classes, and “that’s when I discovered I have this talent. When Ava was six months old I decided to name it after her.”

From Ava Sweet Cakes
From Ava Sweet Cakes

Update: Check out my 22-second video on the theme, in which I adapt “Patty Cake.”

Update: Westword posted something about this and embedded a nice segment from 11News on it.

Update 8:23 pm: Grand Junction Daily Sentinel explains that there are two “cottage foods” bills in the works. The alternate bill would allow more types of foods but cap sales to $5,000 per year. In other news, Representative Laura Bradford has lost her position as committee chair after getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, reports Fox31.

NRF Blames Banks for Harms of Federal Price Controls on Credit Cards

Surprise, surprise: price controls have harmful economic effects. Unfortunately, rather than condemn price controls, the National Retail Federation is calling for more. In his detailed, informative article for theDenver Post, David Migoya reports that the Dodd-Frank federal price-control law has actually resulted in higher fees for businesses that sell mostly low-cost items, impacting (among others) small restaurants and Redbox.

Following is my letter to NRF:

Dear NRF,

I was shocked to read that one of your employees, Craig Shearman, is blaming the banks for the inevitable harms of federal price controls on credit cards.

Price controls are both immoral and economically destructive because they forcibly prevent people from voluntarily negotiating contracts. Yet, rather than condemn the federal government’s price controls, Shearman called for even stricter controls!

Here is the key section of the Denver Post article:

“They failed to set something specific on small-ticket pricing, so as not to be more than was previously charged,” saidCraig Shearman, vice president of government affairs at the federation. “And banks being banks, there was a loophole, and they’re taking advantage of it. What was intended to be fair to all businesses is now a way to gouge small-ticket merchants.”

Your organization claims to represent retailers. But you cannot ultimately help retailers except by fighting for a free market. If you advocate government controls, those controls will inevitably expand to hurt the very people you claim to represent. I urge you to change course, condemn price controls, and champion economic liberty.

I welcome your reply, which I will cite publicly.

Sincerely,
Ari Armstrong

Update: Mallory Duncan sent me a reply:

Dear Mr. Armstrong – Thanks for your comments. We absolutely agree that transparent and competitive markets are best. It is how retailers operate. It is how we compete to deliver low prices and ever increasing value for our customers.

Unfortunately, until recently, there has not even been the inklings of a competitive market in debit cards. Before the new law took effect, every single bank (all 7,000 of them) and their respective card associations charged exactly the same high schedule of swipe fees to every single merchant, regardless of size or service, and categorically refused to negotiate with any of them. Faced with a dominating price cartel, moving bad actors toward a competitive market requires either litigation or law. Fortunately, those efforts are beginning to work.

Despite some banks’ attempts to create loopholes, in time, even the small ticket fees mentioned in the article will become more transparent and competitive. That will be a good thing.

Best,
Mallory Duncan

Following is my reply:

Dear Mr. Duncan,

I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to reply.

Unfortunately, your reply does not address my concerns. You use the phrase “competitive market” as a euphemism to mean a market in which you force banks to do your bidding. The proper, moral, economically best system is a *free* market, in which parties are free to transact on a strictly voluntary basis. Again, when you advocate the use of force, you inevitably subject your own clients to the same threat.

Certainly anticompetitive banking controls should be repealed, and working toward that end should be your goal. But two wrongs do not make a right, and imposing price controls only further violates people’s rights.

Moreover, price controls are economically destructive by their very nature, and they inevitably produce unintended harms. If you are successful in closing the “loopholes” that concern you, the price controls will only cause harm elsewhere.

I again urge you to rethink your position, stop justifying your advocacy of force with clever euphemisms, and advocate economic liberty.

Sincerely,
Ari Armstrong

Officials Wage War on Colorado Businesses

Colorado bureaucrats and politicians are expanding their war on businesses in the state, threatening the recovery.

Economists with the University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business thinks Colorado job growth will outpace the rest of the nation next year, the Denver Post reports. Mostly these jobs will be in the service sector, the report predicts. Manufacturers will shed jobs. (Of course this is all just fancy guesswork.) To the extent that jobs depend on “green” subsidies, they are counterproductive and precarious anyway.

Bureaucratic controls tend to stifle capital-heavy businesses disproportionately, which helps explain why the service sector looks relatively appealing. But even the service sector will be hit by anti-business policies. Consider three recent news stories.

The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is joining up with the federal Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service to punish businesses who dare to hire independent contractors. Of course, this is only a “problem” because of all the anti-businesses controls that curtail direct hires, starting with the grotesque payroll tax.

If we actually cared about restoring a strong economy, we’d roll back those employment controls, not expanding them.

The Daily Camera reports that the Boulder city council may stick firms with a “business software tax.” Allegedly this closes a “loophole” (but freedom is not a loophole!).

If we actually cared about restoring a strong economy, we’d eliminate software taxes across the board, not expand them.

Steamboat Daily reports that the Routt County Board of Commissioners is trying to hamper the production of oil and natural gas. (Thanks to theDenver Post for mentioning both those other papers’ stories.)

If we actually cared about restoring a strong economy, we’d eliminate the arbitrary controls hampering the state’s energy industry, preserving only those government actions based on protecting actual property rights from objectively verifiable harms through a legally sound process.

But of course most of Colordo’s bureaucrats and politicians care not a whit about restoring a strong economy. They’re too busy wielding arbitrary power over others.

A Parable of Shoe Stores and Bureaucrats

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published October 14 by Grand Junction Free Press.

The following discussion took place in an alternate universe very much like our own, but different in a few important respects. Any resemblance to real persons in our universe, living or dead, is purely accidental.

The scene is a coffee shop in a town called Great Junction, a town nestled between the Federal Monument, the Bookcliffs, and the Great Mesa. Ralph sits at a table, sipping his brew, sharing a quiet conversation with a few friends.

“Here’s how it went down,” Ralph began. “For three years my son John and I tried to open a shoe store over at the strip mall by Urban Market. We developed a great business plan and lined up our funding, and John finished up his degree in business while working in a shoe store on the side to earn experience in the industry.

“We did all the basic work in the first year. But then John reminded me we had to apply to the state Shoe Utility Commission, or SUC. I guess their job is to ensure that shoes meet their standards of utility, whatever that means. SUC required us to ask permission from the other shoe store in town, Shoe Central, before we could go into business.”

At this point Ralph’s friend Henry barged in, “Now hold on there, Ralph, you mean to tell me SUC wanted you to get the permission of your competitor to go into business? That can’t be right. That’s just insane! When I opened up my burger joint I didn’t have to ask permission from McDoogle’s! What’s next: are they going to make Cameron here ask permission from Orange Cabs to keep his own cab up and running?”

Cameron snorted at the absurdity.

Ralph took a breath, pushed up his shoulders, and continued, “Well, SUC uses pretty fancy language to describe asking permission. SUC says new shoe stores have to ‘show a public convenience and necessity’ before they’ll issue a shoe-store license, all to prevent ‘ruinous competition.’ And SUC was pretty keen on hearing Shoe Central’s claim that it already met the local demand for shoes.”

Henry could not contain himself. “‘Ruinous competition?’ What the hell does that mean? Most businesses compete for customers; that’s part of what makes them work hard to offer good service. Shouldn’t people have a choice about where they buy their shoes?”

After a pause Cameron asked, “So what happened next?”

Ralph continued, “At least SUC let us ask some local residents whether they’d benefit from a new shoe store in town.”

Henry started turning red in the face. “But wait a minute! Doesn’t a customer say he wants to shop at a store every time he walks in and spends some money? People say lots of things, but when they put their money on the counter, that’s what counts, right? How can a bunch of pencil-pushing bureaucrats predict where people want to shop? Isn’t that what the marketplace is for?”

“That’s what I always thought,” Ralph replied.

“So did SUC give you a permit to open a shoe store?” Cameron asked.

“SUC finally signed off on our shoe store, after forcing us to waste tens of thousands of dollars waiting around,” Ralph said.

Henry exhaled sharply.

“Unfortunately, Shoe Central then took the matter to court so a judge could make the decision.”

Henry jumped to his feet, spilling his coffee. “You mean, once you kiss the backsides of SUC bureaucrats for a few years, then you’ve got to start all over with a judge? What country did you say we’re living in, again?”

“Take a seat, Henry, it’s over,” Ralph said. “Amazingly, the judge also signed off on our store. But then SUC got to work again. SUC said we could carry only five types of shoes, and only in three sizes. Also, only people who lived within six blocks of the strip mall could shop at our store. SUC also dictated the prices we could charge for shoes. So we couldn’t charge more for better shoes, and if our stock piled up or dwindled we couldn’t raise or lower our prices. We’ll see if we can make a go of it.”

Henry said nothing. He sat hunched over, a single tear welling in his eye, staring at his cap with the emblem of his military service.

After a few moments of silence, a perky young lady walked up to the table and said, “I couldn’t help but overhearing, but I for one am grateful that SUC protects the consumer from the anarchy of the marketplace. Shoes are just too important to society to let just anybody sell them. Who would protect us from too many shoes and unfair pricing?”

The woman turned up her nose, spun on her Shoe Central high heels, and walked away. Ralph stared into his coffee.

Those of us living on the alternate side of the universe can only thank heaven that nothing as crazy as the SUC exists in our world.

Fuel Controls Violate Liberty

The Objective Standard has published my latest article, “Fuel Controls Violate Rights and Stifle Markets.” I write:

… [T]he federal government’s fuel standards disrupt this forward march of technology, substituting the whims of politicians and bureaucrats for the independent judgment of producers and their customers. As a result, the auto industry becomes more heavily shackled by political directives, and it offers consumers less-desirable vehicles. …

Check out the entire piece!

Leave Breast Pumping to Contracts, Social Pressure

Did the Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen, a tax-funded Colorado charter school, decline to renew a teaching contract for Heather Burgbacher because she pumped breast milk at work? That’s the allegation of the ACLU (and a one-sided story from 7News).

Or was Burgbacher let go for an entirely different reason? The Denver Postreports, “Jefferson County school district spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said Burgbacher was a technology teacher who worked under a yearly contract. Setzer said Burgbacher wasn’t retained because her position was transformed into a technology adviser to staffers and the school didn’t think she was a good fit.”

We will never know for sure. The anti-discrimination laws incentivize employees to claim they were let go because of mistreatment, and they incentivize employers to claim the fault lies with the employee.

Another question we will never have answered is whether the ACLU saw the lawsuit as particularly juicy because it targets a charter school, something typically despised by the left.

The only thing crystal clear about the case is that the Colorado and federal laws on which it is based are entirely ambiguous. Consider this description from the Colorado Department of Labor:

An employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where an employee can express breast milk in privacy.

Reasonable efforts means any effort that would not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

Undue hardship means any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as the size of the business, the financial resources of the business, or the nature and structure of its operation, including consideration of the special circumstances of public safety.

And who gets to decide what constitutes “reasonable,” “undue,” and “significant?” You guessed it… lawyers.

Now, I definitely agree that, in most contexts, employers certainly should allow employees time and space to pump breast milk. This is especially true in an educational setting, as it offers children an opportunity to learn something about childbirth, nutrition, and immunity.

But just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean the legislature should get involved. Many jobs already involve an employment contract. (As a tax-funded entity, a charter school properly falls under additional rules not applicable to private businesses.) And most businesses would rapidly cave to social criticisms about lack of accommodation.

For marginal jobs, often the very jobs that poor women need, the additional risk of (perhaps groundless) lawsuits could well mean the elimination of the job. So the real impact of the Colorado law is to protect wealthier yuppie women, who don’t really need protecting anyway, and make it harder for poor women to get any job at all.

***

ziolus posted the following comment on May 11, 2012 at 10:02 AM:
I was fired for pumping milk at work as well under Colorado state law as well. from a company called teletech. I put my story on youtube if it gives you any help. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9IjL8na0UE

Ari Armsmtrong posted the following comment on May 11, 2012 at 10:50 AM:
Please note that I have NOT independently verified the claims made in the previous comment, nor can I attest to their accuracy. -AA

Free Colorado’s Beer and Liquor Markets

At a recent Liberty On the Rocks event, Kris Cook and I argued in favor of free markets in beer and liquor sales. The event was actually a debate, but, as the other participants didn’t actually believe their stance, I didn’t want to include that footage.

We make the following basic points:

* We have a moral right to buy and sell what we please, from whom we please (within the context of consenting adults), by voluntary association.

* The Colorado laws prohibiting (most) grocery stores from selling regular beer, wine, and alcohol violate our rights to protect a special interest.

* Because of the law, Colorado consumers pay higher prices and suffer loss of convenience. But, because a small group artificially gains wealth by the law, it lobbies to maintain it.

* Claims that establishing a free market would lead to less safety or less beer selection constitute bogus fear-mongering. Other states without the restrictions don’t experience those problems.

* Likewise, claims that establishing a free market would “cost jobs” constitute gross ignorance of basic economics. A free market would instead direct resources to more highly valued uses, thereby creating more wealth.

Michael Hancock’s ‘Collective Farm’ Foolishness

Talk about great timing! Just as Grand Junction Free Press publishes an article from my dad and me on the economic harms of spending more for local goods, the Denver Post releases an article by Chuck Plunkett discussing the “buy local” proposal of Michael Hancock, who is running for mayor of Denver.

Hancock wants to “create thousands of new jobs for Denver citizens” by promoting urban farming, Plunkett quotes.

Thankfully, Plunkett also quotes somebody who actually knows what he’s talking about. Philip Graves, an economist at CU, told Plunkett that if such gardening were economical, “it would already be happening.” And, in the best line quoted so far this year by the Post, Graves said Hancock’s plan “is akin to the notoriously inefficient ‘collective farms’ of the old Soviet Union.”

Now, urban gardening might be fun and emotionally rewarding, and it might indeed save some people a bit on their grocery bills. But Hancock’s idea that it might generate many jobs and substantially benefit the economy is foolishness. Hancock needs to brush on on a couple of basic economic concepts. The first is economies of scale — in many cases larger operations operate much more efficiently, far offsetting the transportation costs. Second, some regions offer natural production advantages. It turns out that growing food usually is best done on (wait for it…) farmland, not in densely populated cities. Regional advantage is a subset of the more general principle of comparative advantage.

Now, there is something government can do to promote local, small-scale agriculture, and that is get the hell out of the way. A recent story at Big Government reviews a couple of cases of USDA harassment and intimidation of small-scale producers. Timothy Sandefur’s book The Right to Earn a Living contains numerous examples of how the federal government has trampled economic liberties, often harming especially small-scale farmers.

First came Hancock with his Creationist silliness, and now urban collective farms. I guess we’d better get used to the sound of “Mayor Romer.”

Political Development Versus Economic Development

Political “economic development” harms the economy by diverting resources from more-valued to less-valued uses. Sure, it’s easy for politicians to point to the fancy shops and such resulting from politicized development, but, as Bastiat and Hazlitt warn, we must also pay attention to all the goods and services NOT produced because of the diverted resources.

Unfortunately, today development has less to do with anticipating and meeting the needs of consumers and more to do with sucking up to politicians and city bureaucrats. Those unable to gain the subsidies and special tax breaks — notably, older, established businesses — must compete on an unlevel playing field. Meanwhile, developers waste precious resources playing the political game that could otherwise go into valuable production.

The Denver Post recently reported, “The city of Westminster plans to demolish the blighted Westminster Mall to develop a downtown for the 100-year-old community. At a special meeting Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a deal to pay $22 million to Westminster Mall Co., a partnership between Kansas City, Mo.-based Dreiseszun & Morgan and Dillard’s.”

See my previous article on the city’s bogus declaration of blight. This issue isn’t about blight; it’s about the city playing games with taxpayer money to try to win back sales tax revenue from the Flatiron Mall in Broomfield.

As Brian Vande Krol notes, there are reasons to be skeptical of the city’s grand plans (though I have not personally verified all of his claims): “The Westminster Mall has received millions in taxpayer ‘investments’ over the years. It was once home to 300 shops. Then Westminster helped develop the Westminster Promenade, and then the Shops at Walnut Creek. Now Westminster Mall has 15 shops. The city is buying the mall, and you and I are once again ‘investing’ in the property. And the Promenade is losing tenants.”

The Promenade does host some empty shops, though it also has a number of apparently quite successful businesses. But I remember a few years back the Promenade featured a large, garish sign promising a city-assisted development of a new health center and related facilities at that location. I returned to the sight of the sign a couple days ago and found the following:

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It is quite sad to walk through the Westminster Mall these days; most of the shops are closed down. The city, by taking a hostile stand against the mall’s owners while implying sweat deals for the right players, made unlikely any independent action regarding the property.

Maybe the tax-subsidized redevelopment will become as successful as the city hopes, and maybe it won’t. Either way, the city has no business gambling other people’s money on the project.

Bill Johnson “Detests” Liberty in Beer Sales

Denver Post editorial columnist Bill Johnson (whose tirades inexplicably appear on the news pages of the paper) “detests” a bill to expand economic liberty and consumer choice in the beer trade, he writes in in his latest piece.

Johnson dislikes a bill that would allow consenting adults — grocers and consumers — to agree to exchange dollars for regular-strength beer. Currently Colorado law forcibly prohibits such voluntary exchanges and limits grocery stores (except for a single store in a chain) to low-alcohol beer.

To Johnson, the issue is about “the little guy” versus “corporate America,” and a “government… threatening yet again to shut” down liquor stores. Johnson doesn’t mention a single word about the fact that the so-called “little guy” liquor stores (which often also are corporate entities) currently use government force to block the competition.

What about the littlest guy of all, the lone consumer without the resources to relentlessly lobby the legislature, as liquor stores do? Consumers should be able to buy whatever beer they want from the seller of their choice. But their rights are irrelevant in Johnson’s world.

To be sure, the legislature also oppresses liquor stores by forcibly preventing them from selling most food and from opening chains. Those laws should be repealed. But two wrongs do not make a right, and rights-violating restrictions on liquor stores hardly justify additional restrictions on grocers. Justice requires the complete repudiation of all such anti-liberty controls.

Liquor store owners went into businesses knowing full well that current law benefits them by forcibly blocking their competitors. Those who start a businesses relying on the protection of unjust laws have no grounds to complain when those unjust laws finally are repealed. To the degree that the economic interests of liquor stores depend on violating people’s rights, those interests properly bear no legal weight.

Two main special interests oppose expanding a free market in beer sales: liquor stores and brewers like Mike Bristol. They argue that, if grocers were allowed to sell the beer of their choice, consumers would flock to grocers for their beer purchases, and they would stop buying craft beer. Such hyperventilating claims not only defy reality, they demean consumers as well as liquor store owners and craft brewers.

If consumers only shopped at liquor stores and only purchased craft beer because the law forcibly prevented them from doing otherwise, then obviously existing law harms consumers. Bristol basically is arguing that his beer is so bad that he must force people to drink it, and if he stops using force, people will strop drinking it. Well, if his beer is so bad that consumers would not voluntarily choose to buy it on a free market, then he should stop producing it! Likewise, if liquor stores exist only because the law forcibly prevents consumers from shopping elsewhere, then obviously those stores are not meeting consumers’ needs.

I would expect Bristol to take a little more pride in his work than that. If you have a good product, Mr. Bristol, then you should trust consumers to purchase it voluntarily. Just as it was wrong for Prohibition to once put beer brewers like you out of businesses, so it is wrong for you to use the force of unjust laws to block voluntary exchanges.

The simple fact is that, once grocers sell regular-strength beer, some will stock many craft beers, and others will not. That’s the case with liquor stores now. Guess what: stores stock what their customers like to buy. I personally have not purchased anything other than high-quality beer for many years (I have a wonderful Vanilla Porter in the fridge right now from Breckenridge Brewery), and I’m not going to start buying Bud and Coors just because the law permits a free market in beer sales.

Having been to many of Colorado’s fine breweries, talked to several of the state’s brewers, and chatted with hundreds of beer enthusiasts, it is obvious to me that there is a strong market in Colorado for craft beer. That market is not somehow going to evaporate just because grocery stores can sell beer. What that market presents is an opportunity for liquor stores to specialize in selection. I doubt that many grocery stores will offer services like pick-and-choose six-packs, as various liquor stores already provide. As is obvious to anyone who has traveled outside Colorado, liquor stores continue to thrive in states where grocers may sell regular-strength beer.

As for Johnson’s argument about putting people out of work, perhaps Johnson should brush up on his Bastiat so he doesn’t sound like such an economic illiterate. What is immediately seen is that some liquor stores may enjoy less business or even shut down. What is not seen is that, if that happens, it will happen because some consumers are better off buying beer at grocery stores. What Johnson ignores are the extra jobs at the grocery stores, the extra money in consumers’ pockets that can be spent elsewhere, and the extra time consumers have to produce or relax.

The legislature has no legitimate businesses forcibly disrupting the competitors of select businesses. Laws that prevent consenting adults from associating voluntarily to trade beer for dollars violate the rights of both buyer and seller. Shops that survive solely because they are protected by unjust laws do not deserve to be in business. Liquor store owners and brewers who actually take pride in their work and meet the needs of consumers will continue to thrive in a free market.

Give us liberty. Protect people’s rights. Restore a free market in beer.

Additional reading:
Time for a Free Market in the Alcohol Industry
Free Liquor Stores from Prohibition-Era Rules
Another Look at Blue Laws
Time to Bring Beer Sales to Ballot
Beer Smash Protests Protectionism | Photos
CO Brewers Should Endorse Liberty
A Good Beer Needs No Political Force
Blue-law special

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Anonymous commented March 29, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Have you ever been to California? They allow all types of liquor sales in grocery stores there and it is very hard to find an independent liquor store. Though the grocery stores have a reasonable selection of products it is not as good as many of our independent Colorado liquor stores. And forget trying to get a recommendation on a good wine from a grocery store clerk.

You seem to make the assumption that we live in a free market and therefore we need to let the free market decide winners. I have some news for you; our market is not free. The overwhelming power of the large corporations easily stacks the deck in their favor. You seem to have bought into the idea that liberty and individualism means stripping away protections for small business from large predatory corporations because doing so fits into your “free market” ideology. The problem is that when the market is not truly free the outcome of your action is collectivism. So, are you and individualist or a collectivist?

You don’t believe me? Look at any small mid-western town’s Main Street thirty years ago and compare it to now since Wal-Mart moved into town. This is how collectivism wins the game under the guise of the “free market”.

Ari commented March 29, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Arizona allows grocers to sell beer and wine. Check out all the independent liquor stores in Phoenix: http://bit.ly/hGjG08 And here is a listing of liquor stores in Los Angeles: http://bit.ly/hGjG08

Your basic confusion, Anonymous, is over the meaning of a free market. A free market is NOT one free from competition. A free market is free from the initiation of force. If individuals wish to voluntarily shop at larger corporate stores, that’s their right. If smaller stores can’t compete on an open market, that proves only that they cannot meet the needs of consumers as well. We don’t need “protection” from lower prices and more convenience!

Anonymous commented March 29, 2011 at 3:15 PM
If you truly believe that the “free market” we have today is not massively weighted toward the success of large corporations through various laws, tax breaks, and lobbyists then there is little hope for you! Competition is not really competition when the deck is stacked.

Ari commented March 29, 2011 at 3:24 PM
I never claimed we have a free market now; the problem is that we do not. But the answer to unjust controls is not more unjust controls, it is more freedom. But the simple fact is that consumers suffer unjust liquor controls because of the lobbyists and political power of the liquor stores and brewers. Currently the deck is stacked against consumers, and I’m trying to unstack it. You’re trying to keep it stacked.

Anonymous commented March 30, 2011 at 7:05 AM
Our so called free market is at minimum, is 50% socialistic. If you do not understand this, you do not understand politics. Our social structure is also 50% socialist. The United States Constitution did not guarantee liberty; it guaranteed a Republic form of government. This Republic form of government has created a half free Nation.

I have never heard Ari claim we have a free market unlike old timers such as Rosen . I gotta give Rosen credit because the last few years he has morphed from free market to political economy.

Brew your own,grow your own, then you can have whatever you want, when you want it, nearly tax free!

Anonymous commented March 30, 2011 at 8:01 AM
Anon said: You don’t believe me? Look at any small mid-western town’s Main Street thirty years ago and compare it to now since Wal-Mart moved into town. This is how collectivism wins the game under the guise of the “free market”.

I am not saying there are not laws that go against main street however I thought main street failed because shop owners wanted to sale only 2 lawnmowers per month yet afford a caviar life style?

Wal-Mart brings affordable groceries’ to the masses.

This is called efficiency, something we all want.

You Mean Licensing Massage Therapists Didn’t Stop Prostitution?

A few years ago the Colorado legislature imposed massage licensing on the pretext that it would stop “parlor” prostitution. My dad and I wrote about this.

You can imagine my surprise, then, upon reading the following Denver Post headline: “Accused madam in suburban spa prostitute ring surrenders.”

You mean licensing therapeutic massage didn’t stop parlor prostitution? What a shocker.

Of course the licensing scheme was never about stopping prostitution. It was about protecting existing massage therapists from competition and screwing consumers with higher prices.

Given the obvious failure of the licensing law to achieve its stated objective, will the legislature now repeal Title 12, Article 48.5, Sections 101 through 119, the “Massage Parlor Code?”

Of course not.

Listeria Outbreak Cries for Changes, Not Hysteria

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published November 11 by Grand Junction Free Press.

The cantaloupe-caused outbreak of listeria created a tragedy for those infected by the bacteria and for their families. As of the end of last month, the death toll had risen to 28, the number of reported illnesses had climbed to 133, and one infected woman miscarried.

Though less important, the outbreak also created a tragedy for Colorado agriculture. Jensen Farms, responsible for spreading the bacteria, sits on the opposite side of the state. Yet Grand Junction has long been the home of fruit growers, and no doubt everyone associated with the industry can imagine the horror of getting caught up in something like that.

Colorado cantaloupes are among the best in the world. We have not seen good estimates on how much money the outbreak cost the growers of healthy cantaloupes, nor how much it may weaken the market for Colorado cantaloupes into the future.

While there is good reason to believe that Jensen Farms contributed to the outbreak through irresponsible practices (more on that below), it is also important to keep in mind the context of the illnesses. As of the 28th victim, the median age was 84. Prior to modern detection methods, such deaths often would have been chalked up to old age. In many cases, the listeria must be considered a contributing factor of death.

Bacteria are everywhere; the human body contains around ten times as many bacteria as human cells. We run into contact with potentially dangerous bacteria on a daily basis. Usually, our bodies fight them off.NPR ran an informative story last month pointing out that thousands of people probably ingested the listeria from the cantaloupes, and in most cases stomach acids killed these bacteria. Note too that some 128,000 Americans check into the hospital every year because of foodborne illness, and 3,000 die.

However, even though listeria mostly attacks people with already compromised immunities, obviously farmers should strive to take reasonable precautions to avoid the spread of dangerous bacteria. Jensen Farms seems not to have done that.

For example, “the farm had stopped adding a chlorine-based agent to its wash water,” reported the Denver Post‘s Michael Booth (who has done a generally good job covering the story and sorting through the relevant reports). Tap water gets chlorine treatment to kill pathogens, and it’s reasonable to think it could have helped prevent listeria growth. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about Jensen’s cooling systems, sorters, and more, Booth reported.

The question is what should be done to improve safety. Merely the financial risk of lawsuits may sufficiently motivate cantaloupe growers to double-check their safety procedures. Booth reported that Jensen “and its distributor, Frontera Produce of Texas, already face multiple wrongful-death lawsuits.”

What didn’t seem to work is a private audit; one of Booth’s headlines reads, “Private audit at Jensen Farms before listeria outbreak failed to flag woes.” Primus Labs gave Jensen Farms high scores just before the bad mellons shipped. We haven’t looked into the incentive structure of such deals or the details of that particular inspection enough to determine what went wrong; we do, however, wonder whether the inspection lab also opened itself up to tort liability.

Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar, formerly the area’s Congressional representative, wants to expand state oversight. (See Booth’s coverage of this story as well.) We appreciate Salazar’s relatively light touch here (not that he had much choice given state law): he suggests a possible “Colorado Proud” label that would require meeting certain guidelines.

We like the idea of a certification process, and we understand why other cantaloupe farmers support the idea. Responsible farmers want a good way to distinguish their products and separate themselves from their less-reputable competitors. However, we don’t see why the state needs to get involved in it. We think an independent agency, comparable to Underwriters Laboratories or Consumer Reports, can handle the job without bureaucratic assistance. No doubt grocers who sell the melons would look to such certification standards with great interest.

If we have one complaint about Booth’s reporting, it is that it seems to sometimes veer off into editorial waters by promoting more federal oversight. We don’t think the listeria outbreak warrants that, though we recognize the federal government’s Constitutional authority to “regulate” interstate trade. Frankly, the lawsuits alone will likely fix the problems, though we’d also like to see the improved certification.

Life is filled with risk. The only way to totally prevent foodborne illness is to stop eating. (We are, however, also intrigued by the potential to irradiate more food to kill pathogens.) If government regulators overreact, they threaten to raise food prices — something that creates its own health problems — and destroy certain businesses or even industries. Eating listeria-infected cantaloupe is dangerous, but so is throwing people out of work.

Remember not only those who recently got sick, but the multitudes who have enjoyed eating healthy Colorado cantaloupes, still among the best in the world.

[Update: Jennifer Brown and Michael Booth wrote a great article for the November 14 Denver Post discussing the wider problem of foodborne illness and offering some common-sense advice about it.]

Review Questions for D. T. Armentano’s Antitrust: The Case for Repeal

This set of review questions is part of the Liberty In the Books program, a monthly discussion group. These questions cover Dominick T. Armentano’sAntitrust: The Case for Repeal (Revised Second Edition).

Reading I: Through Page 50

1. What have been the basic results of antitrust enforcement, in Armentano’s view? (Page xi)

2. What does “rent-seeking” mean, and how does it apply to antitrust? (Page xi)

3. What is the correct understanding of “competition,” what is “pure competition,” and how does this apply to antirust? (Page xii)

4. What is the meaning of “economies of scale,” and what is the relevance to antitrust? (Page xiii)

5. What are the basic aims of antitrust? (Page xiii)

6. What were the general trends in antitrust enforcement in the 1950s and ’60s, the 1970s and ’80s, and the 1990s? (Pages xiii-xvi)

7. What were the antitrust-related complaints against Microsoft? (Pages 1-2)

8. What does the term “creative destruction” mean? (Page 4)

9. What are “network effects,” and do they justify antitrust action? (Pages 4-5)

10. What is “path dependence,” does it “lock in… inferior technology,” and does it justify antitrust action? (Pages 5-6)

11. Did Microsoft unfairly bundle its web browser with its operating system? How does this complaint look in 2010? (Pages 6-8)

12. What role do exclusive contracts play on an open market, and do they ever justify antitrust action? (Pages 8-9)

13. What was the Lorain Journal case, did it justify antitrust action, and was the Microsoft case comparable to it? (Pages 9-10)

14. What does the Microsoft case illustrate about the nature of antitrust enforcement? (Pages 10-12)

15. What is the “barriers-to-entry doctrine,” and what has been the actual behavior of firms punished under antitrust? (Pages 13-14)

16. What antitrust enforcement actions did IBM face? (Pages 14-15)

17. What was the trend of the data-processing industry in the mid-20th Century? (Page 15)

18. Are profits higher in concentrated industries in the short and long term? Why? (Page 16)

19. What is the actual cause of “monopoly power?” (Page 18)

20. What has antitrust done to business consolidations, and what has been the economic effect? (Page 18)

21. What is the problem with regulators and courts attempting to discover social benefits? (Page 19)

22. Are antitrust laws consistent with rights of property, association, and due process? (Page 19)

23. What lesson does Armentano find in the case of airline deregulation? (Pages 20-21)

24. Contrast the “public interest” with the “special-interest” theories of antitrust policy. (Pages 21-25)

25. What is the theory of “concentrated benefits, dispersed costs,” and how does this apply to antitrust? (Page 24)

26. How does antitrust constitute an attempt to centrally plan the economy? (Pages 25-26)

27. What does the AT&T case reveal about antitrust policy? (Pages 26-29)

28. What is “allocative inefficiency” and “technical inefficiency” in standard antitrust doctrine? (Pages 31-33)

29. What real-world economic activity does the theory of “pure and perfect competition” exclude? (Pages 33-35)

30. Are “free-market monopolies” able to restrict production and raise prices? (Pages 35-39)

31. Contrast the popular account of Standard Oil with the factual history of the company’s performance. (Pages 40-43)

32. Can studies of profitability justify antitrust enforcement? (Pages 43-44)

33. In Armentano’s view, should antitrust be used even against legally enforced monopolies? (Pages 45-46)

34. Why does Armentano push for the complete repeal of antitrust, rather than only administrative reforms?

35. What is Murray Rothbard’s critique of standard monopoly theory? (Pages 47-50)

Reading II: Page 51 to 106

1. What is the meaning of a “non-legal barrier to entry?” (Page 51)

2. What is “product differentiation,” and what are some examples of it? (Page 51-52)

3. What are the “revealed preferences of consumers,” and what do they have to do with antitrust? (Page 52, 54)

4. What is the difference between “pure competition” and the “actual competitive process,” according to Armentano? (Page 53)

5. What is wrong with the assumption of “perfect information?” (Page 55)

6. Was there a monopoly in ready-to-eat cereals in the 1970s? (Page 55, 57)

7. Does risk of failure by potential new competitors, economies of scale for existing competitors, or efficiency of existing competitors justify antitrust action? (Page 56)

8. Can advertising constitute an unfair barrier to entry? (Pages 57-60)

9. Is it true that “more competitors are always better than less?” (Page 60)

10. Did the Aluminum Company of America constitute an unfair or inefficient monopoly? (Pages 60-63)

11. Is the ability of an established, successful firm to raise capital, offer innovative products, or lower prices unfair or harmful to consumers? (Pages 63-67)

12. What is “price discrimination,” what are some examples from every-day life, and does it justify antitrust action? (Pages 69-73)

13. What are “tying agreements,” and do they justify antitrust action? (Pages 73-76)

14. What are “resale price-maintenance agreements,” are they fair, and do they justify antitrust action? How did the U.S. government once forcibly limit price competition? (Pages 76-77) (Note: The Supreme Court seems to have subsequently limited restrictions on pricing agreements; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Leegin_Creative_Leather_Products,_Inc._v._PSKS,_Inc.)

15. What are “vertical mergers,” and should they ever be legally restricted? What the government justified in intervening in Brown Shoe’s acquisition of Kinney retailers? (Pages 77-79)

16. What are the different sorts of “horizontal agreements,” and how are they treated under antitrust? (Page 81)

17. Is the “rule of reason” approach in antitrust in fact reasonable? (Page 82)

18. Are government regulators able to accurately define the “relevant market” for alleged monopolistic practices? (Pages 83-85)

19. Is there any clear relationship between market concentration and “economic power to reduce market output and raise market prices?” (Pages 85-86)

20. What is the problem with attempting to tie alleged monopolistic practices to output restriction? (Pages 86-87)

21. Can government regulators accurately determine “social benefits” of mergers? How does the Staples case illustrate the problems with intervention? (Pages 87-90)

22. Can “horizontal price coordination” create market efficiencies? Should it be outlawed? (Pages 90-94)

23. How did the federal government forcibly restrict competition in the trucking industry through the Interstate Commerce Commission? (Page 93)

24. Are attempts by firms to reduce output and raise prices generally effective? What is the appropriate remedy for such attempts, according to Armentano? (Pages 94-95)

25. Did the Addyston Pipe Case of the 1890s demonstrate the need for antitrust laws? (Pages 95-97)

26. How do “antitrust laws stand in direct violation of civil liberties, individual rights, and due process of law?” (Pages 99-106)

Sens. Udall, Bennet Screw Responsible Credit Users

Nearly a year ago I warned that the credit card controls championed by Senator Mark Udall (and subsequently by Senator Michael Bennet) would “punish the responsible” and “make it harder for responsible cardholders to negotiate good terms.”

Well, today my wife and I got a letter from Citibank regarding our credit card with the company:

Effective April 1, 2010, an annual fee of $60 is being added.

The reason we are making this change is to maintain the quality of our service amid the rising cost of doing business [emphasis added]. … Each year, we’ll credit the $60 fee back to your account once you have made $2,400 in purchases…

What great timing! It was just yesterday that Bennet promised people “notices in the mail from their credit card companies notifying them of upcoming changes in their accounts.” That is most definitely a “change,” apparently part of that grander package of “change” we have all been promised.

We’re not going to commit to charging that amount with Citibank every year, and we’re certainly not going to pay a $60 annual fee. Therefore, we’re going to cancel the card, reducing our total credit availability.

While obviously Citibank is not going to finger Senators Udall and Bennet, particularly in today’s vicious political climate for businesses, the most obvious contributer to this “rising cost of doing business” is the Congressional legislation.

Rarely a day goes by when I do not regret voting for that economic illiterate Mark Udall.