Anti-trust Provisions of the Patriot Act

(See here) an article by S. M. Oliva that appears at lewrockwell.com that discusses an anti-trust enforcement provision that was tucked away in the Patriot Act.

First, let me state that I condemn this provision being included in the Patriot Act, since it has nothing to do with what the Patriot Act is supposed to be about. However, as near as I can tell, things like this happening is not unusual. Congressman often include absurd items in things like Defense Appropriation bills that have nothing to do with defense. If Mr Oliva was only seeking to condemn this, that the item did not belong there, well I would be all ears. But he was speaking against this provision before it found its way into the Patriot Act. Often powerful congressman include unpopular provisions, items that would not pass if they were voted for on their own, in popular bills and then dare the opponents to vote against the bill because of all the bullshit that was tagged onto it.

But is this item in and of itself really that bad? Perhaps the reason it was included is that if the "average citizen" has to surrender as much of what we think is our right to privacy, then the corporate boardroom should also have to surrender a little bit of a right to privacy. Perhaps this was the only way to get the item approved.

Truth is, that the American corporate players have been engaged in constricting the number of players that are competing on the playing field. Big companies are buying out numerous small and even large competitors and the American public is being sold the bill of goods that they will benefit in the long run because of increasing economies of scale. This works as long as the players that remain are competitive and do not engage in price fixing. As long as the players that still remain engage in honest competition, well then the consumer benefits. But if the few players that remain start price fixing?

Let us examine what is happening in the oil and gasoline markets. Back in the early 1900's Standard Oil was broken up because it had become a trust in the market place. Standard oil had removed just about all competition and the consumer had to either pay Standard Oil's price or go without. As a result Standard Oil was forced into breaking up. For a long time this led to honest competition in the marketplace because it took only one honest competitor to keep the market honest, for prices to be set at reasonable, profitable and competitive levels.

But what is happening now? For a long time we have heard of constriction of the number of players within oil companies. I could list a few, but let me just say, who has not heard of the new oil company known as Exxon/Mobil due to these mergers?

Did this merger hamper competition? Well let us examine what happened after hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina rolled through and supposedly caused extreme damage to both American domestic crude oil production as well as refining capacity. Some of this damage might have been covered by insurance, however all the damage should have resulted in at least a challenge for American oil companies getting over the devastation and still remaining profitable.

But that is not what happened. Instead of having to put on their thinking caps figuring out how to finance recovery, American oil companies made record profits and had to figure out ways to hide the embarassing riches. Is anyone not familiar with Exxon's reports of record profits in the last quarter?

So am I in favor of strong anti-trust enforcement powers? Well you are damn right I am. If I am willing to put up with the possibility that some government agency might examine which library books I might be reading I want corporate executives worrying about someone listening in as they get on the telephone and decide what price I have to pay at the fuel pump.

Truth is that I do not want to end up paying $10 a gallon for fuel anytime real soon, and our recent hurricanes have proven that some people will take advantage of us everytime we, or Mother Nature, give them the opportunity or excuse to do so. I am hoping these new powers might catch some of the guilty red handed.

The proof is in Katrina, the fuel prices we paid, and the record profits. Now that is reality. Do not try and tell me someone didn't deserve to be thrown in jail. Let's go get them.


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