The following is a short fictional account of a dangerous smuggler…
Scott peered down the road as he slowly drove his Ford F-350 toward the border checkpoint entering the United States into Washington state. A few slight beads of sweat on his forehead despite the relatively cool breeze that came through the open windows on the calm summer evening. He wiped his head with his sleeve and took a deep breath before he drew near the sign by the United States Customs and Border Patrol station. He held his passport, which ironically he only needed in order to return to the U.S. and was waved on by the agent directing oncoming travelers.
“Papers please,” Said the agent through the drive-up window as Scott handed him the required documents. The agent studied them for a moment and asked “Where are you headed?”
“Home, heading back to Oregon.”
The agent said “Please drive to the inspection area and turn off your engine.”
Scott complied, noticing that his passport was not returned to him. He sighed, started the truck and parked as directed.
Two agents met him there, one armed with an M-16 and assault vest and directed him to exit the vehicle for a search. There was not much he could do at this point but hope that his contraband was well-concealed.
One began to take items out of the bed of the pickup and place them on the ground. A sleeping bag, some luggage, even the spare tire.
“Unlock the luggage for us, please,” the agent said, pointing to a diminutive briefcase, slightly worn from extensive use.
“Do I have to? I mean, I’m always coming through here and I’ve never had any problems before,” said Scott, trying to get out of it without disagreeing too strongly with the agents bearing the State’s blessing and a monopoly on the use of force.
“Yes, please do so immediately,” the cheerless agent carrying the M-16 intoned.
After the case was opened, the agent rummaged through it placing items on the ground as he searched Scott’s belongings.
“Well, what do we have here?” as he held up for all to see,the dangerous contraband Scott hoped now vainly to hide. In his gloved hand a box of Kinder Eggs he held.
“You know these are prohibited!” exclaimed the official “Kids can choke on these, and you have been suspected of smuggling them in for about 6 months now.”
“Oh come on, it’s a chocolate egg with a toy inside! It’s not like we need the FDA to nanny my own kids for me, I think the kids I give them to are smart enough to avoid dying from a Kinder Egg. Millions of Canadian kids avoid death by Kinder Egg all the time!”
The agent bristled, “You’re about one word away from a ride on the taser train, shut up and follow me to the holding area. You, ” he said speaking to his partner, ” escort him inside.”
Scott flinched as the armed agent grabbed his arm and pulled away slightly. Almost instantly he was hit by the first agent’s taser and went down writhing and clutching his side. “They’re for my kids!”
“That’s assault on a federal officer! Cuff him and take him inside!” said the functionary of the State, rather offended by this one’s display of contempt of cop.
Scott groaned, “I guess I’m not in Canada anymore…” and was hauled off.
“But what does that have to do with money or economics?” you might ask.
Well, the power of government has been used to the detriment of liberty and economic prosperity and that certainly bears significance. The federal Food and Drug Administration without representation or the consent of the people have told Americans that they’re too stupid to make a rational decision regarding the products they buy and what they let their kids have. This decision was handed down on high by a federal bureaucrat a la government fiat under the auspices of “protecting the public.”
From the Customs website, “CBP has been entrusted with enforcing hundreds of laws for 40 other government agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These agencies require that unsafe items are not allowed to enter the United States. CBP officers are always (emphasis original) at ports of entry and assume the responsibility of protecting America from all threats.
The products CBP prevent from entering the United States are those that would injure community health, public safety, American workers, children, or domestic plant and animal life, or those that would defeat our national interests.”
Looks like these 40 government agencies know what’s best for the collective…
In a truly free market, unsafe products become unpopular or used with caution. Certainly some may fall victim to improperly used products, but that’s no change from our current system as this happens with or without a paternal agency telling us what we may or may not have.
This is especially true with the advent of the internet and websites that review products, spread ideas and give consumers a chance to share positive or negative feedback about a product or service.
Kinder Eggs are not the only things that have been banned from importation, or even citizens from bringing into the country personally. The popular Australian spread Vegemite is not allowed into the U.S. because it “contains folate, a B vitamin approved as an additive for just a few foods, including breakfast cereals,” reports The Age in Australia.
If products that are more desirable or less expensive and manufactured in other countries are banned or taxed this will only harm a nation’s economy because producers are also consumers. If the same product can be imported much cheaper than it can be made at home, then the importing country’s consumers benefit from whatever attribute that enables the exporter to produce his product cheaply.
I was listening to a local radio advertisement encouraging people to buy products made within the state because those dollars will stay in Idaho which will work to maintain our public works and “maybe help you keep your job.”
The idea of buying locally for the purpose of local taxation bothers me, but what about the consumer? If it costs more to produce the product here because of labor, climate, resources, etc. and the same product costs less to produce elsewhere for the same reasons, to buy locally does not help the producer much at all. The producer had to pay more to produce his product because he had more obstacles to overcome than the cheaper and less local competitor, he does not see more profit because of it.
Certainly there are health reasons to buy locally. Most of the time you know where the product comes from and how it’s made, so my statement is limited to products that are known to be the same in a free market.
As Frederic Bastiat in his treatise on the subject (this essential work on trade and the law is free to read here and also available via the iBooks app for iPod) argued that we “spurn the gift of God by nature” with protectionist tariffs levied for the purpose of encouraging local producers. All this does is waste more resources by forcing ourselves to overcome more obstacles to produce the goods we consume rather than trading with those that must overcome fewer obstacles to produce the same product. The extra money saved can be spent on other things, thus encouraging other industries as well.
Whatever one thinks about real free trade, it’s easy to see how seriously our government takes it’s job of protecting us from ourselves from the dangers of Kinder Eggs and Vegemite. So whenever you happen to be in Canada, buy a Kinder Egg and find out.
I’ll end with a quote from Bastiat, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
A.J. Ellis is a Christian libertarian writer in Idaho and writes the Musings From the Empire blog.