Power: dispersed or concentrated? (Big difference.)
Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, June 7, 2013.
Warren Buffett is an enormously powerful man. He has a personal net worth of approximately $53 billion, making him one of the richest men in the world. As chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., he controls an empire with annual revenues in excess of $143 billion through the ownership of household-name companies such as GEICO, Dairy Queen, Benjamin Moore Paints, Fruit of the Loom and about a dozen others.
When Warren Buffett opens his mouth and speaks, presidents and congressmen and business titans and world potentates listen. A passing remark from Buffett can make a company’s stock either take off or tank, depending on exactly what he says.
Yet for all of his clout, Warren Buffett has no power over me and no power over you that you or I don’t freely give him. In my case, I don’t give him very much.
I don’t buy my insurance from GEICO nor do I get my fast food fix at Dairy Queen. When I repainted my house a few years ago I used Behr paint, not Benjamin Moore.
You probably don’t want to know but I’m going to tell you anyway that I don’t wear Fruit of the Looms.
And Warren Buffett can’t make me.
That’s because for every business that Warren Buffet owns, he faces competitors. Any transaction you or I have with a Berkshire Hathaway-owned company – from buying a DQ Blizzard to shipping auto parts via the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad – is the result of a voluntary exchange. Warren Buffett cannot compel you to do business with him.
Government, on the other hand, can compel you and does. As it pertains to settling your taxes or getting a building permit, you can’t take your business elsewhere. Government’s power is absolute. And we all know the quote, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Get a letter from GEICO about buying auto insurance and you most likely throw it away. But get a letter from the IRS and the room spins while all around you enters suspended animation and your own breathing stops.
What puzzles me is that there is not a big-government liberal that I know that doesn’t identify with fear of the IRS. Every liberal I know tells the same stories that I tell about frustrations experienced in registering a car or renewing a driver’s license.
Yet these very same people with these very same real-world experiences with government will nevertheless support with blind faith just about any government program so long as the intentions of the program are sufficiently lofty.
Among liberals there never seems to be any connection made between their lofty beliefs and the actual down and dirty experiences of obtaining a vital service from the government. That it takes 20 minutes at a bank to open a checking account and obtain an ATM card because banks compete with one another; while, because lacking competition, the Texas DPS can make you wait an hour and a half in line at the DPS office and then four to six weeks by your mailbox for your new driver’s license; is utterly ignored by those on the left.
Apparently no consideration is ever given to the idea that with respect to obtaining health care, as just one example, the driver’s license experience is much more likely than the banking experience.
It boils down to who holds the cards. If it’s between you and the free market, you hold the cards. If it’s between you and the government, the government holds the cards.
When you, and millions like you, hold the cards, power is dispersed. When government holds the cards, power is concentrated.
And concentrated power will be abused. (See: ‘IRS Scandal.’)
The founders knew this. We would do well to be reminded.