THE NEW TOTALITARIANS
Attorney Jonathan Emord
May 10, 2010
The typical regulatory agency rests atop a mountain of rules it has created, enforces those regulations selectively, and denies the property and liberty rights of those it accuses without ever having to prove that the rule violations have caused harm to anyone and without ever having to account for the agency’s abuses. When law punishes those whose actions do not cause provable harm, the law is a tyrant.
There are some 83 federal agencies that enforce tens of thousands of regulations over American industry. There is no business that is free from federal regulation. The influence of regulators over Americans’ business affairs is far greater than that of any politician elected to office. Indeed, regulators have the luxury of ruling without need for election, without need for real accountability to Congress, and without ever having to answer in a serious way for agency abuses. The heads of the independent federal regulatory agencies are the New Totalitarians.
To be the head of an independent regulatory agency is to rule with imperial power over a segment of the American marketplace. No elected official possesses comparable power (none has, as do the agency heads, combined legislative, executive, and judicial power). The directors and commissioners who reign in their appointed positions are dictators who accuse, judge, and try. Their word is law and to violate it is to face their wrath, including fines, injunctions against sale, and incarceration. Consider one example from among several I could offer.
A number of years ago I watched a veteran who was awarded three purple hearts for being shot repeatedly while fighting for his country be denied his life’s savings by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). My client, a senior citizen, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. After unsuccessfully battling the disease, he prepared to die. With his attending physician’s blessings, he discontinued chemo and radiation treatments and went home to pass away. On the recommendation of a friend, he began consuming an herbal tea that he made himself. The tea made him feel a lot better. Incredibly, months passed by and he survived, getting stronger and not weaker contrary to the medical predictions. Then his cancer appeared to go away bit by bit. While he attributed his good fortune to the tea he made and drank voluminously, there is not one shred of scientific evidence to support its cancer curative effects.
At first, he and his family were amazed that while the treatments he received for his cancer were noncurative, the tea seemed to be doing what the drugs did not. Overwhelmed by the good news that he had been healed and confident that the tea cured him, he told his relatives his story. They asked him for the tea. He mixed the herbs at home and made batches for them but found that he could not afford to keep giving it away for free, and he did not want to part with the recipe which he confidently thought a true cancer cure. He was careful to tell people that he really had no idea whether the tea was the cure for his cancer but that he could not think of anything else that could have saved him.
He then took a step that proved fateful. He was told by a net savvy friend that he ought to post his story on the web and sell the tea along side it; then everyone could try it for themselves and see if it worked. He decided to do it, but was careful to state on the web site that his experience could be unique and that he did not have scientific proof that the tea cured his cancer or could cure anyone else’s. He thought he was doing people a favor by making it available. He thought if the tea cured his cancer, it might cure someone else’s.
He had no scientific proof to support his claims, but he did not realize that he had to have such proof to present his story and sell the tea. He did not claim to be a doctor. He did not claim that he had scientific proof. He only relayed his story. He was well meaning. If he sold all the tea he had for the price he asked for it, he would never become rich. If he erred, he did so without any intent to bilk people of money; he offered them their money back.
When I informed him that the FTC questioned his web posting, he said, “I don’t know what I have done wrong; what is it?” Nevertheless, he immediately removed the web site and stopped selling the tea. The FTC, however, did not consider that an adequate resolution. They also did not think it enough that he paid back everyone who purchased the tea (a very small number had actually purchased it). No, the attorneys at the FTC wanted him to pay a lot more, over one hundred thousand dollars to the agency.
I remember meeting with FTC attorneys concerning this matter. They accused my client of being a horrible person who meant to bilk poor cancer patients of their money by selling them an unproven snake oil. It was not enough that he pay back those who purchased the product, and it did not matter that there were very few purchases. They wanted him to suffer for his abuse.
explained that they had a wrong impression of my client. He was not
a hedonistic individual praying upon cancer patients, he was a war hero,
glad to sacrifice his life for his country. He proved that by repeatedly
returning to battle after suffering serious wounds from enemy fire.
He loved his country, and he thought he was doing people a favor by
revealing his story of success over cancer apparently caused by his
tea. I pressed the point, presenting to them his military record, explaining
to them his cancer diagnosis and dire prognosis and then his remarkable
recovery after ceasing conventional treatment and following months of
ingesting the tea. I explained that he proceeded from sincere motives,
made very little money from sales of the tea, had almost no money to
speak of but for some $50,000 he had saved over the years for his retirement,
and had immediately removed the web site and discontinued selling the
tea when he first heard from FTC. The FTC attorneys seemed to entertain
doubts about the harshness of their judgment, but they had no one to
answer to for their decision other than agency management.
My client had told me that he loved his country and would gladly do what was asked of him by his government. Days passed following the meeting. My client began to contemplate selling his house and his possessions to come up with as much money as he could to pay the FTC what it demanded (a sum that would not be covered even if he sold everything he had). I then received a call from an FTC attorney with the agency’s position. He said he had good news. The FTC would not require my client to pay the over one hundred thousand dollars originally demanded. Then came the punch line. Instead, the FTC would require that he turn over his life’s savings to the agency (the $50,000 he had saved over the years to help him retire). You should be pleased with this, the agency attorney told me; let your client know that the agency is giving him a break. This is a bureaucrat’s view of fairness.
To fight this judgment would require significant resources beyond my client’s ability to pay. More importantly, it would require him to change a fundamental belief that motivated him his entire life—love of country more than self. He so loved his country that he was willing to die for it; why then would he not be willing to give up his life savings if Uncle Sam asked for that? As he explained it to me, if his country wanted his money, he would make that sacrifice. He asked nothing for himself. He would die in poverty if that was what the government required.
So it was that the case settled with my client wiring to the United States Treasury his life’s savings. I know of several other instances of tyrannical abuses from federal agencies that have ruined the lives of respectable Americans. I find this one particularly galling because a country this hero was willing to die for could not, in return, respect that contribution and forgive him a slight error that harmed no one.
Subscribe to the NewsWithViews Daily News Alerts!
When unelected officials can take everything from a well meaning individual who has not harmed a soul, we know that liberty is at an end. We have reached that sad point in our history. It is time to end these abuses and replace the bureaucratic oligarchy that now rules so tyrannically with the limited federal republic that the founding fathers gave us in defense of individual liberty.
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved