Owner Emptor

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Jeff
Elkins has contributed a
fine article
about Maurice Bessinger's unfair trade practices
lawsuit against grocery stores that discontinued stocking his barbecue
sauce. Bessinger's lawsuit resembles Curt Storey's, and I'd like
to add a few comments about their commonalities and implications.
(Kirk Lyons, who represents Storey, is also a participant in Bessinger's
lawsuit.)

Bessinger's
adversaries are a less than noble bunch. Constitutional coarseness
and historical superficiality characterize these wannabe commissars.
Notwithstanding their unpalatable traits, Bessinger's course of
action couldn't be worse.

Modeled
on the Federal
Trade Commission Act
, South Carolina's Unfair
Trade Practices Act
criminalizes "unfair or deceptive"
commercial choices. A criterion for violation in some cases is whether
the choice is "offensive to public policy or…immoral, unethical,
or oppressive."

This
is a nebulous, awful law that undercuts proprietary discretion.
No advocate of laissez-faire principles can endorse such an anti-capitalistic
policy.

In
a free society, no supermarket should be compelled to stock any
kind of product; it is elemental to ownership that an owner may
withhold inclusion of goods he considers objectionable. If a black-owned
supermarket doesn't want to stock Bessinger's sauce because its
ancestors fought in the United States Colored Troops against Bessinger's
ancestors, that's the owners' right; if an anti-imperialist supermarket
doesn't want to stock a "Kweisi Cola" because it objects
to someone whose name means "Conquering Son of Kings,"
that's the owners' right.

The
litigious impulse shared by Storey and Bessinger reflects a troubling
trend among pro-Confederates: the enlistment of statist institutions
to vindicate their creed. This is especially odd for those who profess
a highly decentralized political philosophy. A Confederate who invokes
Leviathan is like a Fidelista who venerates Hayek.

There's
surely a frisson in turning statist policies against statists –
the "How do you like dem apples?" tactic, so to speak.
Its proponents should realize, however, that this approach only
impedes the advancement of a truly Confederate creed. One cannot
esteem Alexander Stephens and then embody the Consolidationism he
deplored.

The
free market insures autonomous choice, not commercial prosperity.
Supermarkets' withdrawal of Maurice Bessinger's sauce is capitalism
at work, and he has no right to dictate otherwise. (Bessinger and
his allies could of course organize boycotts.) To modify the adage:
owner emptor.

September
1, 2001

Myles
Kantor [send him mail]
Myles Kantor is editor of FreeEmigration.com
and co-hosts “On Liberty” on WWFE-AM 670 in Miami, Florida Sundays
from 9pm-10pm. Learn more
about “On Liberty” here.

Myles
Kantor Archives

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