Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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Supposedly, what lies at the heart of the medical malpractice "crisis" is the Conservative principle of allowing a free and relatively unfettered market regulate itself and produce optimal rates, prices and efficiency. Of course, this is just made up stuff from Republican play-pretend land, where they actually care about things other than their rich friends and screwing anybody who has ever had to work for a living.

You see, putting a cap on medical malpractice liability isn't really about protecting doctors — no conservative will ever be able to provide even a shred of evidence that capping liability payouts will save doctors a plugged nickel — it is about taking the first step in regulating consumer rights. Medical malpractice "caps" (better called, "restrictions") are a ploy of the big insurance industries to destroy the ability of consumers to rightfully regulate producers in a Free Market setting. In other words, Republicans want to make sure the only people that are ever punished for anything ever are working people. Never big corporations.

It is a nice cake-having-and-eating situation Republicans have built around the Free Market. They say that liberals, Democrats, progressives, homosexuals, minorities, the poor, the kinda-poor, working mothers, trial lawyers, the disabled, Trekkies — whoever — want to burden the Free Market. They're afraid of it, Conservatives argue, because they can't hack it. So they want to use the guv'ment to control it, because they're so scared.

Of course, the Free Market would be impossible without the rule of law and respect for contracts. That is a pretty basic premise, wouldn't you say? I mean, if I could just go over to Bill Gates' house with my friend Brad (who is a very big, strong guy) and then me and Brad could just take his property (Brad being very strong), then seriously, what the hell? Why would Bill Gates even bother getting rich? But see, Brad and I can't do that. Because of the rule of law. It is pretty important. In fact historically, markets would shift away from central command kleptocracies into capitalist models only when a stable judicial system with enforceable contracts emerged.

If laws are the backbone of the Free Market, then business doesn't get to choose when courts are helpful and hurtful.

Over and over again, we hear about how slick, high-priced trial lawyers interfere with the Free Market, what with their slickness and high-pricedness. As if huge multinational corporations heroically represent themselves in court, ties loosened and suits rumpled, beseeching blood-sucking jurors to remember the Free Market.

However slick and evil you may think consumer-rights lawyers are, the scum of the earth are corporate lawyers, whose sole job it is to see how much the richest people in the country can get away with, at the expense of taxpayers, consumers and, most often, small business.

So not only is the assault on the legal system ridiculous, but arguments about the sanctity of the Free Market are wholly nonsensical. Firms that are guilty of endangering consumers are by definition inefficient firms — in a marketplace based on consumption, producers that do not "vet" their products before they hit the marketplace — and then subsequently sap taxpayer money with lengthy court proceedings, often factored into the cost of production — are less efficient than producers who can produce good, quality products and keep the marketplace moving, innovative, and safe.

Consumer confidence goes down when there are repeated horror stories about shoddy products. When producers are guilty of reducing consumer confidence — and therefore production — then they are adversely affecting the market, due usually to their disproportionate size, given today's trend toward corporate consolidation.

So what am I trying to say? Quit whining, robber barons. You don't have it good enough yet? Your Golden HoverLimo needs an eighth plasma TV? Take it easy.

These Ayn Rand-ites will say, "Well, maybe corporations use the most high-priced lawyers to tilt the market in their favor using a taxpayer funded infrastructure that protects the rule of law. So what!? At least they did it on their own..." Well, before you go into a Patti LaBelle song, stop to think about how functionally brain-dead defenders of "tort reform" are.

Did it on their own? They imagine the lonely entrepreneur defending himself against hordes of unscrubbed consumers, when in reality these huge corporations (which are the result of wealthy investors banding together) usually then join together themselves — in business associations that are really just lobbying groups to defend the interests of the rich. What the hell do you think the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does? However much labor unions give to Democrats, the US CoC at least quintuples that figure in donations to the Republicans, to these fake "grassroots" anti-consumer groups and other right wing causes. The Chamber of Commerce, and other such business associations, are just cowardly corporations too lazy or scared to operate efficiently in a Free Market banding together to defend their bad practices.

That is contrary to the Free Market.

That is contrary to Capitalism.

That is essentially Corporate Communism.

That really, really pisses me off.

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About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon covers and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at .

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