Government can muddle simple affairs

By Tibor Machan: Freedom New Mexico columnist

In matters of ethics, one is best equipped to understand when one is close up. Politics is different, as is law, although one reason for having courts is to hash out cases with all the details on view. Otherwise misjudgment lurks nearby.

A recent incident brings to light how business ethics bears on our day-to-day affairs and how it is really impossible to handle these the way so many people would like to, namely via government regulation.

Someone near me found a TV repairer on the Internet and made an appointment, after trying to make sure the repairer knew a thing or two about the set in need of work. An appointment was made for 11 a.m. Sunday.

By noon it was evident that something went astray — the repairer got lost or met with some mishap. But once reached by phone it turned out he wasn’t lost or anything. He was just delayed for reasons the customer didn’t need to know. He said he would be there by 2 p.m. at the latest.

By 3:30 p.m. another call went out but only a voicemail answered it. The customer indicated some irritation with having to wait so long without being informed as to the new time or the cause of the delay. At 5 p.m. the repairer finally called saying the deal was off, he would not be there to fix the TV.

Now there is and should be nothing illegal about what the repairer did, anymore than there is or ought to be anything illegal when people fail to keep their promises. Still, failing to keep a promise can be quite costly. In this case, the cost was that the customer had to just sit and wait, unable to leave the house.

Now with thousands of this kind of malpractice quite a lot of losses could be chalked up, not to mention the irritation. So the temptation often arises to bring in some kind of law enforcement.

But the customer here was asking for the mess since there was no reason to just accept the repairer’s word in the first place. And even if that was all that was convenient, there is still some kind of recourse through an outfit such as the Better Business Bureau. So, clearly, bringing in any kind of legal authority would be (a) unjustified and (b) impractical.

There are zillions of these minor mishaps in commerce, often easily seen as the fault of one or another party to a verbal deal. And that is to be expected, after all, in multilayered commercial relations, where tripping up is possible on so many fronts.

The customer in the above case cut the losses and went on to get service elsewhere. And that is just what these minor or even major business ethics infractions need — not some bureaucracy pretending it can rectify matters.

Freedom does not promise perfection by a long shot. But those who insist on perfection are themselves being irrational and fail to realize that bringing in governments just makes things worse, in the main. That’s because governments use coercive force from which human affairs very, very rarely benefit!

Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at: