No “anti-concept” launched by the “liberals” goes so far so crudely as the [conservatives’] tag “consumerism.” It implies loudly and clearly that the status of “consumer” is separate from and superior to the status of “producer”; it suggests a social system dedicated to the service of a new aristocracy which is distinguished by the ability to “consume” and vested with a special claim on the caste of serfs marked by the ability to produce.
There is no such thing as “consumers’ rights,” just as there can be no “rights” belonging to some special group or race and to no others. There are only the rights of man—rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals. The right to be protected from physical injury or fraud belongs to all men, not merely to “consumers,” and does not require any special protection other than that provided by the criminal law . . .
If a businessman—or any other citizen—willfully and knowingly cheats or injures others (“consumers” or otherwise), it is a matter to be proved and punished in a criminal court. But the precedent which [the “consumer protection” movement] is here attempting to establish is the legal hallmark of a dictatorship: preventive law—the concept that a man is guilty until he is proved innocent by the permissive rubber stamp of a commissar or a Gauleiter.
What protects us from any private citizen who may choose to turn criminal and injure or defraud us? That, precisely, is the proper duty of a government. But if the government assumes a totalitarian power and its officials are not subject to any law, then who will protect us from our protectors? What will be our recourse against the dishonesty, vindictiveness, cupidity or stupidity of a bureaucrat?
If matters such as science are to be placed into the unanswerable power of a single bureau, what will guarantee the superior wisdom, justice and integrity of the bureaucrats? Why, the vote of the people, a statist would answer—of the people who choose the ruler who then appoints the bureaucrats—of the same people whom [he] does not consider competent to choose electric toasters, credit contracts, face lotions, laxative tablets or canned vegetables.
You propose to establish a social order based on the following tenets: that you’re incompetent to run your own life, but competent to run the lives of others—that you’re unfit to exist in freedom, but fit to become an omnipotent ruler—that you’re unable to earn your living by the use of your own intelligence, but able to judge politicians and to vote them into jobs of total power over arts you have never seen, over sciences you have never studied, over achievements of which you have no knowledge, over the gigantic industries where you, by your own definition of your capacity, would be unable successfully to fill the job of assistant greaser.