Return to “Consumerism”

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.

Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. Introduction copyright © 1986 by Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.


Excerpts from The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted with permission of Stein and Day Publishers. Excerpts from The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1971, by The Objectivist. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, copyright © 1957 by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, copyright © 1943 by Ayn Rand, and For the New Intellectual, copyright © 1961 by Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff, Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series. Copyright © 1976 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Alvin Toffler’s interview with Ayn Rand, which first appeared in Playboy magazine. Copyright © 1964. Reprinted by permission of Alvin Toffler. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.