Courtesy of Sov Man's Simon Black, here are several of the most bizarre legal anecdotes to take place in the US and around the globe over the past week, staring with a bill currently making its way through Congress, which is seeking to wipe out over $1 trillion in student loans.
* * *
A Convenient Way to Cancel a Trillion Dollars of Debt
Bankruptcy is like the ultimate get out of jail free card. You just get to wipe the slate clean, and even though your credit score and ability to borrow might suffer, you are free from all your previous obligations. But student loans have long been exempted from being erased by bankruptcy.
If this bill passes Congress however, hundreds of billions of currently delinquent student loans, potentially as much as $1.4 trillion worth of student loan debt...
.... would be eligible to be wiped out by declaring bankruptcy.
As the number of those defaulting on their student loans grows, this provision could be widely used by those seeking to escape their college debt.
What this means:
The government has helped raise the costs of college and basically scam people into accepting their loans, so it is easy to be sympathetic towards those with student loans. But still, it is messed up to allow people to discharge debts they agreed to pay.
There might be a little piece in most of us that doesn’t mind seeing what we consider a predatory lender get screwed and be left with the bill.
But apart from the overall immorality of failing to pay your debts, since the government owns most of the student loans, it would basically be the taxpayers getting screwed over once again. What a surprise.
Basically if massive amounts of debt were erased, it would be another bubble bursting, which would send the U.S. into a fresh round of economic instability.
The economy would spiral downward in relation to how many people took advantage of their get out of jail free card.
* * *
Criminal Consequences for Filming on Private Property?
If you sneak beer into a football stadium, you have explicitly broken a stadium rule. You might expect to be kicked off their private property for this transgression. But what if instead you got a year in prison?
That’s what an Idaho “Ag Gag” law did; made it illegal to take photographs or videos on private property without permission from the owner. It also made it illegal to gain access to private property through misrepresentation, for instance an undercover reporter seeking a job. Violation of the law was punishable by a year in prison and/ or $5,000 fine.
The law was drafted and sponsored by The Idaho Dairymen's Association after a video came out showing horrible abuse of cows at a dairy in Hansen Idaho. The video was taken by an employee of Mercy for Animals conducting an undercover investigation.
The bill quickly passed the legislature and was signed by the governor, but was then struck down on the grounds that it violated free speech, and equal protection for employees who may be ensnared attempting to document unsafe working conditions.
The state appealed, and now the the courts will decide whether or not to reinstate the law.
What this means:
Private property owners surely have the right to kick someone off their land or seek civil damages for having their rules broken. But it is going entirely too far when the government is used as a henchman to enforce rules on private property that prohibit actions which are otherwise legal.
Rarely is a law passed in such an obvious effort to stifle the public’s ability to see what is happening behind the scenes in food production.
The government claims it regulates these industries, yet private organizations were the ones who brought the abuse of animals to light. But the government was more interested in supporting the dairy lobby than doing their job.
So how does the government solve the issue of the public taking regulation into their own hands? Make it illegal!
It is important to respect private property, but the government has no business enforcing criminal code for the violation of private rules.
If you don’t want people to film your property, then don’t allow them onto it in the first place. Or maybe just behave in a way that you aren’t afraid of the public seeing.
* * *
Can’t Find an Investor? Force the Taxpayers to Fund Your Startup!
Nothing screams success-in-the-making like failing to fund your startup in the private sector, and having to beg the government for money. This is especially true as America is at the peak of the startup bubble, on the heels of easy money pouring countless millions into less than spectacular business ideas.
What does the government do when it sees a good bubble? Blow it bigger! How could something so enchanting ever burst?
The feds want to get in on startups, and start investing in entrepreneurs. After all, they are the ones who created the artificially low interest rates on lending by printing all this money ever since their last major financial bubble popped.
The government’s latest shenanigans is a bill in Congress that would spend tax dollars on startups and entrepreneurship, pouring grant money into “resources and services” for the “formation and early growth stages” of a company.
For the taxpayers, you will get all the exciting risk of investing, without any possible returns!
What this means:
As if there wasn’t enough money pouring into silly businesses without any real potential. At least those in the private sector lose their own money when they invest in stupid businesses, but now the taxpayers could be robbed to do the same. But if a startup can’t get funding in the private sector, it is probably for a good reason.
For the politicians, they can say that they created jobs… even if the jobs only last six months. That’s the thing about government; they highlight the initial benefits of their actions, and somehow forget to report back later on the lack of sustainability or unintended consequences of these genius ideas.
And even if the government could pick winning companies, that literally amounts to stealing your money and handing it out to private businesses.
But they can’t, and so the money they take from the taxpayers will more likely be misappropriated into the next Pets.com style failure.
* * *
You Are Liable For Your Employees’ Actions in Australia
It would make sense if McDonalds was responsible for making sure their employees don’t sell drugs on their premises. But what if the fast food chain had to make sure their employees weren’t dealing drugs once they clocked out, and left McDonald's property? That would be a pretty huge liability for McDonald's, which would basically have to hire a full on internal investigations police force to make sure they weren’t blamed when one of their employees got caught pushing drugs.
Sounds ridiculous, yet many governments shift their policing responsibility to companies, and simply threaten them with fines if the business does not perform the government’s investigatory job for them.
Australia is doing just that, putting the burden of policing on companies, with new proposals to expand laws against foreign bribery in business. Under the proposals, companies would be responsible for preventing their employees from bribing foreign governments, even if the employee is not acting in official capacity, and even if there was no specific gain for the company.
So this means Australian companies will need to somehow prevent employees not only from acting illegally on behalf of the company, but also from conducting any illegal activity in their own personal lives that involves foreign governments.
What this means:
Basically this is a huge disincentive to doing business overseas if you own an Australian company. The new proposals create numerous costly liabilities and add substantial risk to international operations.
Under the proposals the company who employs the person accused of bribing a foreign official would be automatically held accountable. The rules specifically say that the employee does not have to be acting on behalf of the company, and could be ensnared for bribing for the sake of personal gain.
The safest bet would be for Australian companies to simply not operate internationally. Of course that seems like suicide in a modern global market.
Perhaps the proposed regulations are Australia’s way of disincentivizing foreign trade and promoting nationalism. But they risk crippling their worldwide competitiveness the more they burden Australian companies with doing the government’s policing duties.