The Government Accomplice to Theft

Several years ago we had hay and straw stored in a barn a couple of miles away. Hans and I went over there to get some straw for the pigs and found that 600 bales of hay were missing. The sheriff came out and wrote on a notepad and looked at some tire tracks and said, “Hmmm.”

Todd Vincze, a 66-year old retired mechanic fled the flames in Paradise, California on his bicycle. He left behind his house, violins, guitars, guns, a Jaguar, a Lincoln, and all of his tools. He had his wallet.

Pacific Gas and Electric burned Todd’s belongings worth $380,000. The people who lost 85 loved ones can’t put a value on them. They were people. PG&E is a corporation. Todd suffers the double whammy of bankruptcy law and corporate law. Nobody is responsible.

While we individuals are expected to pay for what we receive from others, corporations are not. And if we individuals declare bankruptcy, we are not expected to pay either.

I recently wrote of Michael Moore’s disdain for corporations. I think Mr. Moore needs to go to the real source of the problem he has with corporations. It is easy to simply blame greedy executives when most of us have been cultivated by 12 years of school that teaches us to give up individual initiative to a perceived notion that bureaucrats know better. Corporations don’t violate the law, they take advantage of it.

The people who never paid for the timber we sold them nor the people who never paid for the pigs we sold them, were within the law to walk away from those debts. Bankruptcy law says government knows better than we do when an agreement holds water.

In Hampton a man formed a corporation and then walked away from his responsibility to maintain a building. Now the citizens of Hampton will pay $68,840 to clean up that mess.

I imagine these laws that shield thieves from prosecution were intended to stimulate economic activity by reducing risk. This is the same kind of thinking that goes into the concept of central banks that arbitrarily set low interest rates and FDIC (banking) insurance. Less exposure to consequences means poorly vetted business decisions.

What about Todd Vincze? What about those days Dawn, the kids, and I baled and stacked that hay? How about that night out at La Ambiguita that didn’t happen because the money went to tear down a building?

It is way past time for Grassley and Ernst and King to do their job and abolish all bankruptcy law and all corporate law. People should be required to uphold their end of an agreement. They should not be allowed to distance themselves through bankruptcy or corporate structures.

If the law simply prosecuted for fraud, contracts between all parties in business would be protected.

These changes would bring honesty to business. Hare-brained schemes would be discarded before they caused great harm. Power lines would be maintained to protect the livelihood of the managers.

The low electricity rates PG&E charged were the same as artificially low interest rates. They postponed costs and the prices paid later were disastrously high.