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News Link • Unintended Consequences

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation …

• C4SS / Thomas L. Knapp

… I’d like to thank the porn industry.

Yes, really.

According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press and reported on at Politico, “top staffers” at the Securities Exchange Commission used Internet pornography to … um, get a grip on themselves … as the US economy ground toward collapse in 2008:

One SEC attorney in Washington kept burned CDs and DVDs of pornography downloaded on his government computer — the hard drive of which was filled by explicit material …. Another SEC employee was blocked access from [sic] pornographic websites more than 16,000 times in one month …

According to another version of the report, that attorney above “spent up to eight hours a day” — in other words, his full workday — building his porn collection.

Naturally this report has been greeted by considerable moralizing, complaining and posturing.

But I’m grateful.

Yes, really.

Yes, it’s an abusive waste of taxpayer money to furnish someone with a state-of-the-art PC and a high-speed Internet connection and then pay him $200,000 per year (at least 17 of the investigated employees were in that salary range) to sit in front of that PC and flog the dolphin.

But think of the alternatives! What if they’d been doing their jobs? The very idea sends chills running down my spine and cues up cheesy horror-flick music in the back of my head.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is “an independent, quasi-judicial regulatory agency” charged with administering the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act of 2006.

To put it a different way, the SEC’s primary mission is selective restraint of trade for the benefit the political class.

If your company is well-connected in Washington, the SEC’s job is to grease the skids for, and give a patina of regulatory “credibility” to, your latest cockamamie scheme for defrauding the public — “Mortgage-Backed Securities,” for example.

If your company isn’t well-connected in Washington, the SEC’s job is to wrap you in miles of red tape, throw you in the Potomac, and push your head back under the water if you manage to surface for air — whatever it takes to keep you from competing with the previously mentioned class of companies.

If the SEC’s 4,000 or so employees had spent eight hours a day doing their jobs for the last 75 years, we’d be royally screwed. The economy wouldn’t have collapsed in 2008 because there wouldn’t have been any economy left to collapse by 2008. Half the securities traders in America would be in jail on charges of Contempt of Bureaucrat and the other half would be gaily hawking derivatives backed by your presumed rate of toejam production or the probability of a monkey hitting three 20s in a row at darts (said derivatives duly approved by the SEC, of course).

The absolute best result that we can expect from a government regulatory agency is that it will function as a slight drag on the economy — dead weight. After we shell out money to build the fancy office, hire some secretaries for the bureaucrats to sexually harass, send them out on a Best Buy shopping spree and put them on their monthly welfare check, if we’re lucky the worst that will happen is that they’ll content themselves with Internet porn, outrageous salaries and obscene fringe benefits, and otherwise keep pretty much to themselves.

If we’re not lucky, they’ll decide to try and actually do whatever it was they were supposedly hired to do, and that’s when things get really stupid. A bureaucrat on a crusade makes a bull in a china shop look like … like … well, like something not as bad as a bull in a china shop.

And so, I salute the membership of the Securities and Exchange Commission chapter of Porn Connoisseurs International — not for anything good they did, but for harm they avoided doing. If we avoid a second Great Depression, we may have them (and the staff of PicHunter and YouPorn) to thank.
 
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C4SS News Analyst Thomas L. Knapp is a long-time libertarian activist and the author of Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed, an e-booklet which shares the methods underlying his more than 100 published op-ed pieces in mainstream print media. Knapp publishes Rational Review News Digest, a daily news and commentary roundup for the freedom movement.

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