Notes From Babel

Obama’s Push For Credit Card Legislation Could Use Less Demagoguery

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I’ve noted elsewhere that, though I’m generally a supporter of free markets and freedom of contract, I think credit cards are something like an “attractive nuisance.” The present upsides are too enticing, and the latent traps are too understated. The credit card is an unnatural, unholy beast to begin with, so I have little problem with regulating them.

So, if it’s so easy to bash credit cards, why does Obama feel the need to conscript “rights” talk into his rhetorical campaign against them? Fox News reports that, just today, Obama said:

Americans . . . . have a right to not get ripped off by the sudden rate hikes, unfair penalties and hidden fees that have become all-too common.”

Certainly, “ripped off” is a self-serving term. If credit card companies were really ripping people off–i.e., breaking their contracts–they would be liable for, well, breach of contract, and we wouldn’t need new legislation. What he’s really getting at is that credit card companies shouldn’t be able to structure agreements that allow them to hike rates the way they do. And perhaps they shouldn’t.

But there is no “right” that any of us have to be able to have credit cards with terms all to our liking. At least, not until Obama and his Congress give us one. It is this loose talk about “rights” that keeps us all inebriated with a sense of entitlements–to afford an unwieldy mortgage, to have broadband internet, to full-coverage healthcare, etc.

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Written by Tim Kowal

May 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm

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