This morning Capt Fogg brought my attention to yet another faux right wing scandal, Liberterrorism? The whole story is very simple: JPMorgan Chase is putting a limit of overseas money transfers for their small business account transfers—$50,000 per month. But this isn’t an actual limit on “small businesses”; it is a limit on “small business accounts.” It’s like a bank that says you can only make 5 account transfers on your economy personal checking account. If you want to do more, you pay for a more expensive checking account. You can get more details on the kerfuffle at Forbes, No, JPM Isn’t Banning International Wire Transfers, No Limits on Withdrawals Either.
I’m not sure that Capt Fogg is quite right to blame this right wing freak out on libertarians, however. It’s true that most of the conspiracy nuts do think of themselves as libertarians. There’s a natural link that runs the other way too (libertarians tend to gravitate toward conspiracies). Most libertarian thought is built on a misguided use of the slippery slope. If the government can demand taxes from people, what can’t they demand? Murder?! But in cases like JPMorgan Chase, most libertarians are especially not concerned.
One of my biggest complaints about libertarians is that they don’t actually care about liberty. They define it in such a way that one can end up a slave as long as one is not a slave to the government. I can’t tell you how many times libertarians have told me that corporate power over individuals doesn’t matter because the corporations don’t have armies. They can’t force you to do as they want. This is a bizarre claim. It assumes that threatened murder is the only kind of coercion that matters. (For more on this, see my article, Property Rights.)
So the idea that JPMorgan Chase might be abusing their customers is no problem at all. The standard libertarian argument goes like this: if the customers don’t like it, they can go with a different bank; if there is no other bank offering it, a great market opportunity will open up and it will become available; and even if not, they don’t have a gun to your head! I actually accept that argument in this case. The problems start when they talk about healthcare or a living wage.
Where this story really impacts with the libertarians is with the Federal Reserve. I’ll admit, what the Fed does is kind of mysterious. But for libertarians, it turns into a kind of Dan Brown novel. For these people, rather than trying to keep the economic system working efficiently, the people at the Fed are just trying to cause inflation to destroy the wealth of the “makers.” (Insert evil laugh here.) The fact that if anything, the Fed too much looks out for the interests of the rich, doesn’t seem to occur to them. As Matt Yglesias said, “If the unemployment and inflation rates were reversed, would the Fed do something about it?” Yes it would! Because it cares a whole lot more about those with money than those without it.
Forbes noted, “The fear is that banks, and indirectly, the federal government have too much control over individuals’ money which sits in the form of deposits.” Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with this change at JPMorgan Chase. But it feeds into what is overwhelming ignorance on the part of libertarians about how our monetary system works. Regardless of what conspiracies libertarians may believe in, all their thinking is distorted by focusing on imaginary or at least marginal problems and ignoring huge liberty-killing problems that we face right now.