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It Is Time ­to Get Back To Basics

With everything in life, there are basic rules, instructions, directions, etc.  If one wants to participate in team sports such as rugby or football there are basic rules of engagement.  In other words, there are specific instructions on how different positions are played and how many team members can be on the field.  Also, referees are available to make sure that the games run smoothly, maintain law and order and to establish fair play and opportunity for both teams to do their best to obtain victory.

When I was in high school and played sports, our coaches were very tough, but fair.  One of the things our instructors stressed to the hilt, was knowing the fundamentals of the game.  Our head coach believed that the best teams were well versed in the fundamentals.  It was those fundamentals that kept us on the same page as a successful team.  They kept us disciplined, so that if we had to veer away from the playbook in order to outwit a more formidable opponent we would not falter.

Our teams consistently were in competition for the state championship of Ohio, thus proving our hard-nosed disciplinarian coaches to be correct in their thinking and approach.  They were not politically correct Mr. Rogers types.  We always expected to win and did win.  To this day, I have nothing but high regard and respect for our rugged coaches who taught that without the basics we could unravel as a team and individually.

Let us take a look at one of the world’s leading automakers, The Ford Motor Company.  During the days of Henry Ford, he demanded high quality automobiles at a reasonable price that most working class Americans could afford.  The Blue Oval Company has experienced a long history of many ups and a few downs as well.  During the 1970s and 1980s, Ford drifted away from the higher quality of vehicles the company had been known for.  Ford could have folded up and closed, leaving Americans with nothing more than memories of yet another manufacturer that bit the dust.

But in recent years, individuals like Bill Ford and a host of others believed that Ford could once again be on the leading edge of auto manufacturing.  They threw caution to the wind and put the company up for collateral in order to receive a substantial private sector loan.  Even the famous Blue Oval was part of the loan agreement.  It was do or die time for the company that had been known for better ideas. So, the insightful leaders at Ford spearheaded a two pronged approach to that company’s revival.

The Ford deciders pursued more innovations and more creative product designs and a much better quality of motor cars overall.  Thus the greatly improved quality and look of Ford automobiles has reestablished Ford as a global leader in auto production. One of the factors insuring Ford’s ascension has been a return to basics such as focusing on customer satisfaction and creating cars that customers enjoy looking at and driving.

Speaking of basics, let us turn our attention to the United States of America.  In the beginning, there was a struggle to disengage the colonies from the brutal iron grip of the tyrannical King George.  Thing really began to get underway soon after the Boston Massacre.  That is where Crispus Attucks a black colonist was shot and killed by the red coats. He was the first casualty of the Revolutionary War.  Soon after, more and more colonists began to catch the vision of liberty. They also came to realize that our rights come from God, not a king or government.

When the Founding Fathers and all of the liberty seekers set out to form a more perfect union, it was to be a constitutionally limited republic.  The government was to be of by and for the people.  America was founded to be a nation of sovereign individuals enjoying the blessings of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  “We the People” were to live our lives as self- governed moral individuals who didn’t need a nanny government to rule over us from cradle to grave, according to the fundamental or basics enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

The Founders repeatedly warned us about what would occur if we as a nation would drift away from the basics that were part of the framework our freedoms rested upon.  Samuel Adams said it best, in this letter to his colleagues.  “The sum of it all if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.  Then shall we both deserve it and enjoy it.  Whole on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though he form of our constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.

So here we are today, a nation decreasing freedoms, unraveling as we drift further away from the basic principles and fundamentals once utilized to help make America the envy of the world.  So the question is, will “We the People” prevail and reignite the basic fundamental principles that set this republic on the path to greatness, or settle for the sinking ship we are experiencing today?  The choice is ours.  Let us choose Providential guidance and true liberty, not tyranny.

© 2015 Ron Edwards – All Rights Reserved

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What Do the Tesla and the Model-T Have in Common? by George C. Leef

Henry Ford did a lot for the automobile in America. What everyone knows is that he figured out how to improve manufacturing efficiency so much that the auto was transformed from a toy for the rich into an item that ordinary people could afford.

(Nothing really extraordinary in that, by the way. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality“Under capitalism the common man enjoys amenities which in ages gone by were unknown and therefore inaccessible even to the richest people.”)

But very few people know that Ford had to fight against a cartel to be allowed to sell his vehicles. In this 2001 article published in The Freeman“How Henry Ford Zapped a Licensing Monopoly,” Melvin Barger goes into the fascinating history of Ford’s legal battle against the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM).

In 1895, an inventor named George Selden had received a patent for a gasoline powered automobile. That patent was later acquired by ALAM, which then said to everyone who wanted to sell a gasoline powered car, “You must pay us royalties for the privilege of selling such vehicles and if you sell without our license, we’ll take you to court for patent infringement.”

Ford had developed his auto without any knowledge of Selden’s patent and saw no reason why he shouldn’t be free to make and sell cars without paying ALAM for the right to do so.

So Ford thumbed his nose at ALAM and sold his cars without paying royalties. ALAM naturally sued him in an effort to keep its cartel going. The legal battles lasted from 1903 to 1911, when a federal appeals court ruled that the Selden patent only applied to vehicles made to its exact specifications. (That had actually been tried, with dismal results.) Ford therefore did not owe ALAM anything. He was free to continue putting his capital into making cars the public wanted without diverting even a dollar to appeasing a group of rent-seekers.

Turn the clock ahead a century, and we find that an innovative car company faces similar obstacles.

Substitute Elon Musk for Henry Ford and Tesla for Model-T and state dealer regulation for an extortionate patent scheme, but the stories are largely the same. ALAM didn’t want competition that might break up its cartel and neither does the established auto dealer system want innovative marketing upsetting its business.

In their January 2015 Mercatus Center paper “State Franchise Law Carjacks Auto Buyers,” Jerry Ellig and Jesse Martinez discuss the way established dealers have used their lobbying clout to stifle competition.

This post first appeared on Forbes.com.

George C. Leef

George Leef is the former book review editor of The Freeman. He is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.