Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reject Togiola's Compromise

If the business community wants to help in creating a positive environment for all enterprises to grow, they would reject Governor Togiola's idea of a compromise on the container inspection policy. The governor plans to allow some importers "some leeway" in getting their containers inspected as long as he deems them "honest". Such a policy is an invitation for corruption and would do more to worsen an already bad business climate.

How long will it be before some businesses can buy the "honest" label? How long before the family and friends of the Togiola administration can get a pass while everyone else has to wait in line? How long will it take before local businesses get smart and use this policy against each other and foreigners? If history is anything to go by, it won't be long at all.

Even if "honest" businesses get a pass in this effort to streamline the process, Treasurer Gaea P. Failautusi would still have to conduct a random inspection to keep them honest. Since that will be the case, why won't the governor take the business community's advice and conduct random inspections instead?

Short of applying random inspections across the board, the governor has to either do 100% inspections or none at all to maintain fairness to all importers. But I think he is more concerned with breaking up the opposition than he is with doing what is right.

If that is the case, businesses would do well to reject his compromise and forgo his leniency.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Arrogance of Power

If Larry Fuss decides to take the Togiola administration to court over the container inspection policy, I will personally write the man a check. The ASG doesn't appear to be interested in doing what is best and reasonable for all concerned: businesses, consumers and even the government with regards to revenue collection! It's instead engaged in a turf war, which the administration is determined to win no matter the costs.

Despite the apparent folly of this policy, Treasurer Gaea P. Failautusi could have been right. Containers could have been inspected in a timely fashion. Businesses could have been able to pay for their imports and restock their shelves at a cost so insignificant that they would not "threaten" to pass them along to their customers. But the policy has run its course long enough to prove that neither is true.

Even if store shelves in American Samoa weren't going empty or prices for imports like sodas weren't going up, the fact that businesses balked at the proposal should have given any reasonable person pause to think things through.

Why? Because business survival relies heavily on low costs and timeliness. The role costs play is quite apparent. On the other hand, it may seem hard to see why time also means money. Lost time can mean the expiration of goods. Lost time can also mean lost opportunity to serve a customer or to expand services.

If the container policy wasn't costly or very slow for that matter, why wouldn't a majority of businesses embrace it? To avoid paying excise taxes on undeclared goods? That hardly seems reason enough to confront a hostile government over something that should otherwise be insignificant. Some in the business community even suggested what might be more efficient and fairer measures to revenue collection.

But the Togiola administration doesn't want to hear any of this. This is what happens when we give power to the government to operate a function that shouldn't be its role. A port operated by a for-profit company wouldn't slap the hand that feeds it. I imagine it would want to impose fees on the most customers as possible and invest in the necessary equipment to ensure users don't cheat on their bills or bring in illegal contraband.

Unfortunately, some see "might" as being "right". It's an arrogance of power that is seriously incompatible with a free market and a free people.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

George Washington Supported Open Immigration

Dear Tali,

I have come across a book by Richard Brookhiser titled What Would the Founders Do?: Our Questions, Their Answers, originally published in 2006, (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2007 paperback edition).

On pages 175-76, it points out that George Washington was an avid supporter of open immigration. He did not mind at all that a competent immigrant might "steal the job" of a native-born American. As Brookhiser details,

In 1784 George Washington was in the market for a carpenter and a bricklayer. He asked Tench Tilghman, one of his wartime aides, to scour a boatload of Germans that was due to land in Baltimore for the proper workmen. "I would not confine you to" Germans, he added. "If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, Jews, or Christian of any sect -- or they may be atheists." Washington was laying it on for comic effect; he is saying, hire anybody who can put boards or bricks together. But there is no reason to think that if Tilghman had found a Muslim bricklayer, Washington wouldn't have hired him.

Washington wrote those words to Tilghman from Mount Vernon on March 24, 1784. You can see the PDF of that letter here. It says,

I am informed that a ship with Palatines [Germans] is gone up to Baltimore, among whom are a number of tradesmen. I am a good deal in want of a house joiner [carpenter] and brick-layer who really understand their profession, and you would do me a favor by purchasing one of each for me, if to be had, I would not confine you to Palatines [Germans]; if they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mahometans, Jews or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists. . . . I do not limit you to a price, but will pay the purchase money on demand.

There you have it. Open immigration was good enough for the Father of this country.