FTC Investigates, Intimidates, & Bullies Piano Teachers

Many times when I hear of government corruption, it fits, in my own mind, into some kind of coherent strategy. For example, the IRS harassment of conservative or tea party groups is easily explained as a method for helping Democrats and hurting Conservatives in the 2012 election.

But sometimes there is no plan or rationale. Power is exercised for its own sake. People don’t bully or damage others as a means to an end. Hurting others is an end in itself.

Perhaps you can explain to me some bigger aim in what the Federal Trade Commission has done to the Music Teachers National Association. Right now. I can’t see it. This is just the thrill of the kill for the FTC.

From Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal:

In March of this year, a small nonprofit in Cincinnati—the Music Teachers National Association—received a letter from the FTC. The agency was investigating whether the association was engaged in, uh, anticompetitive practices…

The association’s sin, according to the feds, rested in its code of ethics. The code lays out ideals for members to follow—a commitment to students, colleagues, society. Tucked into this worthy document was a provision calling on teachers to respect their colleagues’ studios, and not actively recruit students from other teachers.

That’s a common enough provision among professional organizations (doctors, lawyers), yet the FTC avers that the suggestion that Miss Sally not poach students from Miss Lucy was an attempt to raise prices for piano lessons. Given that the average lesson runs around $30 an hour, and that some devoted teachers still give lessons for $5 a pop, this is patently absurd.

MTNA Executive Director Gary Ingle, who has been at the organization 17 years—and who agreed to talk when I reached out about this case—said that he and the group’s attorneys immediately flew to Washington to talk to federal investigators. They explained that this provision had been in the group’s code for years, and that it was purely aspirational. The association has never enforced its code, and no member has been removed as a result of it.

The FTC didn’t care. Nor did it blink when the MTNA pointed out that the agency has no real authority over nonprofits (it is largely limited to going after sham organizations) and that Congress has never acted on the FTA’s requests for more control over 501(c)3 groups. Nor was the agency moved by the group’s offer to immediately excise the provision. The investigation would continue.

The MTNA did not have nearly enough resources to hope to fight the FTC Psychos in court, so it settled after its staff spent hundreds of hours complying with the bureaucratic version of a New Mexican rolled stop sign arrest.

[T]he MTNA staff still had to devote months compiling thousands of documents demanded by the agency, some going back 20 years: reports, the organization’s magazines, everything Mr. Ingle had ever written that touched on the code.

And what do people in Congress care about? They want to warn us of dangers that are virtually non-existent and that are far away from us. These villains are allowed to abuse power, intimidate subjects citizens, and coerce compliance from law-abiding productive people in society. The entire alphabet soup from the FTC to the EPA to the FDA—all of it!—should be abolished pure and simple. Yesterday! If we can’t enforce law and order with normal courts and normal laws that Congress can make without creating and empowering these executive/legislative hybrid bureaucracies, then we simply don’t need that much law and order.

In fact, it isn’t law and order at all. It is anarchy. The FTC is making up rules and destroying the remains of peaceful civilization in North America.