And not just ethics—music teacher ethics.
Like many professions, music teachers regard it as uncollegial, unprofessional and wrong to poach another music teacher’s clients—that is, little Marvin who’s learning the violin, or little Patrice who is practicing the piano. Thus the tiny Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) included a provision in its code of ethics condemning such conduct, and declaring that no ethical music teacher sets out to actively recruit another studio’s or teacher’s students.
Regulators are hired to regulate, which means, though big government fans refuse to admit it, that we have tax-payer funded government employees who spend their time looking for ways to justify their existence. One such employee at the Federal Trade Commission must have really been desperate, because the MTNA received an official letter from the FTC announcing that because of the association’s ethical ideals, the 22,000 member group of mostly piano teachers was under investigation for fostering non-competitive practices that would lead to price-fixing. Yes, the Feds find professional courtesy suspicious. Can’t have that.
This came as a shock to the association, since…
- The Code of Ethics had been around since the association was founded,
- It was aspirational only,
- That provision about poaching had never been enforced or the basis for a complaint,
- This was incredibly stupid.
That part, at least, should not have been a surprise.
The association’s management flew to Washington. It explained all of this. It also explained that the FTC has no authority over non-profits, and indeed exceeded its power by sending the letter. As we know, however, the current version of the U.S. government doesn’t really pay much attention to laws, limits on power or that Constitution thingy. The MTNA doesn’t have the resources to engage in a fight with the feds over principle, so it capitulated and eliminated a perfectly reasonable ethical exhortation from its ethics code. Nonetheless, the MTNA staff still had to spend thousands of hours compiling the mound of documents, going back decades, that the FTC demanded, including reports, publications and anything ever written regarding the code.
In October, the MTNA had to sign a consent decree, neither admitting nor denying guilt. As part of the agreement to get the FTC out of its business that the agency has no legal right to be involved in anyway, the association must have a statement read out loud at every national MTNA event, warning members against collusion on pricing or making agreements not to steal each other’s students. That statement must also be sent to the membership and and posted on the MTNA website. All of the association’s more than 500 affiliates must also be so educated, and the MTNA has to require them to sign compliance statements.
Wait, I’m not done yet.
Then the association has to develop and put in place a detailed antitrust compliance program, including annual training for its leadership regarding the non-existant but insidious threat of anti-competitive piano teaching practices. (Think about it: the average cost of music lessons is 30 bucks an hour. How much price-fixing could there be?) The MTNA then must submit regular reports to the FTC and appoint an antitrust compliance officer. The requirements of the consent decree will be in effect for the next 20 years.
By then, of course, the momentum of statism as seeded by the Obama administration will have made this unnecessary. By that enlightened time, a yet unchartered federal agency, probably championed by fourth term President Elizabeth Warren, will tell families which of their children can study which musical instruments, and provide government lessons for those deemed worthy at taxpayer expense. After all, there is a right to be a musician and to be able to join a musician’s union, and the old-fashioned music teachers were practicing discrimination by insisting that students pay anything at all.
I know–I sounded like conservative rant-master Mark Levin just then. One can only shrug off as trivial aberrations so many examples of government abuse of power and outrageous interference with our enjoyment of life, however, before you have to begin wondering:
What kind of people have we placed in power and are allowing to bully and command us this way?
Why do so many Americans entrust their welfare to people whose judgment is this wretched, and whose sense of proportion is so warped?
Could there be any regulatory conduct more cowardly and despicable than picking on tiny associations of innocuous professionals, while banks, stockbrokers and investment houses largely escaped any consequences from the toxic practices that led to the economic meltdown in 2008?
What will it take for a majority of voters to perceive that government micro-managing of every aspect of our lives is strangling the nation’s spirit, prosperity, and joy?
Are big government progressives really unable to see the danger that an incident like the MTNA mugging illustrates, do they see it but think it’s fine, or do they just not care about the collateral damage to liberty as they push on to their idea of utopia?
Yes, it is just a a bunch of piano teachers, and most of us will shrug and say, “Hey, it’s not my problem.” I abhor cliches, so I won’t bore you with the well-known quote about the ultimate consequences of such thinking, but you should know the one. If it isn’t our problem yet, it will be. All we have to do is sit back and wait.
Pointer: Legal Ehics Forum
Facts: Wall Street Journal
Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.