Dear USA Today: Companies Are Not 'Big Brother'

Editor, USA Today

Dear Editor:

Your editorial headlined “Our view on Black Friday: Is your cashier cranky? Big Brother may be watching” (Nov. 28) caused me to think that government is using private retailers to snoop on citizens. But no: you're referring simply to the fact that private retailers gather information electronically about how quickly their cashiers serve customers.

I have no idea whether such monitoring is a good or bad business practice. More to the point, despite your self-confident pronouncement to the contrary, nor do you. A great beauty of economic competition is that it DISCOVERS what consumers like and don't like. And it discovers this reality far more reliably than editor's-chair theorizing – or politicians'-chair theorizing – can ever do. Unlike the real Big Brother who relentlessly spies to make The People better serve him, information gathering by private enterprises not only is easily avoided, but is done to enable private enterprises to better serve The People.


Donald J. Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University and a Business & Media Institute adviser.