Thursday, June 18, 2015

Payday Lenders In The Hands Of An Angry God

     As a libertarian by nature I really wish these anti-payday lending crusaders would lay off
Awful?  Yes
But Whose Arrogance Can Save Us From Ourselves?
(photo from
and let people live their own lives.  
But I guess some folks have an irrepressible need to save people from their own choices. It's kind of dismaying. The high moral dudgeon that seems to be propelling the hatred of payday lenders in this state has unified some otherwise antagonistic elements into a formidable bedfellowship that should give the payday lending industry the shivers.  Speaking from the left, that doyenne of our state's liberal blogosphere, Cory Heidelberger, has long been railing against payday lenders and is an unabashed supporter of a proposed initiative to put them out of business by capping interest rates and other charges at prohibitively low levels, effectively shutting down the industry. Cory's usury-hating compadres, "South Dakotans For Responsible Lending," are behind the initiative, which is already facing its first legal challenge, no doubt as part of an organized effort by the payday loan industry to delay the signature gathering process.  That has to be completed by this November 1 to get the measure on the November 2016 ballot.  
     One of the prime movers of the initiative (the other is Steve Hildebrand) is District 9 State Rep and clergyman Steve Hickey.  Hickey's Cotton Mather-esque propensity to run our society according to his personal moral code flared up here last year when his letter to the editor of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader blasted South Dakota physicians and psychologists for not speaking out against the evils of homosexual sex.  Having gotten nowhere with that comical effort, Hickey has since turned his attention to the much maligned payday lending industry, blaming it for many of the financial ills endemic to a segment of our communities.  Hickey's displeasure with the whole set-up
SD Payday Lender Chuck Brennan
Rich Guy That People Like To Hate
(photo from
is apparently aggravated by the fact that payday lenders make a ton of money.  That thundering bible-thumper of the 18th century Cotton Mather himself couldn't conjure up a more fire-and-brimstonish reaction, saying of the rich:  "Your very prosperity hurts you . . . you are every moment in danger of being seized by the formidable Justice of God for Eternal Burnings."

     Well heavens to Betsy.  What's a poor libertarian like me to do, now that our state's liberal elites have joined forces with one of its prime pulpiteers to gang up on a business that has left a lot of unhappy people in its wake?  Not much, I guess, except call attention to the fact that you can't legislate against people screwing up their own lives.  It's an unfortunate part of the process known as a free society.  I imagine that the evils perpetrated by the easy access to alcohol in our community are vastly more pervasive and socially costly than those created by payday lenders, but it's much easier to target the visibly rich profiteers in the latter industry, so off the moralists and nanny-staters go, smug in their self-righteousness and oblivious to the fact that they're doing away with a symptom, not a cause.  


  1. Funny—I don't feel like an elite. ;-)

    We cannot legislate people out of screwing up their own lives. Where there's a lack of will, there's a way.

    However, we can legislate against people like Brennan preying on people's propensity to make mistakes and profiting from locking them into those mistakes.

    1. Transparency and disclosure, keeping consumers informed about how the industry operates (the way you did with that graphic the other day), more extensive and easily accessible financial counseling services--all seem legislatively doable to me. Anecdotal incidents of financial ruin won't disappear if payday lenders are banned. Predators aren't going away, they'll just turn into other whackable moles. Much of this hostility toward the industry comes across as envy sugar-coated with self-righteousness to me.

  2. I uttered multiple "but ifs" as I read this, but your last sentence saved it all. Of course that assumes the legislature can be 'persuaded' to stop meddling with the minimum wage referendum. A circumstance that is, I'll be bound, mayhap, beyond their ability to resist.

  3. Ewwwwww! You mentioned the high apostle of hypocrisy Steve Hickey! You're in for it now! The self-proclaimed "holiest man in Pierre" shouldn't be troubled with such pesky Republican ideas of personal responsibility and free-market, or petition rules that he feels only apply to women.

    Is there any truth to the rumor Hickey is coming out of the closet and changing his party registration to the way he votes the majority of the time, as a D?