It’s Legal for Politicians To Text You Spam

This past week, after a long hiatus from spam, because carriers are getting ever better at filtering out unwanted messages, my phone has been blowing up. The messages are from every manner of politician. They are raising money. Or trying to.

The numbers seem almost random, and changing, so there is no chance of blocking them. What’s more…

…whoops, just got another one…

You can type STOP but that only works for one number.

Another pops up immediately. I’ve been getting about 4 per day, making the SMS functionality of my phone almost useless, so I’ve turned off my notifications, meaning that I don’t get texts that I might need unless I specifically check.

I assumed that this was illegal, so therefore it’s rather amazing that politicians could get away with this. Thank you, Twitter, for correcting me on this point.

As it turns out, the nation has a very strict texting law on spam. Private companies have paid tens of millions in settlements. You can be liable for $500 per text — a figure that can seriously add up if you are sending bulk spams.

After all, the Wall Street Journal points out, the text to cellphones can be “a highly attractive medium for bad actors.”

Here’s the rub: by law, politicians campaigning for office are exempted, which is to say that the law protects their right to bombard you with texts. Incredible, right? Not believable? Here’s the FTC:

Exceptions to the law:

* Transactional or relationship types of messages. If a company has a relationship with you, it can send you things like statements or warranty information.

* Non-commercial messages. This includes political surveys or fundraising messages.

Stunning, even to someone like me who has the lowest possible expectations for the decency of lawmakers. I’m well aware of the hypocrisy of politics. As Bastiat never tired of pointing out, states legalize for themselves what they make illegal for the rest of us. You know, things like stealing, counterfeiting, kidnapping, fraud, and the like. For that matter, murder too. There is one law for them and one law for us, and yet they are also charged with enforcing the laws against us that they ignore for themselves.

Yes, the state is a weird institution.

Somehow, that my phone lights up with their fundraising pitches underscores the point in an especially salient way. Why would government assume that I need protection against texts from WalMart but I would be delighted by a text from Mitch McConnell?

Of course it is not really about protecting me from anything. It is about creating the appearance that I’m being protected from evil actors — but I need no protection from political texts because I should be absolutely thrilled to know that various politicos are seeking my money to fund their rackets, I mean campaigns.

Here’s the great irony: the law purporting to ban spam texts actually ends up permissioning the political class to break the terms of the law for themselves. Otherwise, technological innovation alone would likely have fixed this problem already.

Lacking any other solution, I will continue to type STOP to end whatever aspect of state intrusion I can. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same in a range of other areas in which politics intrudes into our lives?

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages, most recently The Market Loves You. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture. He is available for speaking and interviews via his email.  Tw | FB | LinkedIn

Republished with permission from the American Institute for Economic Research.


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