Paul A. Ibbetson
Recognizing the scent of lemons: thoughts from the free market
By Paul A. Ibbetson
August 28, 2009

Recently I did something I don't do very often, I bought a new car. No, this is not a "cash for clunkers" story, but a brief look at the serious challenges that are faced by the free market in America from the Barack Obama administration.

Now, buying a new car, whether it's a brand spanking new car, or just a new to your car, involves a familiar procedure that we often refer to as the "dance," or the "game," or whatever signifier people use to explain how free-markets work in the buying and selling of things. It usually starts with the covert car lot trolling, which escalates to the commando-style deployments to check sticker prices, with the option to retreat to 'escape vehicles' to avoid the salespeople that seem to appear like wraiths from nowhere to begin their overly-happy greetings and the beginning of the all too familiar sales pitch process. If you have been there and done that, then you have probably made it to the advanced stages of the car buying process, which includes the test drives and the gritty back room negotiations, which usually involve the tag-team process of the salesman (always trying to get you the best deal — wink, wink) and his hard nose, but fair, supervisor, who must be privately consulted with repeatedly by the salesman, as you haggle your way to an amicable conclusion.

Now you might think I'm complaining about the process, which would be quite to the contrary. In fact, not only do I think the free market process of buying cars is the best game in town, I submit that the same supply and demand, give and take, process we see in the free market is what makes America uniquely great in all facets of life. Think about it. As with the investment of dollars for a car, Americans invest their time, labor, and even their vote, into the people and products they want to fulfill their services and needs. It's at times hard work and we all have experienced a few ibuprofen moments, but it's a fair system that works better than anything else on the planet.

The reason the free market works, and why it's worth fighting for, can be easily seen by simply looking at the car buying (free market) process. In America, the buyer has the freedom to 'talk' and the freedom to 'walk.' That is, you can always — and I repeat, always — ask questions and kick the tires. If, heaven forbid, the buyer smells the "scent of lemons" on the 'gem' of a product being offered, he or she can take his or her money on down the road. That's called freedom, and it has been the catalyst of improvements and innovations within the free market for the life history of this country.

The Barack Obama administration is attempting to turn this successful, time-tested, process on its head. Yes, they have products too. The latest products coming from the White House are Obama care and Cap and Trade — and many new models still to be brought out on the show room floor. However, with the Obama administration, they appear to be most fond of the 'no questions asked' purchase policy, and when the American people start to drive through the details of the president's new policies and complain about the 'scent of lemons,' things start to get downright nasty. Not only has the administration demonized those who would bring about questions on why we should or should not buy into what the president is selling, it now appears that the American people may not be given the choice of taking their money and moving on down the road for something better. This little maneuver on a good day is called socialism, but after you drive it for a while, you see it really handles much more like communism.

For most Americans, the last several months have reinforced the true meaning of the slogan "buyer beware." However, for those still in doubt, I would submit that if we wish to maintain the free market in this country, we must collectively stand up and stamp "No Sale!" on the anti-free market initiatives of Barack Obama.

© Paul A. Ibbetson


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Paul A. Ibbetson

Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books and is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 award winning, Conscience of Kansas airing across the state. Visit his website at For interviews or questions, please contact


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