Kafka’s The Trial is an orderly proceeding compared to the tribulations of the American poor. That’s bad news for the national economy.

When you’re poor and you owe money, you might find yourself in this situation:

On another call, Jimmy spoke with a man whose original debt was two hundred and sixty-eight dollars. The man claimed he had already paid another agency nine hundred and eighty-seven dollars to settle the matter. Jimmy didn’t seem surprised by this. When he opened his agency, he worked with a debt broker who – unbeknownst to Jimmy – had placed the same debt with several agencies simultaneously. Jimmy likened the situation to street hustlers who sell bootleg versions of a movie. “You don’t know what you have until you start working it,” he said.

The debtor had nothing in writing to prove that he had settled the debt. “You made, you know, a bad judgment in reference to paying that debt without any sort of written correspondence, Jimmy said firmly. “Pay the actual claim voluntarily or we’re going to process it as a refusal.” After getting off the phone, Jimmy said that collecting the debt was legitimate, but he suggested that the government should better monitor his industry.

Tell me that two different agencies could collect the same debt twice from GE or Blackstone or Goldman Sachs? Exactly.

American justice may be blind, but that’s of little consequence when the scales are being weighed down with bought judges and paid off legislators.

It is a pernicious fantasy that we have ever lived in a free market. We have always regulated commercial transactions to ensure not just fairness but also to advance our national interests.

I’d be happy to debate anyone who would argue that the companies that exploit the poor are growing the pie and/or fueling economic growth. What value do they create? They’re not even sorting out the market. How are they not simply driving consumers to reduce spending?

Sheltering such rent-seeking businesses is as productive as what the geniuses in Pyongyang do.