Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the goodof its victims may be the most oppressive.—C. S. Lewis

On a rainy day in October 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau held a hearing on debt collectors at the Seattle Public Library, an angular, gravity-defying profusion of glass and steel just four blocks from my office. I was one of a few hundred people who attended. The hearing was organized as a panel discussion, with a long table crossing the floor at the front of the room. Five representatives of collection agencies sat on the right side; five consumer activists on the left. In the middle of the long table sat Consumer Bureau director Richard Cordray and, to his left, then–deputy ...

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