The Ol’ Regulation Folies

Not regulating industry is about like not regulating guns, and the incidence of adverse consequences is similar. Most corporations and gun owners behave responsibly, but the number who don’t create a hugely disproportionate share of our problems. These include enough gun deaths to make it seem like a civil war over here, and various kinds of industrial disasters that create major problems for nearly everyone on the planet.

A child is shot to death every day or two, often by another child who has found a loaded gun to play with. But the corporate benevolency agency called the National Rifle Association insists this is OK, because all Americans absolutely must be free to own as many uncontrolled deadly weapons as they wish to. It is anathema to this God-given right to even prevent the violent mentally ill from owning the military weapons that frequently kill children and bystanders by the dozen.

Regulation of industry protects everyone.

Industry isn’t quite so blatant with its homicides—usually. Industrial victims, aside from the workers in unsafe conditions who are maimed or killed, are often injured in insidious ways, whether or not they work for the guilty industry. Their health is affected, so they die, or at least their lives are compromised. Sometimes they become disabled. Sometimes they contact a chronic disease, like a lung or skin disease, or cancer. Sometimes they die from their injuries years later.

Sometimes the uncontrolled industry simply creates conditions that financially hurt people. Many people. So, from the essentially unregulated investment banking industry we enjoyed the fruits of the worldwide 2008 financial meltdown, the worst of which is still with us, and the industry remains inadequately regulated even six years later, with virtually none of its major miscreants punished. In fact, their CEOs “earned” many billions in bonuses last year, while everyone else’s pay has been stagnant or falling for decades.

The bloated financial industry
remains unpunished and unregulated
six years after trashing the world market.

China provided us with an onslaught of poisonous or dangerous unregulated products from lawless companies that killed Chinese and Americans for the sake of profit. Hundreds of workers in Bangladesh died in several accidents in poorly regulated industry. A new oil spill shut down 65 miles of the Mississippi River, a huge flood of toxic waste in Alberta from an oil company; the toxic fly ash flood in Tennessee; the recent water contamination in West Virginia; several other oil spills, one resulting in streets and family yards flooded with raw petroleum; mine and quarry runoff of arsenic and acid; coal sludge in North Carolina, complete with high levels of arsenic… The list is enormous and continuous, and only a few of the more recent ones are listed here. You already know most of them. If not, stick around. There will be another within the week, although the perps will try to keep it secret. They always do.

Virtually all of these could have been avoided if there were wise and reasonable control of the industries involved. Instead, conservatives insist that regulation hinders the universally benevolent effects of the Free Market.

Profit-driven corporate bosses basically
don’t give a damn about the rest of us.

The numbers of people injured or killed ranges runs to hundreds of thousands, and no Free Market benefit comes close to excusing that. Those at risk include virtually everyone on Earth, from the poisoning of the surface of the planet to the annual dumping of millions of tons of greenhouse gasses into the ever more overloaded atmosphere.

It seems to me that even the most thick-headed among us could see that the real cost to people is far greater than any possible profit to a few rich people at the top of the corporate ladder.

But of course that’s the problem.

Those corporate titans who are driven entirely by profit basically don’t give a damn about anything else, such as impoverishment of other people, depletion of resources, contamination of air and water, desecration of the planet, or compromised democracy. And conservatives entertain the fantasy belief that all industries will watch out for our interests if they are freed from the dangers of regulation. They won’t, obviously.


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