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Mines explode, therefore we shouldn't have freedom

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CNN is doing a good job of running "this is all the fault of Reganite free-market deregulation!" pieces all day on the mine explosion ordeal. I've already encountered at least two co workers who seem convinced that this is some sort of argument against capitalism. Anyone else experiencing this?

hxxp://mugsysrapsheet.com/2010/04/07/massey-mine-disaster-debunks-self-regulating-free-market-myth/

You hear it all the time. Some self-proclaimed “Libertarian” or “Free-Market Republican” will argue against “government regulation” and insists that “corporations will always do what is in the best interests of the community because their survival depends upon it.” That’s the very cornerstone of “Free Market” ideology. Ron Paul built his political career upon it. If the mining disaster in West Virgina yesterday proves anything, it is that without government regulation, big business will skirt safety and gamble with peoples’ lives so long as the cost of the occasional disaster is less than the cost of prevention.

In the 1970’s, it was discovered that the Ford Motor Company had known of a problem with exploding gas tanks on their Ford Pinto for years, but had decided that it was cheaper to pay victims “hush money” than fix the problem. Ford did not fix the problem until the Federal Government found out in 1978, forcing them to recall over 1.5 million vehicles… a record that (I believe) lasts to this day.

Reports of 600 safety violations at the Massey Mine in just the past 18 months are emerging. Yet, in 2008, one of Massey’s subsidiaries paid the largest fine in the history of the industry… $20 million dollars… for “clean water violations”, not safety violations.

Corporations are NOT benevolent entities that will always do the right thing out of survival. No, left on their own, corporations will cut every corner they can, so long as settling law suits is cheaper than enacting safety measures to prevent problems from happening again (or in the first place). And if there are no regulatory laws to break, on what basis would victims have to sue? But Tea-baggers and the GOP would have you believe that the solution to all our ills is “deregulation“.

Life & Limb aren’t the only things at risk with deregulation. I remind you of Wall Street and the banking bailout. They took ENORMOUS risks and gambled with the money of depositors and investors. They cratered the economy and sparked a global recession without concern for the consequences because 8 years of Republican deregulation let them do it.

So the next time you hear some brain-dead Tea Party zealot spouting their “less government” nonsense, simply point to Massey, the banks and Wall Street as examples of what happens when you let “the free market” take charge and let corporations run amok.

Edited by 2046
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Mines have explosions. It happens. It is the responsibility of the worker to know before hand that he has a dangerous job, and it's the responsibility of the property owner to mitigate the risks (correct me if I'm wrong, anyone). The fact that CNN is making a huge deal out of this is an argument in favor of free-market capitalism. If a mine owner lets stuff like this happen, he'll get bad publicity and people will do business with competitors.

Corporations are NOT benevolent entities that will always do the right thing out of survival. No, left on their own, corporations will cut every corner they can, so long as settling law suits is cheaper than enacting safety measures to prevent problems from happening again (or in the first place). And if there are no regulatory laws to break, on what basis would victims have to sue?

Fraud? Force? Breach of Contract?

Life & Limb aren’t the only things at risk with deregulation. I remind you of Wall Street and the banking bailout. They took ENORMOUS risks and gambled with the money of depositors and investors. They cratered the economy and sparked a global recession without concern for the consequences because 8 years of Republican deregulation let them do it.

Getting bailouts is free market capitalism, I guess.

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CNN is doing a good job of running "this is all the fault of Reganite free-market deregulation!" pieces all day on the mine explosion ordeal. I've already encountered at least two co workers who seem convinced that this is some sort of argument against capitalism. Anyone else experiencing this?

Coal mining is a heavily regulated industry, yet accidents still seem to happen. Why doesn't anyone ever say that such accidents debunk the myth of effective government regulation? Of course, regulation can never be ineffective because if it doesn't work, there simply isn't enough regulation. :huh:

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Corporations are NOT benevolent entities that will always do the right thing out of survival. No, left on their own, corporations will cut every corner they can, so long as settling law suits is cheaper than enacting safety measures to prevent problems from happening again (or in the first place). And if there are no regulatory laws to break, on what basis would victims have to sue?

This person could benefit immensely from reading for five minutes about the field of public choice economics. This columnist make the almost omnipresent assumption that incentives matter for private businessmen, but either do not matter or are not a problem with politicians and bureaucrats. The reality is that regulators have very little incentive to design regulations that work, and correspondingly little incentive to make sure that properly designed regulations, once formed, are adhered to. Meanwhile, there is an immense incentive for them to design regulations in such a way as to give competitive advantages to those companies that pay the most (the literature on rent-seeking). Government regulation is not an instant answer in dealing with potential issues.

I remind you of Wall Street and the banking bailout. They took ENORMOUS risks and gambled with the money of depositors and investors. They cratered the economy and sparked a global recession without concern for the consequences because 8 years of Republican deregulation let them do it.

Once again, people fail to distinguish between proper deregulation, which allows individuals more freedom to use their own property, and improper deregulation, which simply reduces oversight designed to supervise individuals who have the authority to utilize other people's money, or pass risks onto others.

Edited by Dante
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How would someone debunk assertions such as this? What kinds of responses can you give to people who hold up incidents such as the mine explosion as shining examples of the evils of capitalism?

Regulation/deregulation is always an issue that I have a hard time arguing about, because the people who advocate regulation always have examples of corporations doing evil when not regulated enough.

I advocate Objectivist morality and rights, but someone in the chatroom recently told me that I have to be able to argue for practicality as well. The moral is the practical, and advocating a morality without being able to defend it practically creates a moral/practical dichotomy.

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How would someone debunk assertions such as this? What kinds of responses can you give to people who hold up incidents such as the mine explosion as shining examples of the evils of capitalism?

Regulation/deregulation is always an issue that I have a hard time arguing about, because the people who advocate regulation always have examples of corporations doing evil when not regulated enough.

I advocate Objectivist morality and rights, but someone in the chatroom recently told me that I have to be able to argue for practicality as well. The moral is the practical, and advocating a morality without being able to defend it practically creates a moral/practical dichotomy.

That's a good question.

Free market requires failure in order to separate good products from bad products.

It's ok when you're talking about apples, but it is not ok when the required failure imply deaths.

For example, bad doctors in a free market will be discovered -after- they kill a few pacients.

In this free market doctors regulation/deregulation case, there is a response: Doctors qualification can be handled by private quality assurance companies, and patients can choose a "qualified" doctor from a trusted qualifier.

But, in the case of coal mining...

What would be the proper oist position?

What if it's cheaper for the company to pay for the eventual deaths than to pay for the safety measures?

People buying energy, can choose one company over another?

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What if it's cheaper for the company to pay for the eventual deaths than to pay for the safety measures?

Then it is the opinion of those individuals that choose to work in those conditions that the rewards (pay) is worth the added risk to their life. It is not up to you, me or some government official to say they are wrong. It is their own responsibility to assess their working conditions and quit their job if they find them unacceptable. They have no claim on the mine owner's property and no right to force him to offer conditions they would find more desireable.

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But, in the case of coal mining...

What would be the proper oist position?

What if it's cheaper for the company to pay for the eventual deaths than to pay for the safety measures?

People buying energy, can choose one company over another?

It was apparently cheaper for the company to pay the fines dictated by the regulators than to pay for the safety measures, so regulation failed miserably here.

It seems to me that criminal negligence should come into play in these sorts of situations. Clearly company management was aware (or should have been aware) that not properly ventilating explosive gas from a mine shaft could lead to an incident like the one that just happened. In this case, I believe that the company should be sued in a civil action and that the government should look at the potential criminal prosecution of management. Whether criminal prosecution is ultimately warranted would depend on the facts, which I am aware of only superficially. Also, I don't know anything about the legal requirements for such a prosecution under our current system, but if they don't exist, then perhaps they should be written into the law.

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Then it is the opinion of those individuals that choose to work in those conditions that the rewards (pay) is worth the added risk to their life. It is not up to you, me or some government official to say they are wrong. It is their own responsibility to assess their working conditions and quit their job if they find them unacceptable. They have no claim on the mine owner's property and no right to force him to offer conditions they would find more desireable.

I agree. But when it's cheaper to pay for the eventual accidents, the most common scenario is the mine owner's falsely claiming to the workers that "there is no problem, nor serious risk" (committing fraud), since "There is a serious risk of death" it is not a good marketing slogan in order to attract workers.

So, to hold the owners accountable on their claims of working conditions you need some form of legal documentation, and you (as a government) can/must force him to sustain the claimed working conditions (to avoid fraud). That's a needed form of objective regulation.

Also you'll need some kind of inspections in order to check periodically the working conditions. (it can be done by private agencies). As a worker, you cannot work AND assess the working conditions at the same time without loosing productivity.

Note: I'm playing Devil's advocate here.

Edited by Lucio
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This is a terrible argument against free markets because the regulations caused these problems in the first place. The truth of the matter is, if Coal mining companies were left to their own devices, they would do strip mining, not tunnel mining. They tunnel mine because environmentalist have made strip mining almost completely illegal, every year it is increasingly harder to get approvals to strip or surface mine. They've forced our workers back down into collapsible holes in the ground digging out flammable rocks in explosive gases. Why did this company have dozens of violations yet was not shut down? Because it is basically impossible to operate a profitable coal mining operation while also abiding by every regulation - the very nature of tunnel mining is not cost effective in most cases - my guess is that regulators know this as well as the industry does, and they all perform a complicated dance trying to operate as safely as possible while still not shutting down.

A strip mine in Wyoming

350px-Coal_mine_Wyoming.jpg

Dozens die in coal tunnel mining accidents every year in the US, while virtually none die in strip mining accidents

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This is a terrible argument against free markets because the regulations caused these problems in the first place. The truth of the matter is, if Coal mining companies were left to their own devices, they would do strip mining, not tunnel mining.

This is interesting. I don't know anything about mining, but I just assumed that most coal deposits were deep under the ground and strip mining wasn't an option. Do you happen to know what percentage of the usable coal is near the surface versus the amount that is too deep to strip mine?

In any event, mining is a dangerous business and those who work in the industry make conscious decisions to accept a certain level of risk when they go to work every day. Nevertheless, negligence is a valid legal concept and allowing explosive gases to build up in a mine certainly seems to fit the legal definition of that term.

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the most common scenario is the mine owner's falsely claiming to the workers that "there is no problem, nor serious risk" (committing fraud)

There is one sort of man who would respond to such a claim with a request for further information and evidence, another sort of man who would say "ok then". The first type is the man who takes responsibility for his own life, the second is the type that surrenders his own life to the judgment of others - and whines when things go badly. Regulatory states breed a nation of second handed whiners.

Of course if a mine owner claims he has an emergency ventilation system that he does not have, or claims positive results of a geological survey he didn't do - he is committing fraud (as you identified) and is liable for the consequences of this fraud (including getting people killed).

Edited by mrocktor
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