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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.

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.

(ADDENDUM: ThinkProgress has released a review of Massey mine owner Don Blankenship’s Record Of Profits Over Safety: ‘Coal Pays The Bills’.)
 


 

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