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Massey Mine Disaster debunks Self-Regulating Free-Market Myth
April 7, 2010


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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April 7, 2010 · Admin Mugsy · 5 Comments - Add
Posted in: Energy Independence, Money, myth busting

5 Responses

  1. Dean - April 7, 2010

    Is this article a joke or a complete failure of logic? Scores of people are dead working an heavily regulated industry and there is an argument that it proves the free market doesn’t work?

    “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..” = FAIL

  2. Mugsy - April 7, 2010

    Regulations in the mining industry are among the weakest and least enforced among ANY industry.

    Massey has clearly made a conscious decision that it is cheaper to fight the fines and drag them out in court for years rather than make the safety upgrades necessary to protect the lives of their employees.

    If you SERIOUSLY believe fewer/no government regulation would make Massey *more* responsible, you’re living in a Conservative fantasyland.

  3. fastfeat - April 8, 2010

    Umm, HEAVILY regulated? I would argue that BECAUSE so many lives were sacrificed by paying fines, rather than meeting HUMAN (if not industry) standards, there are next to NO regulations. Perhaps if the fines were increased, say ten-fold or even one hundred -fold and/or charge the CEO and other company execs with criminally negligent homicide (minimally) when failure to rectify safety issues continues, deaths will disappear, just like HAS OCCURRED IN MOST OTHER HAZARDOUS INDUSTRIES.

    Sorry, the “value” of human life, even if it is only to curtail these f*cks somewhat, needs to be brought into the 21st century in this country. Financially break and/or jail an executive and problems will cease.

  4. Grant in Texas - April 8, 2010

    Massey is a big contributor to right-wing causes, trying to change the West Virginia state government from Democratic over to laissez faire Republican including trying to BUY a judge who would rule in his favor. He has also given big money to the “grass roots” Tea Party movement. About the only true “grass roots” will be those over the graves of possibly 29 dead miners. Profits uber alles!

  5. Dean - April 8, 2010

    Unfortunatley, I am living in a conservative fantasyland; where more government equals more corpratism. Not what I really consider a fantasy though. You want to blast Ron Paul, but he is one of the few politicans whose vote is not for sale to corporations. That is why I question the logic of this article. Laissez faire Republican (and Democrats) simply do not exist.

    I share your anger that this occured. I also share your desire to do what you can to stop the insanity of putting miners at more risk than they need to be in. Just when you say more government is the answer I disagree. More government means more corporate control and more risk and death to miners.


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