Politics

Deregulation kills people – which is evident when you consider that the reason for regulation in the first place was to save lives and protect health. Regulation ensures that people without power retain some say in the quality of their own lives. The history of  America before regulation is a guide to how cruel life is without it.

As is the Grenfell towers disaster.

A bonfire of the vanities.

Conservative governments in the UK had enthusiastically slashed building regulations. Rich folk from one of London’s poshest boroughs thought the public housing in their neighborhood needed a bit of sprucing up. And nothing fit the bill better than a sandwich of aluminum with a combustible filling. Newer, slacker regulations permitted it. And the building did indeed look better – until it burned down – killing 79.

Remarkably, the combustible cladding used in London is prohibited in the US. But don’t be surprised if that changes. There is a ‘pro-profit at any human cost’ zeal in America. These business-first types – who style themselves as ‘free market’ proponents – portray business regulation as an undemocratic, job-killing overreach by pedantic bureaucrats with a socialist ax to grind.

And they use this propaganda to convince the regular Joe that what is good for business is good for him. With talk of ‘freedom’, they seduce the deluded to cheer lustily for measures that poison their food, pollute their water and by any measure dimish their quality of life.

Who among us would bemoan a law that forbids a neighbor peeing in his pool? No one surely. But the same homeowner who so zealously guards the clarity of his swimming water is often indifferent to the ravages visited on his drinking water by corporations far away.

It is a conservative genius to convince the little guy that regulations which protect his interests are actually stifling his finances and endangering his health. I’ll let the coal mining industry illustrate. It is a dirty and dangerous profession made safer by federal regulations. Mining companies think it is ridiculous that health and safety should be a consideration, so they throw money at their political poodles to grease the profit skids.

At the same time, they promise jobs and benefits to their workers, who in turn demand that their representatives do as asked. But what are the workers getting? Coal employment in West Virginia peaked in 1974. Jobs are going away because of mechanization and natural gas – burdensome regulation has nothing to do with it. Once again the worker is reduced to a profit generator – easily replaced.

Are there some regulations that we could do without? For sure. But for as many as we could curtail there are those that should be expanded. But even that quid pro quo path is fraught with peril. The pro-business British conservatives mandated that for every new regulation, three be shed. How arbitrary. It is like saying for every traffic sign erected three must come down. Perhaps three can, or even four. But what if only two – or one – is superfluous?

And shouldn’t the people who decide what is or isn’t a necessary regulation be impartial? It’s reasonable. But that’s not the way it works. Business buys politicians, and it is business’s bidding that holds sway. The American people are celebrated in speeches – but in the grubby day-to-day of existence, they can just suffer in peace while the lucky few enjoy the benefits of a stacked deck.

And if you have any doubt of that, ask yourself how many bank CEOs have ever thought that profits be damned – his primary responsibility is to treat his customers honorably. I rest my case.

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