Tuesday, December 04, 2007
A Cost of Doing Business
Robert L. Borosage on HuffPo
Markets self-regulate, conservatives tell us. Just get government off our backs, companies tell us (after we pocket whatever subsidies we can grab).
The Washington Post reports today on the safety of theme parks that feature rides that can whirl kids at speeds reaching 100 miles an hour. Most parents think the government makes certain the rides are safe. Think again.
Under President Jimmy Carter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission probed ride accidents at Marriott theme parks. In 1981, with the election of Ronald Reagan, the industry carried the fight to the Congress, complaining that government policing was creating "economic hardship," and would "make the rides worthless." Legislators, awash in industry campaign contributions, exempted permanent parks from CPSC oversight. The only regulation comes at the state level which is scattershot at best. For the most part, the industry now polices itself.
So accidents are simply a cost of doing business. Last year, four people lost their lives in theme park rides; many more were injured and maimed. The companies make a simple calculation because markets do self-regulate. If the number of unnecessary deaths and injuries is small enough that it costs more to put in safety equipment than to pay the costs of litigation with the victims and lobbying the legislature, then the deaths of a few kids is simply written off as a cost of doing business.
More after the click ...
The point isn't about theme park rides ... though its a graphic example. It's about the way corporations, directed toward profits, view actual people. In product liability discussions throughout corporations everywhere the costs of doing nothing are weighed against the costs of doing something. It's the same formula that drug companies use. It's the same formula that tobacco companies have used for years. It's the same formula that every corporation that ever existed used or uses when calculating how to deal with a given problem. It's called "Cost Benefit Analysis".
Now, I'd be among the first to say that "cost benefit analysis" is not in itself a bad thing. It's an extremely useful tool. However, it is limited because it only considers the dollars involved ... and not common human sense. If you believe that human life is precious and sacrosanct; that one cannot put a price on human life ... then you must demand that corporations consider more than just the dollars involved. That is where government regulation comes in (and remember, government in this country is We, the People). Without government regulation, We the People have no protection from corporations and their pursuit of profits.
In the example above, the corporations involved made the case that "government regulation" created an "economic hardship" for them. Let's look at that statement for a moment. It says that when We, the People, sought to protect ourselves from the consequences of corporate actions, the corporations claimed that our desire to protect ourselves (and our children) from their quest for buckaroos, we created a situation that made it difficult for them to maximize profits. In short, the claim was that profits were more important than people.
Whenever a corporation or group of corporations claim that "government regulation" creates "economic hardship", try changing the word "government" to "We, the People of the United States of America" and see if you still think government regulation is a bad thing.
The claim was that "government regulation" would make the rides worthless. Reading between the lines, you have to ask yourself if people need protection from a product and protecting people from the dangers associated with the product makes the product worthless ... is that really a bad thing? What's your priority? People or Profit?