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"Freedom" Industries? Property Rights, Regulation, and Brain Dead Environmentalists

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The regulatory system failed to adequately oversee the chemical company behind the spill that contaminated the drinking water in nine West Virginia counties and sickened scores of people.
(image by Southern Studies)


The company (incredibly named "Freedom Industries") responsible for the massive chemical spill in West Virginia that left hundreds of thousands of people without drinking water  declared bankruptcy  yesterday. This means that all of the people who had to suffer through days without water, and some who became seriously ill from drinking contaminated water, will likely not be compensated by this company for the damage it caused them.

Many people have referred to this spill as a failure of government regulation and blamed free-market fundamentalism. All of these folks should get checks from the various industry groups for major polluters.

Last I looked, believers in the free market supported property rights. Property rights mean not having someone else throw their waste on your property. If this is a difficult concept to understand, try erecting a slaughterhouse where the waste gets dumped on Bill Gates' front lawn. It's a safe bet that you will quickly be given a court order to stop immediately. If you ignore it, you will quickly find yourself in jail.

Are Bill Gates and other rich people who will have those who pollute their property thrown in jail believers in big government? For some reason this view that they have a right to not have people pollute their property and have the government enforce it gets put down as being part of free market fundamentalism. But when a West Virginia coal processing plant throws its waste into people's drinking water this is a question of government regulation?

It is easy to see how it is an advantage to rich people and to those who would like to be able to pollute with others bearing the cost to have these issues seen as fundamentally different in nature. But it is hard to see any logic that would justify this difference. And it is hard to see why anyone who doesn't want corporations to be able to pollute with impunity would accept this distinction.

People who don't want polluters to be able to operate with impunity are no more nor less market fundamentalists than Bill Gates when he has people arrested for dumping waste on his lawn. The only difference is whose rights are being respected.

 

Dr. Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University. (more...)
 

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Two hyperextended thumbs way up for this article!... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 at 1:32:18 PM
Was "Brain Dead Environmentalists " in the title m... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:27:40 PM
Well written.  Thanks for keeping it short."F... by Richard Pietrasz on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 at 4:30:58 PM