The government takeover of the cleanup raises some significant
1) Will the government do a better job than Tepco has done,
cleaning up the site and informing the public, indeed, the world,
about the situation there? RT.com
" TEPCO has a long record of covering up accidents, but
giving more control to government agencies means the crisis will be
managed by those who allowed TEPCO to operate Fukushima the way it
did, Shaun Burnie, independent nuclear consultant, told
This is a problem that is very likely the case all over the
world, wherever there are risks of environmental danger. Heads of
state elected with the help of and allegiance to corporate
interests appoint agency heads who come from the industries they
are supposed to be regulating and overseeing. It's a broken system
that is designed by corporations to fail.
2) Even with the questionable efficacy and intentions of
government agency heads with corporate roots, we're still looking
at a rescue of a corporation by government. There's the question of
who will pay for the $460 million Prime Minister Abe has committed?
Reuters reports that there's no clear answer yet:
"I want the government to have a responsible framework
- not just for checking what Tokyo Electric is doing to deal with
Fukushima - but for the government to commit to dealing with the
Fukushima problem itself and conduct this as a joint operation,
including the water problem and decommissioning," said Tadamori
Oshima, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's taskforce
on post-disaster reconstruction.
"Concerning the question of what the government will pay for and
what Tepco will pay for, I think we need to debate and redraw the
line," Oshima told Reuters in an interview.
This problem, the failure to include risk costs in business
plans and budgets is an endemic aspect of capitalism and the way
corporations function. Noam Chomsky discussed this in an
interview I did with him in December 2012
"We don't really have market systems, but we have
partial market systems. And, a market system has a built-in
doomsday machine inside it. In a market system, you don't pay
attention to what are called externalities, for example, effects on
others. So, like, if you sell me a car, let's say: if we're
paying attention we'll make a good deal for ourselves, you and I
will both come out OK. But we don't bring into the calculation the
effect of that sale on other people, and there is an effect.
There's another car on the road, there's more
pollution, there's more congestion, there's a greater chance of
accidents, and so on. And magnified over a lot of people,
that can be a big effect. Well, that's inherent in the nature
of market systems, unless they somehow internalize externalities,
in which case they're not really market systems.
That's just an individual transaction. But you
think about it in terms of bigger institutions, like say banks and
investment firms, say, Goldman Sachs, when they make a transaction,
say, a risky loan or something like that, they take into account
the effects on them; will the profits overcome the risk, and so on.
But they don't take into account what's called systemic risk: that
is, the chance that if the loan goes bad and they're in trouble,
the whole system may crash. They don't take that into
account. That's not part of the calculation. Well,
that's a significant part of what lies behind the regular financial
crashes, increasingly severe ever since deregulation set in.
Now if you go a step higher than that, and you're, say,
the CEO of some Exxon Mobile or something, your job is to maximize
profit and market share. You don't take into account the fact
that there's an externality: the fate of the species. You
don't calculate that in, and that's true for non-energy
corporations too. In trying to maximize profit, you don't
take into account the impact on the fate of the species, and that's
no joke now. We're reaching a point in human existence where
the fate of the species is indeed in danger, and one major reason
for it is, just that it's not a calculation that is made within
market systems - well, again, we don't really have qualified market
systems - but to the extent that they function, this is a built-in
It makes sense that corporations act as Chomsky describes.
Corporations are supposed to operate in ways that maximize their
self interests, with the minimum concern for others that they can
get away with, without compassion. That's how human sociopaths and
psychopaths are characterized. But for corporations, it's just the
way business is done in today's capitalist environment. That could
be changed. Laws could require that risk costs be built into major
project or products. Regulations could be put in place that require
corporations to act with consideration of others. It would be an
artificially induced behavior, but it could be done. That may
make a number of products and industries un-profitable, like
fracking, for example, or plastic grocery bags. That's a good
thing. it will re-route "the market" in a more realistic way, to
develop safer, better products.
4- Let's face it, when the government steps in because a major
corporation has failed to perform at acceptable levels, the right
wing belief that government is bad and useless is refuted. Refuted!
Given the caveats in item one, government is absolutely not a
certain answer, but a big reason for the questionability of
government is the extent that corporations have gained influence
over government. The problems corporate intervention into
government creates show how important it is that laws or policies
be passed that build a separation between corporation and state.
That said, the reality is that when corporations fail, when they
produce disasters, when their lack of transparency endanger the
public, it is unlikely that the solution is to be found within the
We live in a time when corporations, which operate, based on
their mission, and in the capitalist model, as psychopaths,
sometimes run by psychopaths. It is essential that we develop laws
that protects government from undue corporate influence. I realize
that it may be too late to reverse this "disease." Simply
attempting to keep out corporate influence is greeted as socialism
or worse by the shills elected with corporate advertising dollars.
The Fukushima disaster shows us how badly this system is working.
The whole world has been put at risk because of corporate
malfeasance-- which is all that can be expected of corporations. It
is time for a change.