Friday, January 06, 2006
Getting government "off your back"...
Well, that's not always a good thing.
In the above-referenced story, we discover that the West Virginian mine that collapsed had many violations of regulations regarding mine safety, including many that were considered quite serious.
Now, it might be that none of these violations caused the collapse. It might be that no government regulation on the planet could have prevented that tragedy. The exact cause of the explosion and collapse probably won't be known for a while, and it's risky to speculate too much about the cause. Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing that shows what's at stake.
When the Republicans complain about government regulations, sure, they have a point. There are regulations that do nothing more than waste time and money. They don't accomplish their intended purpose.
But a wholesale hostility to government regulations, well, that's not so good. Real people's lives are at stake.
I've seen some Republicans claim (in the spirit of vicious partisanship) that Democrats are always willing to over-regulate. I'll grant that, yes, if the Democrats are going to be guilty of a crime, it will be over-regulation instead of under-regulation.
But under-regulation is not any better. And while regulations should be business-friendly where practical, we can't help but wonder, after a tragedy like this, if the mine safety officials were so friendly to business that they allowed miners to die.
I've been having a friendly disagreement on this very point with some friends who are so pissed off by a recent FDA ruling (to ban a drug that they've been taking without problems) that they're screaming "Abolish the FDA! The government shouldn't be able to tell me what drugs I can and can't take."
But I'm old enough to have witnessed the consequences of an under-regulated pharmaceutical industry, and to believe that even a flawed watchdog is better than no watchdog at all.
I feel the same way about government regulation of worker health-and-safety, of the environment and of other arenas in which business has proven that it can't be trusted to do the right thing on its own, because too many businesses defines "the right thing" as "whatever makes more money for our owners and shareholders."
I know... the Cylert/pemoline issue is one that bugs me, as well. I don't like it being banned; I mean, if pemoline was the only thing that kept *me* from the terrible lethargy I'd experienced in the past, I'd be furious that I'd lose access to it.
But getting rid of the FDA is not the right response. Maybe... *maybe* kicking a few butts (rhetorically speaking) would be a good idea, but I don't know.
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