Uncommon Sense

May 17, 2013

The West, Texas Debacle Followup

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:54 am
Tags: , , ,

I wrote rather scathingly about the laissez-faire attitude regarding safety and zoning regulations surrounding the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. In response one commenter said that my tone labeled me as being bigoted. Maybe that is true, but I can’t help but believe that Texans want it the way it is in Texas, and I find that unconscionable.

In most states zoning laws prohibit the close proximity of dangerous businesses from schools, hospitals, day care centers, and elder care facilities and the like. Not so in Texas. In Texas, people are free! Free to do really stupid things that innocent people end up paying for.

The anti-regulation fever is intense in Texas and “bad regulations” are those any local business doesn’t like. Black and white labeling of regulations is stupid. Child labor laws are regulations. Mandatory schooling laws are regulations. Food safety laws are regulations. Why do these things exist in the first place? Prior to the turn of the Twentieth Century, all of these things were handled locally. Why do we now have global regulations of the federal sort, hmm? Any ideas?

Do you know that during Prohibition (now there was a bad regulation) that bootleggers (thank you Ken Burns for explaining that term) would mix in a little wood alcohol (methanol) when they didn’t have enough grain alcohol (ethanol) to make a batch of faux booze, completely ignoring the fact that as little as three eights of an ounce of methanol ingested can make you blind (and I am not talking blind drunk, I am talking can’t see a damned thing blind).

Adulterating food and drink to make a profit was something not unknown by a great many businessmen. There are literally thousands of examples of businessmen doing flat out stupid, dangerous things to make a profit, with the damage being done to customers, not themselves.

Now, the laissez-faire folks will say that “the market” will correct those things. A store known to sell adulterated products will soon lose all of its business. How many dead children (yours?) will it take to show that this medicine or that food was toxic? I mean we are talking about people putting arsenic in their pickles because it gave them better color! And I think stupid businessmen proliferate at a much faster pace than they could be weeded out by trial and error. Also, what if you only have one store?

Some regulations are good, some are bad, the trick is to determine which is which and fix the bad. You can’t do that with an “all government regulation is bad” attitude, especially when your local businessguy (remember him?) gets to determine what is bad with a check to a politician’s campaign fund.

And if you Texans like things this way (e.g. Don’t Mess with Texas) I have to believe that you want such things like the West, Texas disaster to imperil school children and the elderly, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t behave the way you do.

Can you imagine what would have been the case if that had happened in the daytime with those two schools in session? Is that the symbol of your “freedom” that you want? There are enough real accidents to justify the need to keep the gasoline and match factories separate.


  1. They’re an odd bunch.

    Mate, you never commented on my story. You didn’t like? Bawahahaaa 😦


    Comment by john zande — May 17, 2013 @ 11:11 am | Reply

    • Sorry, haven’t got to it yet. Things ebb and flow around here and I ain’t as quick as I used to be.

      Will read it soon.



      Comment by stephenpruis — May 17, 2013 @ 11:53 am | Reply

      • Bawahahaaaa! You’re not interested! You don’t love me anymore!

        Only kidding 🙂


        Comment by john zande — May 17, 2013 @ 11:59 am | Reply

        • Hey, I am really sentimental (I cry at Kodak commercials) so don’t get me started. I’ll do it; I’ll do it.


          Comment by stephenpruis — May 17, 2013 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

  2. As much as these free-market advocates believe that all regulation is bad, they have to allow for property and contract laws for ANY market to exist – and if that’s already regulation. It would love to see a few thousand free-market advocates shipped off to a remote uninhabited island (let’s even make it a tropical paradise), provide them with seeds, tools, machines, some raw materials for a start, and dare them to create a working unregulated economy. Just to give a workable definition of “unregulated”, the society CAN create rules, but if even one member of society doesn’t like a certain rule, then that rule is gone.
    Hmmm… that sounds like an experiment that could actually be tested on a smaller scale. Do you know any sociologists, Steve?


    Comment by List of X — May 17, 2013 @ 11:57 am | Reply

    • Boy, that’s harsh. Actually ask them to prove their idea. Ouch!

      The whole idea of a free market is flawed (look up the definition in any economics book) and our bozo politicians, who can’t understand the finer points, thinks it equates to “I get to do what I want, when I want.”


      Comment by stephenpruis — May 17, 2013 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

      • If they pretend that free market economics is science, it’s only fair they have to prove that.


        Comment by List of X — May 19, 2013 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  3. It’s only government over reach until it negatively impacts you and your family then there is a hue and cry of why there wasn’t adequate regulations to prevent some unforeseen tragedy.


    Comment by lbwoodgate — May 17, 2013 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  4. Why do you want to say that your opposition oppose “all” regulation? Is it because you don’t understand our position at any given moment? Or is it because it’s easier for you to paint us as extreme? I think it’s because you guys love the idea of a LOT of regulation, and you think “doing something” is better than doing nothing, so when we say “Not THAT regulation”, you can say “See? They don’t want anything to be done… Ever!”. Typical tactic of alarmists.

    To clarify the position of most every conservative I know:

    1- Some things are needed
    2- Some are not
    3- Doing something is different than doing the right thing
    4- Doing the best thing we can think of is usually better than doing the first thing we think of
    5- Doing something that doesn’t address the problem is pointless and should not be automatically lauded as valiant effort as opposed to doing nothing
    6- Sometimes doing nothing is exactly what is needed… even when the regulation actually addresses a problem.

    For example: In the early 2000s, the federal government began requiring that every gas water heater be made to be flamable vapor ignition resistant (FVIR). Manufacturers had to figure out how to do it, and once they did, it added about $150 to the price of each unit. Billions of dollars disapeared because the “if we could save just one…” mentality won the day.

    My question was: How many houses burned because of flammable vapor ignition by gas water heaters? It turns out that there were a few hundred cases known to have occurred. So, we have to spend billions of dollars to prevent a few hundred fires over the next half-century?

    This is the difference between most conservatives and most liberals when it comes to regulation. We believe that there is a point at which saving “just one” becomes too expensive a prospect. Regulation-happy folks think that’s heartless.

    But most people would agree with me when push comes to shove. What if we decided to make every car completely safe? Let’s say that each car should be able to safely sustain a 50mph collision, but only be able to go 30mph. How many lives would be saved? Plenty, right? But, what if that meant that every car would cost $75,000? Would it be worth it to save just one life? A hundred? And what other costs might result from such a mandate? A one hour trip would take three hours. Lost productivity is a real cost associated with regulation.

    How about the ban on DDT? DDT is a very effective insecticide that, when used properly, saves lives with very little environmental impact. Of course, the desire to “do something” about what was no more than improper use resulted in a complete ban on any use, which has resulted in the deaths of millions. And guess what? Folks like me were against such a ban precisely because doing nothing about DDT, or doing something else would have been better that the “something” that was being proposed by knee-jerk reactionary alarmists. The ban has since been lifted, but the damage has been done. It’s not acceptable to save just one in one way, while leaving millions to die in the way that the less than perfect solution would have prevented.

    You guys claim the moral high ground because you support something (anything). I wouldn’t be surprised if a ban on all fertilizer is recommended to prevent West, TX types of accidents. How noble!


    Comment by conservative2cents — May 19, 2013 @ 8:10 am | Reply

    • I agree with you in the whole. What I am railing against is the conservative politicians who can only talk about regulation with scorn and only have votes to remove regulations (especially for those which a corporation has targeted), none to make more sensible ones. True conservatives, like you, work to make things better. Today’s faux conservative politicianss pander to base instincts and paint with a very broad brush. Consider the 37 votes to repeal Obamacare. What was basically the idea produced by a conservative think tank, sure could be improved, made batter, less heavy handed, etc. etc. What efforts have been made on this front by those politicians? None? Bank regulations? Let’s go back to Glass-Steagall? No. Let’s have something new that works as well? No. Not only won’t they vote for any regulations, they won’t even examine regs to make sure they are working properly. Their focus is “off with their heads.”

      I have written a couple of posts recently asking where are the real conservatives/real Republicans? We need them. I am not a Democrat, nor am I a Republican because I cannot support what those parties are doing to this country. Maybe if we all registered Independent, they would get the message.

      I will try in future to not paint with such a broad brush myself, referring to “conservatiove politicians” rather than just “conservatives,” for example.


      Comment by stephenpruis — May 19, 2013 @ 8:23 am | Reply

      • I personally tend to see all regulation as a natural enemy to liberty. That is not to say that I think everyone should be free to do everything. Just that law and government happen to be what they are. And as such, should be implemented sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Especially at the federal level.

        There are always unintended consequences with overbearing regulation. So, when one state does something screwy, with good intentions, it screws up one state instead of the whole country.


        Comment by conservative2cents — May 20, 2013 @ 11:09 am | Reply

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