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.