How do the conservatives defend their position in the face of the Crandall Canyon Mine fiasco?
The modern conventional conservative loves big business. They emphatically agree with Calvin Coolidge: “The chief business of the American people is business.” When business is unfettered by government influence and regulation, it will make the U.S. prosper. Everyone comes out ahead.
Tell that to the families who must now be struggling to maintain hope that their husbands and fathers are still alive somewhere under the mountain. Continue to justify that line in light of Robert Murray and his company’s flagrant abuse.
Accidents happen. Perhaps the mine collapse was an entirely random fluke, one of those twists of fate that can befall any of us at any time.
But Robert Murray’s mines have a history of safety violations and risky methods. In his lust for profit, Murray has flouted regulations (aided until recently by conservative congress where prefers to cut funding for federal regulatory agencies in the name of curbing “big government,” and by a conservative administration less than interested in enforcing those regulations). He has bullied regulators, miners, and law enforcement. And ultimately, he has been willing to conduct his business in ways that gambled for increased profit with human lives. It looks now like he lost that wager, and the lives not his own are paying the price.
How ignoble an economic system in which those who put up the greatest cost for decisions are not those who reap the greatest rewards should those decisions pan out.
Proponents of the free market insist that the market, unimpeded by government interference, is the best method by which to protect the interests of all members of that market. Producers have a vested interest in competing to provide the safe products, safe working conditions, etc, in order to ensure the greatest possible share of the market. Let them compete unencumbered, and they will arrive at the cheapest, most efficient, and safest possible solution.
Indeed? I challenge those proponents: What reason do we have to believe that removing those regulations entirely would have encouraged Murray to have used safer mining tactics and better protected the safety of his workers? Is there any reason to believe that he and other mine operators would not be even less careful with their miners, as were the industrial leaders of the virtually unregulated Gilded Age?
It is not enough to assure us that such crimes would be punished by the public as we “vote with our dollars.” If we are as a society believe in the “sanctity of life,” then we have a right to demand that there be a system in place to prevent such abuses from occurring in the first place, not just punish those who so abuse. We have a right to demand that the interests of the worker contributing to society and the family which the worker supports be held above the corporate hunger for lucre.
Until they can identify some private means by which the despicable actions of corrupt people like Murray can be restrained, I can never embrace the laissez-faire agenda of modern conservatism.
- “Miners Describe Working Conditions,” Day to Day
- “Mine Owner Insists that Quake Led to Collapse,” All Things Considered
- “Consultant Says Utah Mine Had Previous Collapse,” NRP news
- “Does mine boss Robert Murray care about the trapped miners?” Wasatch Watcher
- “Olbermann and Arianna Describe the Politics Behind Mine Collapse,” MSNBC (courtesy of Wasatch Watcher)