Robert Murray: Exhibit “A” in the Case Against Deregulation

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.

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2 Responses to “Robert Murray: Exhibit “A” in the Case Against Deregulation”

  1. jared Says:

    it’s sad what has happened. however from reports I have heard the mine had 300 violations which is realitvely few compared to others. Sago Mine in West Virginia had upwards towards 1200 when it blew up, collapsed whatever it did.
    so the question is ‘who is to blame and why?’ of course there is the owner greedy money grubbing person that he is who is taking the brunt of the blame and will take more heat because it will be spun that he just wants to make a profit. The same thing was said about Sago and in Pennsylvania when those mines collapsed the owners were demonized as interested in nothing but money that’s why they collapsed there was no human error involved, the lack of funds spent on safety measures instead went to line the pockets of the owner. that is how the media is spinning it and how it is going to be spun when all is said and done. different day same story.
    My big question is this and is based on media reports . there are people starting to come out and say the didn’t like the conditions working there because of safety and other issues which these ‘other issues’ ironically remain unspecified.
    Why then did these people know of these issues but yet continue to keep their mouth shut and not air out their grivances? was it because of intimidation? or that they actually like working with their co-workers despite conditions? or *gasp* was it because of the good pay so they could support their families? I don’t know either.
    However I do think that politicizing this tragedy like Hurricane Katrina and it’s aftermath exploting it was and is definently wrong. I think blame can be shared by more than one party here.
    Unfortunately I think this story won’t go away because I have a feeling civil lawsuits are going to be filed and people will try to get criminal charges brought against the ownership of the mine and other people that somehow could’ve prevented this disaster from happening.

  2. Aaron Orgill Says:

    As a supporter of the free-market system, I hate to admit this, but I think Derek is right here. When your greed is relatively harmless, go on your merry way, but when lives hang in the balance, your responsibility is to your people. I would like to think that people are taken care of, but Murray hurts himself every time he opens his mouth, and says enough stupid, insensitive things that one wonders whether he cares about anything but covering his own ass. I don’t see this ending happily, or without multiple lawsuits, and wonder if it might be appropriate for him to get hit hard in the wallet.

    Having said that, these infractions have been going on for quite some time. These mine collapses seem to happen two or three times a decade, and Arianna Huffington needs to get bent. It is not the time to throw around accusations yet. It seems like some people rejoice in this stuff, and it’s wrong.

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