We know that the Crandell Canyon mine had numerous safety violations over the past couple of years. We know that last month the government agency that oversees and inspects the mine finally fined them sixty dollars for a repeat violation.
As I blogged shortly after it happened, the government regulators failed to protect the lives of six men trapped deep inside the mountain (and by extension, the lives of two more who were killed in a cave in last night during the rescue operation.)
For a fine to be effective, it has to be enough to be more than just a cost of doing business-- the consequences of not taking action (in this case making safety improvements) have to outweigh the consequences (cost) of taking the needed action.
So why did the government fail in its duty and purpose to protect these men? There are a lot of answers to that. We know that government works slowly anyway (not always a bad thing-- too much often does get done during moments of hysteria before more sober minds take over.) We know that the government has to be officially unbiased-- the mine owners have rights too, and those rights require that procedure be followed. We know that there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of similar situations in America today, and the regulatory agencies generally don't get funded at a level that would allow them to keep a tab on everything.
But there is something insidious here. Something that goes beyond all of that. It starts out with the massive, astronomical taxpayer subsidies that are being paid to all kinds of otherwise very profitable corporations-- energy companies, pharmaceutical companies and yes, mining companies. But it is more than that.
It is a government, and especially an administration which has consciously pursued a policy of, for example, helping pharmaceutical companies selectively gouge Americans by making it more difficult to re-import drugs at lower prices, even drugs that may have been manufactured in the very same factory as the similar brands in American pharmacies came from. They've been allowing energy companies to rake in a lot of loot while doing nothing about the price of fuel. The recall of toys was ordered by mattel, not by the U.S. government.
In other words, our government is neither unbiased, nor is it carrying out as its primary duty the need to protect its own citzens. No, our government, instead of regulating those who want to put the screws to us, is an active particpant and is helping them do it.
Without any government at all, the rich and powerful would pretty much have their way-- they could afford to do what it takes to win all the time, no matter what suffering it causes. That is one reason why they are always advocating 'smaller government.' However, government in theory protects not only the rich and powerful, but also those who would otherwise be at their mercy.
Government is a tool which can be used by the people through their elected leaders to build a more humane, better world.
But in the wrong hands, it can also be a source of great evil.