Thursday, June 10, 2010

Libertarians for Pre-Emptive Regulation

I had the misfortune of hearing some idiot rightwing radio talker talking about the BP oil disaster.  I don't know who he was, but I'm sure he wasn't anyone famous, as he had a lousy voice and his points were remarkably bad, even by rightwing radio standards.  But, he made it on the radio, so I figure I'd mention what he said.

I have a lousy memory for quotes, so here's a basic paraphrase of what he said:
Government regulations have never prevented anyone from being hurt because they wait until after a problem arises before writing the regulations.  Like with the pool drain regulation, they waited until after people got hurt before doing anything.  That's why government regulations have never prevented a problem, because they give us these regulations after it's already too late. 

The oil spill in the Gulf is a flaw with government, not a flaw with capitalism.  Capitalism isn't to blame for what happened, the government is.  And now that it's already too late to do anything about it, the government steps in with a moratorium on drilling, which will further devastate the Gulf Coast region, which is dependent upon oil drilling for its economy.  Once again, the government reacts after it was too late, and ends up causing more harm than good.
And trust me, this is the intelligent version of what he said.  While I did get a few actual phrases right, I'm really not doing this justice.

Wow.  Just...Wow.

And this whole thing is insane.  First off, he's faulting government for not creating regulations to solve problems that haven't happened yet.  And that's odd, as I've always heard libertarians complain about pointless regulations that solve problems that never happen.  Yet, this guy seems to realize that regulations were designed to fix actual problems, but thinks this isn't good enough because they come too late.  He expects us to write regulations for things that might never happen, and because we can't do that, we shouldn't have regulations at all.  What?!?

Secondly, once the regulations are in place, you'll never know if they prevented another problem because...the problem was prevented.  Duh.  And this is a logical error at the basis of the entire libertarian theory, because they really do imagine that everything would stay exactly the same if we removed all the regulations.  It's as if the one problem that caused each regulation to be created was an isolated incident that would never happen again.  Without that moronically naive idea in place, libertarianism crumbles completely

And finally, with the BP oil disaster, we DID have regulations in place, and BP didn't do what they were supposed to do.  They took lots of shortcuts and ended up with the problems that the longcuts were made to prevent.  And so this is a specific case of why we need to enforce the regulations we already had, because they prevent this sort of disaster. 

Capitalism Shoots Self in Face

And why did BP ignore the regulations?  Was it because regulations suck and cause us to do bad things we weren't going to do if the regulation wasn't trying to prevent us from doing it?  No, it was because of greed.  Because of capitalism.  And that's also why the proper regulations weren't being enforced, because capitalism prevented government from doing its job.  So it all comes full circle on this guy.  It's not that ineffective government regulation is to blame for hurting capitalism; it's that capitalism created ineffective government.regulation, which ended up hurting capitalism.

And that's the weird thing about this guy's rant: He got it ALL wrong.  Not only wasn't there even a shred of truth in what he said, it didn't even sound intuitive to the untrained brain.  I can't see how anyone could seriously listen to that dude and say "Yeah, it IS messed up that the government doesn't regulate things until after a problem arises.  We really need to stop having the government regulate things."

Either government regulations work or they don't, and if we blame the government for what happened in the Gulf, it's because they didn't regulate enough.  While I can imagine quite a few scenarios in which government regulations cause problems, this doesn't even approximate one of those scenarios.  This was a clear cut case of the government failing to protect a company from itself, and the only possible answer is more regulation. 

It's odd for a libertarian like this guy to acknowledge that lack of regulation could be a problem, but it's absolutely insane to then suggest that we need less regulation.  Listening to bozos like this guy really make you understand why guys like Limbaugh make the big bucks.  Pulling reasonable sounding bullshit out of your ass really isn't as easy as it looks. 

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