A Philosopher's Blog

Recurring Themes

Posted in Business, Environment, Ethics, Law by Michael LaBossiere on May 26, 2010
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Interestingly, the various disasters that have been dominating recent news are playing out like bad movie sequels. To be specific, each new disaster takes the dominant theme of the previous one and then seems to try to top it. In the case of Toyota, it was found that they were a bit too cozy with the folks who were supposed to be regulating them. In the case of the financial mess, it was once again found that the regulators and the “regulated” were very cozy. It was also found that some of the foxes guarding the other foxes (to keep them from the hen house) were viewing naked foxes online. In the latest disaster, the BP oil spill, the regulatory agency folks seem to have been cozy with the drilling companies and some were also apparently viewing porn. The new twist was that at least one regulator admits to using Meth. God only knows what will be next.

Since Obama is president now, he will be criticized for these regulatory failures. However, the problems with the regulators of drilling are prior to Obama (2000-2008). While it is tempting to put the blame on the Bush administration, this problem seems to be a systemic one that crosses party lines and administrations. After all, the Obama administration is rather cozy with Wall Street.

The main problem in these cases is that there is a lack of enforced regulation that keeps the people who are supposed to be regulating from getting too cozy with the people they are supposed to regulate. In short, there is a serious problem with corruption and undue influence. While some aspects of the problem can be addressed with revised regulations (and enforcement of existing laws), regulations are only as good as the people who enforce them (or fail to do so). This indicates the classic problem of how to get ethical and competent people into such positions and how to keep them from succumbing to corruption. It is, in short, the general problem of good government.

Some obvious fixes include outlawing gifts, having regular “inspections” of regulators to determine what they are doing (or not doing), and checking for conflicts of interest (such as close relations to the folks in the industry to be regulated). Other fixes including having stronger regulations that are harder to bypass or work around. After all, weak points in the laws make it easier for corruption to grab hold.  Of course, these weak points are not the fault of the regulators-they are created by politicians by accident or by design. In the case of designed weak points and loop holes, these serve to undermine good regulatory practices by building in ways for companies to get around regulations. Typically companies have to use their influence to take advantages of weak points, which is how corruption can get started.

So, good laws and good people are the fix. As always. Good luck with that.

As a final point, I want to discuss the drugs and the porn. My rough hypothesis is that the cozy relationships played a causal role. One possibility is that corruption breeds corruption. In other words, when a person has a moral weakness in one area, it makes it easier for other moral weakness to take hold. A second possibility is that one corruption did not contribute to another, but that both are the effects of bad character. A third possibility is that the cozy relation between industry and the regulators left the regulators with little real work to do.  As the saying goes, idle hands do the devil’s work (that is, clicking links to porn).

Interestingly enough, porn would probably be a useful indicator. To be specific, if a government employee has the time to view porn at work, then s/he is probably not doing his/her job properly. As such, checking for porn in the workplace would be a good idea (and not just for the usual reasons).


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  1. magus71 said, on May 26, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Hey, did you here there was an oil spill?

    There is no other news….

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      There is other news. But, an oil slick the size of a small state is newsworthy. Especially down here in the south, where it is already crushing the fishing industry.

      • magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 12:46 am

        The fishing industry that the lefties hate, too….

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm

          The fishing industry does have some problems, namely a tendency to over fish and do environmental damage. Ironically, the industry folks who are opposing conservation of fish and their habitat are thus opposing the very future of the industry.

      • Jaimie Gould said, on May 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

        The first George Bush was brought over the media coals for taking a full 14 days to federalize and take complete control of the Oil Spill off the Alaskan Coast. Obama gets a pass at doing nothing other than scolding BP and not returning calls or requests from politicians from the districts effected. The Lefties just love disasters and crisis. It gives them their excuses to make sweeping changes.

        • magus71 said, on May 29, 2010 at 1:58 am

          “The Lefties just love disasters and crisis. It gives them their excuses to make sweeping changes.”

          That’s very true.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm

          I don’t think that most “lefties” like these disasters, anymore than “righties” love terrorist attacks that give them a chance to make sweeping changes. True, there are some true believers and “realists” that delight at the opportunity afforded by these situations. But, one would hope that they are not in the majority.

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm

            “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” — Rahm Emanuel

            Rahm sounds pretty delighted.

            Also, what “sweeping” changes did the righties ever make? You may be thinking of the Patriot Act, but that “was passed by wide margins in both houses of Congress and was supported by members of both the Republican and Democratic parties (Wikipedia). I also wonder how “sweeping” the Patriot Act is compared to, say, Obamacare.

  2. magus71 said, on May 26, 2010 at 8:48 am

    The best regulator are those that buy the product. If people believe BP is corrupt and is destroying the world, they’ll move on to another product. At least some of them will. This has already hurt BP’s market significantly.

    Government regulation has limits and once the limits are surpassed, they merely slow society down. Could any nation have been more regulated than the former Soviet Union?

    Regulation didn’t stop this, and it won’t stop this in the future. If the problem was so obvious, the media would have been all over this before the spill. This hurt BP, too.

    Every entity learned from pain. The trick is to not over react.

    • magus71 said, on May 26, 2010 at 10:25 am

      And there have been thousands of wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico….

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm

      Customers are generally not good regulators. Look at the history of product safety to see why.

      Well, it is a truism that too much regulation is bad. As far as the Soviet Union, the problem was not regulation as such. Regulation is a bit like food-it is not good or bad in and of itself. It is the content that matters.

      One reason regulation did not stop this is because the folks who where supposed to be guarding the hen house were busy handing the foxes chickens.

      • magus71 said, on May 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

        “Customers are generally not good regulators.”

        Really? So people will intentionally buy a product they know is inferior?

        You could make that argument if a product were new, and people were just trying it out. But even then, in the information age where news of bads products travels quickly, would a company be successful for long if it made something it knew people would not buy?

        On the other hand, people are already able to buy things they know hurts them, like tobacco. They like what it does for them more than they fear the negatives.

        I’m for good regulation, not for ideological regulation or regulation to score political points. Too bad we don’t entrust law making to the wisest people in our country.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm

          People do. Think about food. People know that junk food is junk, yet people buy it. Also, think about exercise. People know it is good for them, yet most do not do it. People are generally not good decision makers.

          Of course, this is not to say that people never chose the better product. After all, crappy products do often fail because people do not buy them. But, there is a lot of crap that sells very well.

          • magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 12:47 am

            If they don’t care about themselves, why should the government. People who do care are free to choose for themselvesthe right thing.

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 26, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Most federal workers rarely work; as well as getting 22 holidays, sick days, vacation days, etc… This is why many people get federal jobs: so they don’t have to work but will still get well paid. Unlike the private sector, the federal government is hiring, and growing. Federal pay surpasses private sector pay in most areas and many federal workers are getting six-figure salaries (with bonuses) even during the current economic depression.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 26, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      Depends on the workers. Folks in the private sector also slack. It is an American tradition. That and working hard. 🙂

  4. T. J. Babson said, on May 26, 2010 at 11:39 am

    There is another effect of regulation that is hardly mentioned, and that is a shift in responsibility from those being regulated to the regulators. The focus changes from safety–or whatever is being regulated–to compliance with the regulations. So instead of real safety, you get the appearance of safety. Much like security at the airport, which is really “security theater.”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      That is a problem worth considering. However, it can be addressed. Maybe.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm

        Some wisdom from Jesse “The Body” Ventura:

        Reason: One of your most memorable campaign slogans was, “You can’t legislate stupidity.” What did you mean by that?

        Ventura: Let me explain with an example: Here in Minnesota, we have more than 10,000 lakes. Every year when springtime comes, we’ll get seven days of beautiful 80-degree weather, but there will still be ice on the lakes. Somebody will decide that they have to take a snowmobile out on the lake. And that person will fall through the ice and drown. Right away, you’ll hear an outcry: “We have to make it against the law to ride on lakes after the temperature has been over 75 degrees for seven days in a row.” That’s what I’m talking about. You can’t legislate stupidity, because people do stupid things, always will, and government should get out of the business of passing laws to stop them. Every one of us has done stupid things. Sometimes a stupid thing can become fatal. But it doesn’t mean that, all of the sudden, you have to go out and pass laws to protect people from doing stupid things. The drug issue falls under this, too: If people are stupid enough to do drugs–if they’re stupid enough to get hooked on crack or cocaine or whatever else–how are you going to legislate that away?

        There’s too many laws altogether. If they tell you ignorance of the law is no excuse, then we should all be running around with backpacks. Because you need so many backpacks with those law books so you wouldn’t be ignorant. Here’s an example of a stupid law from when I was doing talk radio. I was talking about prostitution, and I brought up the fact that it’s only illegal because money is exchanged. It’s only a sex act, and if two consenting adults do it and there’s no exchange of money, then it’s OK, right? Well, lo and behold, in Minnesota, that’s not OK. A cop faxed me a copy of a fornication law that’s still on the books here. It states unequivocally that if you’re two adults and you’re unmarried, you can be arrested for having sex. They’ve never taken it off the books. Technically a police officer could arrest you, just for having sex.


        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm

          I’m completely okay with Jesse on this. When it comes to individuals doing stupid things that only harm the individuals, my view is that there should not be laws against that. After all, while it is my business to warn people against doing stupid things, it is not my business to compel them to act differently.

          However, when the actions can inflict harm on others and regulation can reduce these harms, then things change. So, for example, I think there should be laws regulating things like food, automobiles, and things that can explode.

  5. freddiek said, on May 26, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Proposal: Remove all regulations.
    Everything will work itself out in time.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      True- most of the survivors would go back to wanting regulations.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm

        Do you guys really believe that we don’t have enough rules and regulations in our society? You really want more?

        • freddiek said, on May 27, 2010 at 7:56 am

          I don’t believe I wrote that I want more regulations. Did I write that?

          My post was directed at those who oppose regulation so strongly that their blind opposition overwhelms their common-sense.

          Well-considered regulation, effectively enforced, beats the hell out of having no regulation at all.

          Do I want to regulate everything?There are many things out there which can seriously negatively impinge on my life if others are allowed to do what they damn well please. It’s the simple old “if I’ve done nothing to you, your freedom to swing your fist should stop at the end of my nose” theory but applied in its broadest sense. I’d like to see such things regulated . . .

          We could easily do that with fewer regulations. . .Get rid of the useless, ineffective, outdated regulations thus leaving space for newer regulations. But we have to be wise. If your main reason for getting rid of gramm-leach-bliley is that it’s out-of-date, common sense should tell you that it might be a good idea to replace it with something more up-to-date. (Unless your common-sense was being directed(overwhelmed/dominated) by the desire to simply eliminate the regulation, not make the system better.)

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 27, 2010 at 10:13 am

            “My post was directed at those who oppose regulation so strongly that their blind opposition overwhelms their common-sense.”

            This is a straw-man argument on par with equating those who want limited government with those who want no government.

            • freddiek said, on May 27, 2010 at 8:12 pm

              If that’s the case, it’s no more a straw man than your 5/26 10:40 post.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm

          I ask not for less law or more law. What I ask for is better laws and enforcement of these better laws.

  6. magus71 said, on May 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

    We are clearly an over -regulated society. We pass laws and don’t enforce them. Take a look at our tax code. Is it too small? Want more rules?

    Mike, taking gaming for instance. You know well that if a game is too simple, it can’t cover all the aspects that make a game fun. If it’s too complictated, it’s no fun to play either. And yet, at any time your’re playing the game, you wish some rule were a little different or we take out a rule because it bogs the game down.

    One problem I have with regulation, is that the governemnt rarely gets rid of what doesn’t work. It just keeps piling on. I don’t believe that the oil spill was the result of a sytemic problem. Look at traffic law, too. Tons of rules and regs. And there are still car crashes. Inspection laws. The state of Wisconsin did a study years ago that showed car inspections did nothing to lower accident rates. But damn–do those inspection stickers bring in some money for the state!

    The best things in life are simple.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      I agree. As with a game, the laws should be reviewed and modified, deleted or expanded as needed. As you say, there is “rule creep” in which laws pile up and create clogs. Also, having laws that are not enforced is also bad-if a law is simply not going to be enforced, then it would be sensible to remove it.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

        I would go so far as to say that it is impossible to get through a day without breaking a half dozen laws or rules, most of which one is probably not even aware.

        It is humanly impossible to know all the rules and laws to which one is subject.

        • T. J. Babson said, on May 27, 2010 at 5:25 pm

          Regulators at work:

          “It’s frightening,” said Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research. “The plunge in M3 has no precedent since the Great Depression. The dominant reason for this is that regulators across the world are pressing banks to raise capital asset ratios and to shrink their risk assets. This is why the US is not recovering properly,” he said.


        • freddiek said, on May 27, 2010 at 8:14 pm

          Point being? What realistic alternative do you have in mind in a large, complex, democratic society?

          • magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 12:53 am

            We should err on the side of less regulation.

            Some people are reminding me of mothers who won’t let their kids go outside to play because the saw on the news that a kidnapping occured 4000 miles away.

            Hey lady–there’s still only about a 1 in 1.5 million chance Johnny’s gonna get taken. You’re turning him into tomorrows spaghetti armed metro-sexual.

            • freddiek said, on May 28, 2010 at 8:10 am

              Agreed. So. . .where does the governmental parent stop? Locks on handguns? Safety belts? Cigarettes? Flammable material in baby clothes? Safety regulations on oil rigs/ Nuclear stations?

              Do such regulations save enough lives to satisfy your standards? At what point would the potential loss of lives directly attributable to the lack of such regulation be worth occasionally creating a “spaghetti armed metro-sexual” or two?

  7. magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 12:55 am

    “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”~Patrick Henry

    • freddiek said, on May 28, 2010 at 8:15 am

      See my previous reply. The either/or choice posed here just might be more complex.
      I wonder if PH would’ve fought to the death for the right and freedom to sue physicians for as much as he could get–their savings, their possessions, their reputations (even at the risk of having his suit labeled as “frivolous”)?

    • T. J. Babson said, on May 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

      Here’s a good example. Let’s crack down on garage sales!

      WASHINGTON — If you’re planning a garage sale or organizing a church bazaar, you’d best beware: You could be breaking a new federal law. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products.

      The initiative, which targets toys and other products for children, enforces a new provision that makes it a crime to resell anything that’s been recalled by its manufacturer.

      “Those who resell recalled children’s products are not only breaking the law, they are putting children’s lives at risk,” said Inez Tenenbaum, the recently confirmed chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

      The crackdown affects sellers ranging from major thrift-store operators such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army to everyday Americans cleaning out their attics for yard sales, church bazaars or — increasingly — digital hawking on eBay, Craigslist and other Web sites.

      Secondhand sellers now must keep abreast of recalls for thousands of products, some of them stretching back more than a decade, to stay within the bounds of the law.

      Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2009/08/20/74102/seller-beware-feds-cracking-down.html#ixzz0pE9hLFy6

      • magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 11:58 am


      • freddiek said, on May 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm

        insane/ There are still those who bitch about laws concerning second-hand smoke, though we know the real consequences of breathing the shit–and, no, it’s not a theory like climate change and evolution and gravity. And they bitch about wheelchair ramps. It continues, ad infinitum/nauseum/crapoleum.

        You want to sell children’s toys in your backyard? Spend a little time at your computer researching recalls etc. As for those of you who loudly, and rightly (but narrowly) have in the past clamored here, on the good professor’s blog, for individual responsibility, clamor HERE and NOW–at the second-hand seller’s doorstep.

        • magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm

          You woudn’t have even known it was illegal but for TJ’s post.

          That is, until Toy SWAT assaulted into your back yard from black helicoptors, threw you on the ground and yelled:

          “Drop the Chicken Limbo Party Game, Dirt Bag!”

          You could of course respond with an impressive punitive strike by sticking a federal agent in the eye with your insanely dangerous but also highly illegal–do to recall–circa 1984, lawn dart set(fully infected with tetnus) while exclaiming:

          “Dude,this ain’t nothin’! I used to stick kittens in my Hasbro Easy Bake Oven, then set it for mmmm, mmm good!”

          That’d show em.


          The Chicken Limbo Party Game

          Manufactured by Milton Bradley, The Chicken Limbo Party game lacked sturdy support poles, therefore with the slightest touch, the entire apparatus could shake and collapse on participating children (and any bystanders). After 46 reports of the game collapsing and causing subsequent injuries such as bumps, bruises, welts, chipped teeth, and one fractured foot, Milton Bradley recalled 461,000 CLP units and suspended all sales in 2006.

          Jarts Lawn Darts

          Jarts (a variable of lawn darts) were heavy, metal projectiles that sharply pierced whatever they struck —including many children. Lawn darts were responsible for 6,700 injuries and four deaths in the 1980’s and were permanently banned (in all varieties) in 1988.

          Easy-Bake Oven by Hasbro

          Easy-Bake toy ovens have been around since the 1950’s, but this Hasbro model had a clear defect: the front-loading oven would trap tiny hands that were reaching inside of it—inflicting some 77 second- and third-degree burns to children’s hands and fingers, including one 5-year-old girl who required a partial finger amputation. Hasbro recalled the oven and stopped distribution in July 2007.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm

            Interestingly, your examples actually serve to support the law. Those toys sound rather dangerous and reselling them would be putting kids at risk. That said, when I was a kid I made my own really dangerous toys. But, I did know better than to stand under a lawn dart.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

        • magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm

          When I was a cop in Maine, the City of Bangor passed a law that said that people couldn’t smoke with children in the car.

          Cops refused to enforce it. It made cops look like clowns. Keep making laws, and like Churchill said, people lose respect for the laws.

          • freddiek said, on May 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

            Don’t the uniforms make them look like clowns?

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm

        On one hand, people who sell things are responsible for what they sell. A quick Google check will reveal if something has been recalled, at least in most cases. On the other hand, its seems a bit much to expect a person putting on a yard sale to check every item to see if it has been recalled. I wouldn’t think to do that (at least until I heard of this law).

  8. magus71 said, on May 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm


    I hace to use Defense Travel System with the military. Recently, some people testified before Congress on DTS showing that it was too complicated. The books on how DTS works stood two feet tall on the desk by the man who testified. The government has been working for a decade to try to simplify it!

    DTS is a nightmare, an absolute abominable child of fed thinking. It sends me into cold sweats when I have to use it. There are 75 different types of travel to pick forma nd all kinds of modifiers, just to make sure you’re not ripping the feds for $10 bucks on laundry expenses. Meanwhile State spends millions on alcohol so Hillary can get smashed and forget about what Bill’s doing back home…


    Mike, I know you want better not more laws. But our founding fathers knew a government just can’t handle the power. It grows and grows. Best to err on the side of freedom and make our bumps and bruises make us stronger.

    “From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.”~Ronald Reagan

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

      Time to simplify those laws. As you point out, when the law costs more than what it is supposed to prevent, then it is time to change or eliminate that law.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

        Where I work there were some new rules promulgated a few years ago on what was permissible to put down the drains.

        Turns out that the amount of chlorine in tap water exceeded the limit in the new rules, so that (for a few weeks, anyway) tap water was not supposed to go down the drains.

  9. freddiek said, on May 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    “You woudn’t have even known it was illegal but for TJ’s post.”

    That’s a ridiculous (and btw incorrect) assumption. It’s old news. You know what they say about assumptions. . .

    I miss those Jarts. I’d love to increase the possibility that my three-year-old could die while playing under the old elm out back. Don’t you think the possibility of him dying or being injured IN the elm tree itself (the old-fashioned way, like our founding fathers experienced it)is quite large enough without increasing the odds against him by allowing the marketing of a proven-to-be dangerous product.

    Interesting to note that of the three examples cited only the Jarts were actually banned. The other (presumably more responsible companies) pulled their (obviously) less dangerous products voluntarily. The power of the marketplace just wasn’t enough to convince the wonderful,
    conscientious, all-American makers of Jarts to do the right thing. Hmm.

    Another note: The Chicken Limbo and Easy Oven, according to your references, for the most part caused little more “bumps and bruises” of one degree or another.The Jarts killed 4 and some agency, not mentioned in your earlier reference had to intervene to take it off the market.”Best to err on the side of freedom and make our bumps and bruises make us stronger.” This, and other bumper sticker pablum like “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is pure uncomposted bull shit. Sometimes, in the real world, something that doesn’t kill you leaves you a drooling vegetable.

    Name a reason why it wouldn’t be “necessary and proper” for a responsible government to take some responsibility for the safety of its citizenry both inside and outside the arena of outright warfare.

    You guys can’t lay off Hills can you? Why don’t you footnote your charge with specific reference to the World Weekly News or the National Enquirer? Better still, there’s probably a three-column page two article in the Washington Times corroborating your claim. 🙂

    Try this sexist load for laffs:

    • magus71 said, on May 29, 2010 at 1:40 am

      “That’s a ridiculous (and btw incorrect) assumption. It’s old news. You know what they say about assumptions. . .’

      You knew the feds may be prowling amongst the yard sales? I applaud you…

      • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

        Apology accepted.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      I rather liked lawn darts when I was a kid. Of course, I recognized that they were actually weapons-which is probably why I liked them almost as much as my high powered hunting sling shot, BB gun, and other childhood implements of destruction.

  10. magus71 said, on May 29, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I just want them to leave me alone. I was carrying a hunting rifle when I was 12 years old–alone–in the woods. My father taught me from a very young age every safety aspect.

    This wasn’t a big deal. It was very usual for people to go to high school with a hunting rifle in their rear window.

    • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 8:18 am

      And I want to go back to a time when entire family units lived within5-10 miles of each other . . .and women stayed by the stove . . .and dads came home from work and did something other than swill beer and watch tv. But now we’ve got tvs and superhighways and working women (the horror!)and the realities of Columbine etc.What to do in this real world?

  11. magus71 said, on May 29, 2010 at 4:06 am

    I’ll stick with Clausewitz’ model; that no complex system can be expected to function beyond 80% of its capacity for long. More rules equal more complexity and less–not more-efficiency.

    What regulations are being proposed here, for BP? Please keep to your expectation that you want enforcable and “good” rules, not poor ones.

    People taking a “I knew it all along” attitude have an agenda– and anti-oil agenda.

    It’s clear that BP is suffering. Could it be that self-interest has actually played a role in making spills like this so rare, despite thousands of wells in the Gulf? Could it be that self-interest has every company–including BP scrambling to make sure that if a large spill occurs again, they’ll be able to cap it quickly?

    Self-interest is more powerful than government regulation. If having BP’s oil rig blow up, paying millions in clean-up and retribution and losing tons of prestige, it seems clear that this situation is beyond the realm of regulatory power and fully in the realm of a lot of bad things happeing at once.

    Again–two space shuttles exploded. NASA uses a fine-toothed comb before launching. All they can do is identify the engineering fault and make a change before the next mission.

    • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 8:40 am

      Is it incorrect or false to claim one “knew all along” that there’d likely be a major oil disaster in those mile-deep wells? Would it be incorrect to say “knew it all along” that large companies and small take safety shortcuts and often for profit?
      Would it be incorrect to take all possible preemptive steps based on the acceptance of the realities stated in the first two questions?

      There are relatively few deaths in car accidents despite a couple trillion miles being driven per year. And there are (some would say too) many government regulations regarding driving. These rules become unnecessarily confusing and their effectiveness is lessened because, for ex. towns and country roads from state to state have different rules. This results in confusion.

      There will be deaths. Yes. We’ve “known this all along.” We also know-it’s not a guess- that federal standardization–keeping the best, streamlining others, adding where necessary– of all highway and driving rules would decrease the number of deaths assuming enforcement remains as it is now.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 29, 2010 at 3:05 pm

        No, it is correct to claim that we know that there will always be disasters and death. For example, every year so many kids will drown in swimming pools, so many people will choke on food, so many people will be hit by cars, and so on. We know this and generally accept it as part of the risky nature of life.

        • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm

          Should we opt to maximize risk by avoiding regulations because regulations are sometimes poorly conceived or sometimes poorly enforced?

    • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 8:49 am

      Just one more comment about BP’s suffering. Yeah. Sure.
      What they, and all other oil companies KNOW is they’ve got U.S. by the short hairs. Thanks to those who’ve fought alternative energy sources and stricter mileage requirements and our citizenry’s addiction to Hummer-like gas hogs there is no
      effective alternative to oil for years in the future.

      Exxon suffered from the Valdez disaster. 🙂 But see their 2007 profits.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm

        Even if it has to spend billions on the cleanup, BP will still be making a profit. I would not be surprised if the clean up costs are tax deductible or, at least, count as business expenses that can be written off to a degree.

        I’m sure the execs would have preferred that the well stayed intact, but they are aware that is part of how they run the company.

        • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm

          Ultimately, those who favor what you describe in the second paragraph are dead-on supporters of free enterprise and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs: the men and women who take chances–with our environment, our money, our lives. It’s a system, it seems, that works quite well for the entrepreneurs–and somewhat less beneficially for everyone else.

          Our home town builds an industrial park using state and federal grant money and offers the sites at great purchase/tax advantage to businesses. The businesses, many of them, eventually chase their bottom line to a foreign land or go bankrupt and our small town is left with empty spaces and an unacceptable jobless rate.

          Don’t get me wrong:We need entrepreneurs. But I think if they’re going to take their chance in the free marketplace they should be required to have the balls to do it on their own. No subsidies, no breaks, no advantages. . .

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      As far as rules, I would propose that when a company drills a well in water X meters deep, they need to have demonstrated capacity to handle a disaster at that depth. Also, equipment capable of dealing with it must be stored so that it will be available rapidly (1-3 days at most).

      Obviously, BP does not want to have its rigs explode or its wells leak. That is major revenue loss. However, they were wiling to take chances by estimating the likelihood and cost of disaster versus the cost of proper maintenance, etc.

      Self interest does motivate people, to a degree. Of course, this requires that they actually know what their interests are, understand the best way to achieve them and have the will to do so. To use a common analogy, it is in a person’s best interest to eat better and exercise. Yet, most people do not do this. It might be said that their interests are just different, but I would contend that this view shows that a person does not know what is best.

      • freddiek said, on May 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

        It’s difficult to compare gluttony to, say, avarice. I’m not willing to bet, but I’d guess that each is controlled by a different part of the brain or a separate area in the same part. The drive that makes me want that extra slice of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake is not the same as the drive that might convince me to make as much money as I can regardless of the harm I may do to others.

        Because the greed harms others, I’d say it’s eligible for regulation even if the regulation may be ineffective at times. I’m not one who feels that, because there are weaknesses in our legal system we should turn to anarchy, or that because there are weaknesses in government we should, as Grover Nordquist suggested, shrink government then drag it to the bathtub and drown it. Note: Some say he was being flip. I think he was giving voice to what’s been going on since, let’s say, 1994 and what has led, inevitably, to the TeaBagger movement.

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