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Earlier this week, I caught an interview on NPR with the mayor of the West Virginia town where the chemical spill contaminated the drinking water.  I got the impression that the guy is probably a Republican, because despite a few cautious hints from the interviewer, and despite his own deep anger about the situation, he refused to put the blame on Big Industry in general, nor did he say anything positive about Government Regulation.  

Instead he said that the disaster was the fault of "A Few Renegades."  He personally knew a couple of the executives involved and talked to them personally; and caught them out in some blatant lies.  I suspect this sense of betrayal added quite a bit to the outrage he expressed over the catastrophe his community is enduring.

But that doesn't mean that the whole system needs to be re-thought.  No, these are just "A Few Renegades" at fault, one or two Bad Apples.

And that got me thinking about Renegades...

The thing is, one man's Renegade is another man's Maverick:  a brilliant Rule-Breaker who thinks outside the box and doesn't limit himself to the way things have always been done.  The Free Market rewards guys like that... provided they actually make a profit.

And that's the thing.  If a company can earn a profit by "breaking the rules" and going "renegade"; by doing things that are maybe ethically dubious, but not outright illegal;  that means that they will have an advantage over their more strait-laced competitors.  And that means their competitors will have to go "renegade" too, if they want to stay in business.

I saw this many years ago when I lived in Darkest Iowa.  Wal-Mart wanted to open a branch in a small town called Pella, a highly-conservative Dutch community.  A lot of the locals were upset about this, because Wal-Mart stays open 24/7, and stores in Pella were generally closed on Sundays.  As I said, it was a very conservative Dutch community.

Now, personally I think that Blue Laws are kind of foolish, and I like having the opportunity to buy something on the Sabbath if I happen to need it; but the concern among the locals was that if Wal-Mart was open on Sundays, then other stores would start remaining open on Sundays to remain competitive.  And that is pretty much what happened: many business owners who didn't want to stay open on the Day of Rest, (whether for Religious Reasons or for Keeping Payroll Down Reasons) found they had to choose between their Deeply-Held Religious Beliefs and Staying In Business.  Of course, Wal-Mart crushed them anyway, but that's what Wal-Mart does.

But my point isn't about Blue Laws; it's that if a business can make money by going "Renegade", then soon their "Renegade" business practices will become Standard Operating Procedure.

The only way to stop these Renegades is through... Yes, you know this is coming... Government Regulations!  Outside limits as to what they can and cannot do.  

If we rely solely on the Market to act as the Conscience of Industry, we shouldn't be surprised if they place Profit above Ethics.

Originally posted to quarkstomper on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:12 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Renegade Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    For Thinking Outside the Box.

    I live for feedback.

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

    by quarkstomper on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:12:35 PM PST

  •  wonder why they're called blue laws (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, Brecht, RiveroftheWest

    everybody knows Democrats are godless atheists and preverts

    •  According to Wikipedia... (6+ / 0-)

      ...Which Would Not Lie To Me...

      ...the word blue was used in the 17th century as a disparaging reference to rigid moral codes and those who observed them, particularly in blue-stocking, a reference to Oliver Cromwell's supporters in the parliament of 1653.
      It also dismisses the theory that these laws were originally printed on blue paper, but does mention the more plausible theory that they were originally bound in books with blue covers.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

      by quarkstomper on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 04:07:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A couple of points: (8+ / 0-)
    one man's Renegade is another man's Maverick . . . The Free Market rewards guys like that... provided they actually make a profit.
    It's even worse on Wall St., where we have a system that rewards lucky risk-takers, and absolves unlucky ones. So the big picture and objective analysis go out the window. You will only get to the top if you take your gloves off, roll your sleeves up, and make a killing.

    Which means the CEOs of our biggest banks have been selected for their manic and sociopathic tendencies.

    Second Point:

    This same free-market-on-steroids dynamic has become SOP for movers and shakers of the right wing. Look at Ted Cruz's ruthless selfish game playing, and how it looks like brave principles to his tea-party base.

    Newt Gingrich led the way in the '90s, and Karl Rove defined the game in the '00s. All three of these men got away with crimes against decency that no real leader would have attempted.

    Neither our "free" market nor the right-wing adequately punishes those who risk too far, and damage the commonweal (our economy, the Republican Party, or the American people). Regulation, Common Sense, and Reality are broken.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:41:18 PM PST

  •  you could probably rely on the rule of law too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, RiveroftheWest

    the "renegade" concept can be extended to many areas of life, preemption in almost every case would be authoritarian and foolish, not to mention counter-productive, but in this case perhaps the most so, considering we're talking about government regulations enforcing blue laws and the sabbath

    as for the west virginia foolishness, the problem here runs much deeper

    free the information

    by freelixir on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:40:29 AM PST

  •  Re (5+ / 0-)
    Now, personally I think that Blue Laws are kind of foolish, and I like having the opportunity to buy something on the Sabbath if I happen to need it; but the concern among the locals was that if Wal-Mart was open on Sundays, then other stores would start remaining open on Sundays to remain competitive.  And that is pretty much what happened: many business owners who didn't want to stay open on the Day of Rest, (whether for Religious Reasons or for Keeping Payroll Down Reasons) found they had to choose between their Deeply-Held Religious Beliefs and Staying In Business.
    It isn't the business owner making this decision, it's their customers.

    If customers want to or prefer to shop on Sunday, businesses can serve them or not as they choose.

    If the community was as conservative as claimed, it would be impossible to make any money keeping a business open on Sunday.

    Anyway, no reason for the government to be involved.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 08:51:52 AM PST

    •  True, But. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I hesitated about bringing the Pella Blue Laws into this diary because I suspected they might distract from my point, but I did it anyway so I have no one to blame but myself.

      Going back to the WV chemical spill, it was unethical and unwise for Freedom Industries to neglect their facilities, leading to the leak; but their customers, I suspect, cared less about whether the company was Environmentally Friendly than they were whether it charged a good price for their product.  So the Free Market wasn't about to force them to fix things.  

      Prudence and long-term thinking might spur them to do the needed repairs and maintenance, but that would cost money and either require them to raise prices or take the money out of their profits.  Either way provides a big incentive to put things off for now.  Stupid, yes; especially in hindsight; but there you are.

      That is why Government Regulations are important.  A business's first priority is always going to be the Bottom Line, but the Bottom Line doesn't care about the Public Good, except sometimes when Enlightened Self-Interest plays a factor.  And if the company guided by Enlightened Self-Interest gets stomped by the Renegade looking to make a short-term killing, which path do you think other companies will follow.

      The Small-Government Conservatives don't want the State to meddle with the Markets and say we should trust Business to know what's best for people, and that it's only one or two "Renegades" who mess things up.  But without those meddlesome Regulations, those "Renegades" become the standard business model.

      And I find I'm repeating myself, so maybe I should let the matter drop.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

      by quarkstomper on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 09:53:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This isn't an issue of regulations ignored. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, RiveroftheWest

    The chemical that spilled is not considered all THAT bad, so no regs. The place on the riverbank didn't play into it either, as it should have, because the chemical being stored wasn't terribly dangerous. This is clearly a case of not enough regulations.

    Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given. (Unknown author, found in Guide to Texas Etiquette by Kinky Friedman)

    by marykmusic on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 10:48:47 AM PST

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