It’s the prevailing wisdom in the US (at least amongst the uninformed) that less government intervention is the solution to all problems. Just move that big, bad government out of the way and the benevolent corporations will take care of us as if we were their own precious children. Anyone that owns a history book or was even just not asleep for the past decade, knows this belief is utter foolishness. But how does one go about exposing the foolishness to the masses when those masses are so history averse that they will deny and/or forget anything that happened more than fifteen minutes ago? Every once in a while, there’s a god-send of a current event that perfectly demonstrates the fallacy of the “free market curses all” belief for anyone that chooses to open their eyes to it.
This time, that event came in the form of two major snow storms and the state’s response to each. Both storms hit early in the work week. Both storms brought 12-24″ inches of snow across the state of CT. Both brought high winds. Both created a mess. The one difference between them? During the first storm, Governor Malloy decided to be proactive and issued a travel ban from 9pm on the night of the storm through 2pm the following day. During the second storm, no travel ban was issued. This meant that during the first storm, the vast majority of businesses across the state were forced to close during the worst of the storm because demanding that employees violate the law and endanger themselves at the same time just doesn’t sit well from a liability standpoint. Now, surely the believers in the evils of government and the beauty of the free market will tell us that employers would never put profits over employee safety – and so they did. All over news website comment sections and social media, the state exploded with vile, anti-government hate for the Governor that dared to assume that businesses wouldn’t have closed down on their own. No one seemed to pay attention to the fact that there was a record low of only 15 accidents across the entire state (none of which were fatal) and due to the lack of cars out and about, plows had the highways cleared almost immediately at the end of the storm. Alas, those facts didn’t matter. How dare the governor interfere! Free market! Apparently the governor heard their cries. During the next storm, he didn’t interfere. Subsequently, to the surprise of absolutely no informed person, very few businesses chose to close. Why? Because most businesses treat employees as commodities, not people. When given the option, employee safety always takes a distant backseat to profits (probably why OSHA and worker’s comp weren’t corporate creations). This time, the state’s roads were packed full of traffic during the worst of the storm. Results? Hundreds of car accidents statewide including a double fatality on I-95.
It’s certainly a minor example (though not for anyone that spun into a ditch trying to get to work or the two people who lost their lives), but it’s crystal clear evidence nonetheless. Sometimes, often times, businesses left to their own devices don’t get it right and it’s necessary for government to step up and do what it was designed to: give common folk a voice and meaningful leverage against those in power that do not care about their welfare.