The Marxist plot against West Virginia

When a company called Freedom Enterprises (no, really) poisons the water supply for 300,000 people by carelessly allowing thousands of gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol to leak into the water supply from a worn-out storage pond conveniently located just upstream from the area’s main water treatment plant, that’s called “free enterprise.” Free enterprise is good.

If anyone tries to do prevent such disasters, that’s called “regulation.” Regulation is bad, because it limits free enterprise.

When the Federal government trucks in a million liters of bottled water, that’s “big government.” Big government is really bad, because it makes people lazy rather than self-reliant. Why didn’t all those folks have the gumption to buy stills?

When you add regulation to big government, you get socialism. The next step is torture chambers and gulags, or even Obamacare.

I certainly hope the Tea Party crowd in West Virginia will stoutly resist the socialist plot to provide them with “free” water at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. Perhaps the legislature could make it a felony to distribute socialist water.

Bonus query for members of the Federalist Society Which enumerated power allows the Congress to appropriate money to supply drinking water after a toxic spill?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

82 thoughts on “The Marxist plot against West Virginia”

  1. No, Mark.

    You must be dreaming. This is impossible. Companies never make this sort of mistake because hey, it would damage their reputations.

    Besides, regulations are useless, because this happened in spite of them.

    1. It may be straw, but it’s the straw that fills the heads of the entire Republican Party.

    2. For the strawman reference to have some application the poison spill would have to be made up.

      But, it actually happened.

      1. Is there a reason to assume that the state government of West Virginia is too incompetent to purchase enough bottled water to distribute to every county and municipality in the state? Or does mass purchase of a plentiful commodity obviously exceed the technical capacity of state-level official?

        I have to believe this is some sort of anti-WV redneck joke…

        1. I get the impression that, on some level, liberals don’t really believe state governments exist. You tell them that the federal government can’t do something, they read it as “government” can’t do it, because the only real government is the federal one.

          One argument I’ve heard is that the possibility of doing something at the state level doesn’t count, because a state might decide not to do it, and then it wouldn’t get done. But the federal government can decide not to do things, too. Does this imply that the UN is entitled to do all things?

          1. I think the evidence shows that states often don’t do things you would expect them to do. States are often broke and cut corners at every opportunity.

          2. Liberals are all too aware that state governments exist. These are the governments that passed Jim Crow laws and still make voting more difficult in order to protect one group from the policy preferences of others. It is state governments that believe they know better than women whether or not they should reproduce. And they’re the governments that privilege Christian thought over other traditions.

            Devolution of government power to state governments is no guarantee of either efficiency or protection of liberty.

          3. Brett Bellmore: cognitive dissonance embodied.

            He decries government, but then when it becomes clear that government has performed a “good,” he changes the object of his criticism (“no, no, it was never government in general that I wanted to see drowned in a bathtub, only the federal government. State government is wise, benevolent, and wonderful.”)

          4. State and local governments are better able to meet the needs of state and local crooks than is the federal government to meet the needs of national crooks.

          5. In an emergency situation I’d rather not have the federal government wait very long to see what the state is going to do before acting.

            How many days should be Charleston be left without water before it’s OK for the feds to step in?

          6. Errr, what county is the state capital located in? Is it, perhaps, located in one of the counties without water?

            Charelston is crippled by this crisis. Stores are rationing water purchases by individuals as far away as Marietta, OH (almost 100 miles from Charleston).

            Yeah, there’s no need for the federal government to get involved. It’s raining in WV today. Folks should just dig some cisterns.

          7. I get the impression that, on some level, liberals don’t really believe state governments exist. You tell them that the federal government can’t do something, they read it as “government” can’t do it, because the only real government is the federal one.

            One argument I’ve heard is that the possibility of doing something at the state level doesn’t count, because a state might decide not to do it, and then it wouldn’t get done. But the federal government can decide not to do things, too. Does this imply that the UN is entitled to do all things?”

            This is pretty good, Brett. The *major issue* with this catastrophe is that the state government didn’t do jack sh*t to prevent it, or to even require that the company make useful information to mitigate it available. And now, from what I can gather, the state government is quite happily doing their best to make sure that the people running/owning the company will not suffer any inconvenience for what they did.

        2. Apparently, you have eyes but do not see heat is happening all around you. Yes, there is every reason to believe that the state government is incapable of buying and distribution bottled water. To begin with, there is the fact that the state didn’t respond to the crises by buying and distributing the water and there is every indication that they would happily have waited for the “free market” to miraculously sole the problem.

          Then, too, you might consider the legendary degree of corruption and incompetence which has characterized the state’s relationship with private industry, and, most particularly with business involved in resource extraction.

    3. I wish it were so. But it’s not as though there hasn’t been very real opposition by libertarians against federal disaster relief, including claims that federal disaster relief is unconstitutional.

      Compare and contrast Mark’s sarcastic “[b]ig government is really bad, because it makes people lazy rather than self-reliant” with Ron Paul’s completely serious “it’s a moral hazard to say that government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things”, both in the context of federal disaster relief. Do you see a substantive difference? I don’t.

      I don’t see an inherent problem with a strongly freedom-oriented political philosophy. In fact, we have one, with a pretty good track record: it’s called “classical liberalism” (many of the Founding Fathers were classical liberals). Classical liberalism is to libertarianism what classical medicine is to homeopathy. I.e., not more government than necessary, but also no less government than necessary. “All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.” (Paracelsus.) As opposed to the libertarian prescription of a homeopathically diluted government.

      The difference is that classical liberalism has actually been used in practice (successfully, even); libertarianism is an ivory tower philosophy. As Charlie Stross recently put it:

      [B]ut I tend to take the stance that Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density (because it relies on simplifying assumptions about human behaviour which are unfortunately wrong).

      I’m usually not a big fan of Mark serving up red meat, but until and unless the Republican party gets around to disowning the crazies, he’ll keep having a target-rich environment.

      1. Hi Katja,

        I’m not so sure Stross’s critique of libertarianism doesn’t apply to conservatism or liberalism as well. I mean once we reduce self-government to any set of political ideals I think we’re going to have that problem matching those ideals to real human behavior.

        That aside, I’d happily be a liberal if classical liberalism were still in practice here. I just don’t see it. In my observation, the folks who call themselves liberals tend to be as anti-liberty as anyone else when it comes down to the brass tacks of making policy. The current liberal-conservative debate seems to be more “my tyranny vs. your tyranny” than “liberty vs. tyranny”. At least the libertarians talk like they still care about liberty.

        I see libertarianism (as defined by the national party) as an attempt to return to the practice of classical liberalism, though I can’t deny that there exists a large highly-vocal contingent of folks calling themselves libertarians who seem diametrically opposed to liberalism in the classical (or any other) sense. So in that sense I think libertarianism has the same problem with it’s tea party types (who I consider conservatives, not libertarians) that liberalism has with it’s “progressives”, though perhaps to a greater degree. It does get messy once human behavior is factored into the equation.

        1. I’ll disagree with Freeman’s premise. Liberalism (Mill, Dewey) and conservatism (Burke, Oakeshott) are in one category: Leninism and libertarianism is in another. The first two acknowledge the muddle of the world; the latter two do not.

          Try Oakeshott’s book: “Against Rationalism.” I think he went a little far in conflating muddlesome democratic socialism with the French Revolution, but he got the point. On a different level, there is Isaiah Berlin, who argued that ideological consistency is impossible, because values are not hierarchical.

          1. Say what you will, there still seems to be a whole lotta reality denyin’ going on in the Republican and Democratic parties. Take the war on drugs for the classic example: supported and expanded vigorously by both parties all these past decades, in complete denial of the history of human prohibition failure, going back in our mythology all the way to Eden. If liberals and conservatives are so much better at acknowledging the muddle of the world, I’m not seeing it there.

        2. Only libertarians are talking about liberty? So the large number of people who are outraged by the NSA spying on everyone all the time, are all libertarians?

          I’m not a liberal, but I don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re NEVER on the right side of an issue.

          1. As a libertarian who has been doing my fair share of anti-NSA protesting in the streets (esp. this summer), I have to echo this remark.

            Socialists have come out en masse in opposition to NSA warrantless surveillance. I personally have seen them: they’ve been loud; they’ve been passionate; they’ve been overrepresented.

            Not like the Democratic partisans who won’t take on the Obama administration even when they protested the exact same stuff under Bush.

            In this instance, I have to give great credit to the radical lefties over the institutional “team players.” Don’t even get me started on the nauseating Republican establishment types.

      2. Katja for the win, as so often happens. Past time to make her a named member of the Punditbureau, elevating her from the rabble of the commentariat.

        1. Sorry, that was me.
          All that design work and we still don’t have preview? And clicking reply invites that mistake by taking you to the comment text field rather than to the name field?

          Also, the thing I miss most, besides higher contrast, is the next/previous at the top of each post.

          1. And we still don’t have a flag comment field or a filter a-hole commenter button. The latter was something which was on old text-based rn and xrn newsreaders in the early 1990’s – who said technology doen’t regress?

    1. No, that would require buying EVERYBODY bottled water, not just people in one place.

      I think your answer is, “No enumerated power authorizes it.” And I’m fine with that, because, in addition to the federal government, there are these things called states. And, per the Constitution,

      “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

      So, if the power to provide local bottled water isn’t given to the federal government, and isn’t prohibited to the states by the Constitution, the states have it. Or anyway, can have it, depending on what powers their own constitutions allocate.

      Which means, to be very clear: You’re just being irrational if you try to spin, “The federal government isn’t supposed to do that.” as meaning, “That shouldn’t be done!” Even though you’ll probably try that anyway.

      What is it with Democrats, not really believing anything gets done if it isn’t the federal government doing it?

      1. “No, that would require buying EVERYBODY bottled water, not just people in one place.”

        This is a clarifying and illuminating rejoinder. Apparently, there are no entities other than individual human beings to which the phrase “general welfare” could refer — i.e., it must refer to the welfare of each and all of us, but only individually. The notion that there might actually be some larger groupings, like, say, societies, or nations, or neighborhoods, which individual human beings make up but which consist of more than those individuals, doesn’t really make any sense to Mr. Bellmore. So “general welfare” can’t refer to any notion of social or collective welfare, since no such entities exist.

        Of course I doubt these ontological puzzles prevent anyone who isn’t a hermit from functioning normally in day-to-day life — especially when it’s in their own best interest. But some people are excited by the notion that the universe consists only of them, and manage the guilty feeling that this might mean they are selfish moochers and free-riders by telling the rest of us that that’s what we should think too.

      2. No, that would require buying EVERYBODY bottled water, not just people in one place.

        I don’t think so.

        Why does it not authorize buying drinking water, and providing other emergency services, to communities needing such assistance.

        Having assistance available if needed contributes to welfare, even if it turns out you individually don’t need it. We are better off, as a community, for having ambulance service available, even if most residents won’t ever need an ambulance.

      3. “No, that would require buying EVERYBODY bottled water, not just people in one place.”

        Sigh. This strange position reflects neither the Hamiltonian broad view of the general welfare clause nor the Jeffersonian narrow view. The traditional “strict construction” has it that the clause simply enables the carrying out of the other enumerated powers, none of which would, construed strictly, permit the mass buying and distribution of bottled water by the federal government even if it were for everyone. Loose constructionists on the other hand have supported the applicability of the clause to local disaster relief since the days of Hamilton himself (along with internal improvements, etc.)

        The in-between position stated above lacks both a textual basis and a philosophical justification. If the power to spend for the general welfare is an independent power, then what principle could justify restricting it as you propose? The text itself articulates no such principle. More importantly, in philosophical terms why would disaster relief not promote the general welfare? Is it not to our general advantage to have some security against acts of nature? Or does the welfare of those adversely affected by disaster somehow not count?

      4. Brett, I think you’ve saddled up a deliberate fallacy here and ridden it off into the sunset.

        Your first sentence is ridiculous, and I’m sure you know it. I don’t expect the government to provide me with bottled water. But I DO EXPECT it to provide me with clean, reasonably pure, potable water. If they find that somebody has polluted their supply at the usual source, then I expect them to find an alternate source.

        1. But this is not a question about “government”, it is a question about the federal government.

          1. Above we saw a debate about the difference between Libetarian and Liberal philosophy. Seems to me that Libertarians want to make every question an ideological debate that never ends. Liberals just want to make the trains run and on time would be nice.
            Brett my friend, you are certainly a Libertarian. You are intentionally and stupifyingly obtuse, I susspect because it just gives you a thrill.
            To the point here: Who cares who brings these people safe drinking water? If it turns out to be the responsibility of The Great State of West Virginia the Dreaded Federal Gubmint can send them a bill. The embattled citizens just need the water yesterday. Duh!

          2. But this is not a question about “government”, it is a question about the federal government.

            So I’ll ask straight up. Should the government of West Virginia be providing bottled water? Not does it have the power to if it wishes, but do you think that it should be collecting taxes so that it can truck in bottled water in this situation?

  2. No worry, the free market will punish them when electricity consumers choose to not buy electricity from coal plants fired with coal washed with solvents supplied by companies who use Freedom for waste storage.

    1. And if that doesn’t happen, there’s the inevitable consumer boycotts of products made by manufacturers and artisans who use electricity from coal plants fired with coal washed with solvents supplied by companies who use Freedom for waste storage.

  3. The enumerated powers question is always the hardest for the (anti-)Federalist Society to answer, isn’t it?

    And that’s because they think the first paragraph of Article I, Section 8 is some sort of sub-preamble. Still, it looks enumerating to me…But heck, what do I, a mere Alexander Hamilton fan, know?

    1. Actually, that would be because they read “general welfare” as well as “necessary and proper” as a restriction on the exercise of the enumerated powers. As in, laws have to be both necessary AND proper, spending has to advance the general welfare of the nation, rather than just particular counties in one state.

      Essentially the general welfare clause was to prevent the federal government from taxing one region for the benefit of a different region, benefits of any spending were to be nation-wide.

      1. Um. Why is dealing with a disaster in Place A *not* advancing the general welfare? My definition of general welfare is more-or-less the utilitarian one–something that makes the society as a whole better off advances the general welfare; it need not make each individual better off.

        What’s your definition of general welfare? Implicitly, it seems that you’re saying that unless an action makes every individual better off, it can’t be advancing the general welfare of the country. That’d be an odd position to take, I think…

          1. Hmmm…let me clarify. I read you as asserting that the framers took the position that “unless an action makes every individual better off, it can’t be advancing the general welfare of the country.” (Emphasis mine).

            This means that no action promotes the “general welfare” if it harms any single individual. Is it your position that the framers would agree with this statement?

        1. People lacking clean water to drink obviously need us to spend several days debating the finer constitutional points of giving them some water. Water that didn’t come from the correct level of the federal republic would be really unsatisfying.

          How about some old fashioned competition? If West Virginia can get the water there first, then those nasty Federal meanies can stand down.

      2. Not exactly. In fact, Madison argued in Federalist 41 that the subsequent list of enumerated powers “explained and qualified” the general welfare clause, not the other way around. For Madison this phrase does not limit Federal power to only those actions that promote the welfare of the entire Union; he understood exercise of the listed powers to be in the interest of common defense and the general welfare of the nation.

        It’s important to remember that the Constitutional project was largely about increasing the powers of the central government relative to those granted Congress under the Articles of Confederation. This is why the Constitution included a general “necessary and proper” limitation on Congressional power rather than limiting it to only those expressly granted, as the Articles did.

        For Hamilton, the Constitution specifically authorizes Congress to pass particular laws “necessary and proper” for exercising its enumerated powers not as a limitation on Congress but to protect it from attempts by States to undermine the Union by guarding “against all cavilling refinements in those who might hereafter feel a disposition to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities of the Union.” He wanted to protect Congress from too literal a reading of the Constitution.

        For both Madison and Hamilton, the true limit on Congressional power lay with the executive and judicial branches and the People:

        ”… the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in the last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.” (Madison, Federalist 44)


        ”If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.” (Hamilton, Federalist 33)

        The men who wrote and ratified the Constitution did so because they wanted a more powerful central government after watching the Union begin disintegrating under the Articles of Confederation. They structured this government to make it very difficult for Congress to act tyrannically. But Hamilton thought the national government should judge, through its institutions, the Constitutionality of its actions, with the People as the final arbiter, and along with Madison wrote the limitations broadly enough to allow Congress to act as the States and People wished.

      3. “Essentially the general welfare clause was to prevent the federal government from taxing one region for the benefit of a different region, benefits of any spending were to be nation-wide.”

        Unfortunately, the general welfare clause doesn’t actually say this. It stipulates that “Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States” but says nothing comparable about spending. What it does say is that taxing and spending are to be undertaken for the common defense and general welfare. Your proposed interpretation reduces “common” and “general” to mean something along the lines of “separate but equal”.

  4. It’s only socialism if it benefits somebody I don’t like.

    Count me as a fan of the site redesign. I find it very readable on both computer and tablet, though I do agree with the white space and narrow column criticisms. Where it really shines over the old site, however, is on my phone–a hassle turned into a pleasure just like that.

    1. I personally find the design a huge pain. Slightly darker lettering on a light gray background, for the comment boxes? Which genius thought that up? I need CONTRAST to read things, blast it, these eyes aren’t just 55 years old, they’re diseased. (Epiretinal membrane.)

      That the actual “content”, what I visit the site for, occupies only a third of my screen, is another sore point. I bought these over-sized monitors just so I could view your site in a box the size of my Nook?

      Finally, minor point, I read down a post, reach the end, and if I decide to comment, have to scroll back to the top to turn the comments on. (I said minor.) That would be better placed at the bottom, where it was before.

      1. I bought these over-sized monitors just so I could view your site in a box the size of my Nook?

        I am sure you can buy over over-sized monitors to make this work for you. Remember, there is a market-based solution for everything. And you shouldn’t expect the Federal Gov. (Here represented by Kleiman and Co) to supply solutions that are best handled by individual States (your pocketbook) in this case.

        In other words: Here is a chance to prove your strawman exists.

        1. No need for more monitors when there’s a technical solution handy. The “txt to html v6” bookmarklet at this site strips formatting and re-word-wraps the text so that it fits the entire width of your browser screen, allowing you to resize it at will by resizing the browser. Downside: it doesn’t look great and the reply links on this site get broken in my browser (other links seem fine). Upside: it’s cheap (free), quick, and easy, and quickly and easily undone by clicking the back button.

          1. Your technical fix is that I should break my browser in order to make the site more readable?

            I think the better suggestion is, that it’s a remarkably bad idea for most purposes to display slightly darker grey text on a light grey background. I can see it as a cue that a selection is not available, (“Grayed out”), but for text entry? It just makes no sense.

            It’s your site, Mark, and you can use yellow text on white if you like, I’d simply ask you to remember that not everybody has perfect eyes, some of us can’t read text unless there is adequate contrast. In my case, what most people would regard as a lot more than just “adequate”.

  5. There will be libertarians who will argue that, if you allow entrepreneurs to import water to WV and price it adequately (ten bucks a liter? 20?), there will be plenty to go around without the dead hand of government mucking things up. With luck one or two of them might show up here.

  6. For what it’s worth, this toxic waste spill takes me back more than 40 years.] I was a graduate student at West Virginia University, and then the major environmental issue in WV was acid mine drainage contaminating the ground water and rendering it unusable. And, when something like 15% of the population depended on wells for all their water, that was an issue. Fortunately, the federal government enacted regulations requiring that acid mine drainage be controlled (because, as I recall, it was affecting navigable waterways in interstate commerce–but really because it was seriously affecting a small number of people in a relatively small state. Unfortunately, the toxic waste issue seems not to have gone away. And I have read nothing about Freedom Enterprises stepping up to provide water to the people whom its actions have damaged.

  7. I agree with Jmg above that Katja deserves a round of applause, especially for invoking the great Paracelsus as a metaphor for the role of dosage in matters of government activity.

    However, I think that there is a substantive difference between Mark’s sarcasm and Ron Paul’s interview. In this case, the libertarian position would be that Freedom Industries should not be protected from the consequences of its having done dumb things, namely contaminate the water supply of a large populated area; it should bear the responsibility for its negligence without any agency of government helping it out. I have not heard any libertarian commentary on this event but am confident that they will say something very much like this.

    The story has not received the national attention it deserves because it could serve as an example of why there are government regulations, and why the federal government has to play a role beyond what the state of West Virginia can be responsible for. The Elk River flows into the Kanawha River, which flows into the Ohio River, which crosses state lines and brings contaminants into the water supply of people who had no voting representation in West Virginia politics. Downriver the consequences will be less severe but it will take some diligent monitoring of the situation to be sure of what those consequences are.

    1. In this case, the libertarian position would be that Freedom Industries should not be protected from the consequences of its having done dumb things, namely contaminate the water supply of a large populated area . . .

      That could be the libertarian position but it practice it generally isn’t. Most of them also want to make it harder for anyone to sue a corporation for its misdeeds. They want to prevent class action lawsuits. They want to eliminate any attempt to provide legal services to anyone without the money to pay for them, either legal aid or contingency fee structures, and thus prevent those people from having any ability to file a lawsuit. They want to limit damages to only direct economic costs as if there aren’t other sorts of harms.

      And to preempt Freeman’s usual complaints, whether you like it or not and whether you think that this should be what Libertarianism argues, in practice it is exactly what most of those who call themselves such do argue

      1. Very true, and one reason to specify that this what the libertarian position “would be” and not what it “is.” If an individual was harmed by the corporation’s actions, let that individual hire an individual attorney and bring a court action against the corporation; let individuals do this one at a time, and let the courts decide each separate case on its merits. Let the corporations hire their own attorneys and see who wins.

        That is the libertarian idea of a level playing field.

  8. Separate comment on Katja’s fine comment about libertarianism being like Leninism. Like current Tea Party philosophy, it is an ideology (that is short “i” as in “idiot,” not long “i” as in “idea”) which is foreign to what has made America exceptional. That special American characteristic, I submit, is pragmatic realism, which plays out as seeing what happens if you try “this” in the real world, and switching to “that” if “this” does not work. While Europeans were quarreling over pure and abstract General Principles, Americans were trying things out and deciding whether to try them again or try another approach. FDR was famous for his lack of “principles” in this respect. Thomas Edison knew some principles of electromagnetism, but he experimented with one thing after another while inventing the light bulb. If one thing did not work, he abandoned it and tried something different.

    The classic American pragmatic response to the West Virginia spill would be to say, “Hmmm, something seems to have backfired here. Maybe environmental regulation is worth having; let us figure out the right dose which protects our citizens but does not strangle business.”

    The Tea Party has grown hostile to pragmatism in government, and in the same measure has evolved into something un-American. Time to call them out on this.

      1. I distinctly remember my dismay when reading an article about the Reagan White House (when RR was newly in office) that said that, for many of his staff, “pragmatist” was a bad thing to be, Though by current standards on the right, Reagan was just this.

  9. It is illegal to pollute the water in WV from what I can see and there is an investigation. Not that it helps after the fact, but this isn’t exactly an example of free enterprise. It’s an example of the failure of regulation.

    The question of how much regulation we should have (and at what level of government) is a good one. I am just saying this example doesn’t seem to answer it one way or the other.

    1. Probabaly the conservatives in charge of the state defunded the regulatory agency that would have been inspecting the poison retention pond and containment arrangements,

      or, and also, the regulation was too lax (in that only one pond with some kind of earthen wall was required, and it was allowed to be just upstream of the public water supply reservoir)

      Only isn’t answered clearly if you don’t want to hear the question to start with

      1. Or, as Charley Carp says below, it could be that it’s completely unreasonable to expect regulation to completely eliminate the practices it outlaws. Therefore describing it as a “failure of regulation” is a little rich.

  10. Despite centuries of making theft and murder illegal, theft and murder are both fairly common. Obviously, then, the ineffectual laws against theft and murder should be repealed.

    I’ve said before it ought to be a rule that no Libertarian can post his adolescent fantasy ideology on the public internet until he’s prosecuted a breach of contract lawsuit to completion.

  11. There is only one question here:
    Shall businessmen be bound by the law?
    Businessmen, predictably, say they shall not. “Conservatism” has come to be identified with the political tendency that says they shall not. “Liberalism” has come to be identified with the political tendency that says they shall. Whilst rejecting all labels, I say they shall.
    The proposition that businessmen should not be bound by the law is so patently odious that its adherents resort at once to sophistry, much of which takes the form of a corollary proposition that some laws are more binding than others. This is where “Constitutional” exegesis comes into play, which however is uniformly futile and dishonest.
    Nothing else is on the table. No other considerations arise. The only question is, Shall businessmen be bound by the law?

      1. …for they shall inherit the tech support.

        Overall, I like the new look. But yeah, light grey on white is borderline cruel. Also, what’s up with that ‘G’ icon in the tab? Wouldn’t a nice R or ℝ make more sense?

  12. The State of WV did not act on earlier federal recommendations to create a new program for preventing chemical accidents. has some details. The article mentions a safety law in Contra Costa County in California, where the potential for hazardous material accidents is also present. County commissioners in Kanawha County in WV were interested in having such a program in January of 2011, but anticipated political difficulty with getting thing done at the state legislature. Industry groups had opposed the federal recommendations.

    This may provide some information relevant to the debates above concerning state vs federal government roles in protecting the public from hazardous material spills.

  13. I was thinking that this shows the important of context and motive in evaluating the morality of actions. If some folks from EarthFirst or Greenpeace had bought a piece of property in the region and excavated a pond in which they deposited thousands of gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, believing that in the course of events the liquid would make its way into the watershed and highlight the importance of safeguarding our drinking water supply, they would be justly accused as terrorists, and they, their friends, associates, heirs and assigns would already be in custody either as suspects or material witnesses. Doing the same thing in the belief that it would result in being able to purchase a few more cases of high-priced cigars, in contrast, is either praiseworthy or at worst a morally neutral tactical error.

    1. Very interesting observation. If Al Qaeda had done this, the conservatives would be screaming “IMPEACH OBAMA!!” and demanding a major ground war in whatever country the perpetrators had come from. If a big corporation does it, they will say that this is an unfortunate incident which is just one of those things that happen every now and then.

  14. Thanks for this Mark. As a West Virginian directly affected by a poisoned water supply–and believe me when I tell you that this mess is SO much more of a disaster than most people outside of this state realize–I posed a similar line of questions toward my “liberty-loving” libertarian and teaparty friends, and would you believe that they had absolutely no response for how free enterprise could have made this better/prevented it? Can you believe that they had no response as to how that evil organization called FEMA screwed this up? And would you believe that I got ZERO constitutional citations to the enumerated power stating “federal government shall bail WV out of water crisis caused by negligent company operating under lax regulatory scheme”?

  15. Mark: “Bonus query for members of the Federalist Society Which enumerated power allows the Congress to appropriate money to supply drinking water after a toxic spill?”

    1) IOKIYAR.
    2) Right-wing rural states are overrepresented, and take full advantage of it.
    3) Shut up! That’s why!
    4) You must be a communist!

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