Kick Me…Harder

There was a story on NPR this morning about a woman who, in the 1980s, began sending money to the U.S. government in an effort to help pay down the national debt.  She even started an organization the purpose of which was to convince other people to do the same.  My first response to this was: Are you fucking kidding me?!?!  It’s not enough to have part of your salary taken without your consent and used by congressmen to buy votes or create jobs secure campaign contributions by funneling cash to their politically connected friends in the “private sector,” or used to bail out banks, or build more prisons, or to continue to wage endless war on unsuspecting villagers in Afghanistan, etc., etc.  No, what you have to do is give these criminal scumbags more of your money, voluntarily

The article portrayed the woman as a somewhat kooky idealist, fighting a noble though losing battle against the inevitable expansion of government, rather than as a fool or an inveterate sucker.  I have to wonder, though, what if she had been an employee of, say, WalMart, and decided to help the company’s sagging bottom line by volunteering to work overtime and weekends for free?  How would she have been portrayed in that case?    

If you want to give your money away, give it to a charity or some kind of organization that does something useful.  But if you’re just going to give it to the government, you might as well scatter it in the wind, or flush it down the toilet, or set it on fire.

Why Regulations Are a Joke

This is sort of a companion piece to my teabagger post–more specifically, an expansion on my suggestion that maybe regulations themselves are part of the problem when dealing with corporate crimes.  I’ll let Kevin Carson explain (emphasis added):

Interestingly, an Alternet commentator on the Tea Party story wrote:  “I’m sure those people cheering every insane thing he [CEO Don Blankenship of Massey Energy] said at that rally will blame the government for failing to stop him, thus proving once again that it can’t do anything right.”

Well, yeah.  The mine safety and anti-pollution regulations, in this case, are a good illustration of why the corporate state replaced traditional tort liability standards under the common law with a regulatory state in the first place.

Now, you’d think tort liability for the full damages of wholesale devastation of the entire countryside, the poisoned water and coal dust, the deaths from gross negligence, and all the rest of it, would seriously undermine the profitability of mountaintop removal.  And you’d be right.

That’s exactly what the regulatory state was created to avoid.  Let’s look at a little history.  I can’t recommend strongly enough “The Transformation of American Law,” by Morton Horwitz.  According to Horwitz, the common law of tort liability was radically altered by state courts in the early to mid-19th century to make it more business-friendly.  Under the traditional standard of liability, an actor was responsible for harm that resulted from his actions — period.  Negligence was beside the point.  Courts added stricter standards of negligence and intent, in order to protect business from costly lawsuits for externalities they might impose on their neighbors.  The regulatory state subsequently imposed far weaker standards than the traditional common law; the main practical effect was to preempt what remained of tort liability.  A regulatory standard amounts to a license to commit torts below the threshold of that standard, and lawsuits against polluters and other malfeasors can be met with the defense that “we are fully in compliance with regulatory standards.”  In some cases, as with food libel laws or product disparagement laws, even voluntarily meeting a more stringent standard may be construed as disparagement of products that merely meet the regulatory standard.  For example, Monsanto has had mixed success in some jurisdictions suppressing the commercial free speech of those who advertise their milk as free from rBGH; and conventional beef producers have similarly managed in some cases to prevent competitors from testing for mad cow disease more frequently than the law mandates.

So a class action suit against a coal mining company for the public nuisance created by mountaintop removal could be thwarted by simply demonstrating that the operation met EPA regulatory standards, even if such operations caused serious harm to the property rights and quality of life of the surrounding community.

This is why I have to laugh whenever I hear some politician–or, worse yet, some d0-gooder “progressive”–braying about the need for more stringent regulations of this or that industry.  I mean, shit.  Who do you think is going to be in the room, campaign donation check in hand, when these things get written?

Back to Carson:

I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Blankenship is one of the most loathsome pigs ever to contaminate the Earth with his presence.  And the dumbed-down regulatory state — by offering wrist-slap fines worth a tiny fraction of the harm caused by his terrorism, as a substitute for free juries of his neighbors nailing his scrote to the wall for his crimes — has played a key role in enabling him.

Whole article here.

If the President Does It, It’s Gotta Be OK

I’m pretty sure there’s no act of (U.S., that is) state violence that some “conservative” douchebag won’t excuse.  Then again, we are “at war” and this Awlaki character was a bad man:

Anwar al-Awlaki, a purportedly American-born Islamic cleric, who is now operating in Yemen, ministered to the 9/11 hijackers, inspired the Ft. Hood assassin, probably directed the would-be Christmas bomber, and is believed to be orchestrating and recruiting for violent jihad operations against the United States.

Other diabolical deeds Awlaki probably directed or is believed to have orchestrated: the earthquake in Haiti, the Holocaust, the assassination of JFK, and the crucifixion of Jesus.  (By the way, I like the attempt to casually brush aside Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship–’cause, you know, this is the only possible legitimate objection one could have here.)

Via Frog.