Saturday, March 1, 2008

Anything you can do, the government can do worse

To quote Ronald Reagan, as I regard the concept that businesses will face no consequences if they act irresponsibly, and we thusly require a benevolent government to take care of us: "if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?" Essential tax-payer sponsored incompetents once again proved that the government is as human and fallible as everyone else is in the case of the "largest beef recall" in the history of the United States.

From USAToday:

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has suspended at least two federal meat inspectors following the largest beef recall in the nation's history, a union head said Friday.


The USDA recalled 143 million pounds of beef from the Chino slaughterhouse on Feb. 17. The recall came after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing plant workers trying to get so-called "downer" cows — sick or crippled animals — to stand by shoving and dragging them with forklifts, zapping them with electric prods and aiming water hoses at their faces and noses.


The recall launched a series of congressional hearings and close scrutiny of the USDA's meat and poultry inspection system. The agency has an average national vacancy rate of 10% and has said it is short about 500 inspectors.

That recall was recounted and commented on by Mike's Eyes, as it happened. He argued that not only are the regulatory organizations unnecessary, as they prove to be just as prone to error and apathy as the businesses themselves, but are actually counter-productive to the cause of consumer safety:

I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of this particular case. My point is that many people will use this incident as evidence to support the idea that we need regulatory agencies like the USDA to keep us safe. I say just the opposite is true. We would be much safer in an unregulated economy where the commodity of safety is provided by the market. In point of fact, the USDA did not protect the consumer in this case. It happened despite the regulatory agencies, despite the fact that a USDA inspector was there for a few hours every day. Why did regulators fail? Because they are not self-interested, they have nothing to gain by doing a great job and nothing to lose by doing a poor one. In a laissez-faire economy, producers would have everything to lose from a bad reputation and everything to gain from a good one.

And don't forget that, even if regulations somehow bypassed reality and somehow became helpful, they would still be inherently immoral: they violate the individual rights of consumers to make their own decisions about which companies they will support with the mighty vote of their paycheques. As Mike elaborates:

They represent the starting of the use of force against producers and consumers by 1. destroying the need of consumers to focus on the reputations of businesses and 2. by encouraging producers to be concerned with following certain rules rather than following reality as dictated by the market.

As it stands now, a company will, like a sub-par student coddled by years of public education, maintain the bare minimum of standards in order to pass. He has no incentive to do any better. That little stamp of government approval is the same whether your company produces the finest cuts or dog food. The public have even less interest than the meat plants do in a company's reputation, and will simply rely upon that stamp as a "sign of quality."

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home