Anti-Business? Or Anti-The Worst Businesses?

A good, socially responsible business can’t make a profit if its competitors are free to trash the environment, impoverish and injure their workers, and evade the law. Don Blankenship knows that, and that’s why he’s on the warpath against the Obama Administration:

As CEO of Massey Energy, [Blankenship] has presided over a coal company that had thousands of violations in recent years, leading up to the April explosion that killed 29 of his miners. . . . [At the National Press Club, the] CEO was asked what he could have done to prevent the deadly explosion. “I probably should’ve sued MSHA” — that’s the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration — “rather than waiting” until now, he said. In the future, he added, “you’ll see not only coal companies but many companies resist the efforts of EPA and others that are impeding their ability to pursue their careers, or their happiness.” . . . .”There’s 42,000 people killed a year on the highways,” the coal boss offered as a way to put his miners’ deaths in perspective.

As James K. Galbraith noted in his book, The Predator State, there are too many members of our political class who want to help Mr. Blankenship pursue his law of the jungle vision of capitalism. Promoters of carte blanche deregulation are not “pro-business;” rather, they’re helping one, irresponsible part of the private sector outcompete other parts of it. As Galbraith argues,

Imposing standards, and enforcing them, is . . . the general policy response to . . . the reactionary forces within business who see to maintain competitiveness without technological improvement, without environmental control, without attending to product or workplace safety. They are the forces behind deregulation.

The business community is diverse; some companies care a great deal about their workers, whereas other treat them as little more than an expendable human resource. For example, in one time period, BP had over 700 “egregious, willful” OSHA violations, and Exxon had only one. A civilized society does not allow companies like BP and Massey to gain a competitive edge by endangering workers and the environment. Only a kakistocracy accepts a kakisteconomy.

Image Credit: Poster for the film The Corporation, which includes an interview with an inspirational figure for sustainable business, Ray Anderson (the CEO of Interface, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer).

You may also like...