Thursday, May 17, 2018

S-L Letter’s Anti-Industry Bigotry is Wrong Across the Board

The following letter appeared in the 4/19/17 edition of the New Jersey Star-Ledger. I think it deserves a strong rebuttal. Since the Star-Ledger no longer publishes letters online, I copied it here for the sake of my commentary:

Regulations protect Americans

A Star-Ledger article (April 17) relates how industry is complaining about EPA’s restrictions. Time has proven that industry will not work for the good of its employees, neighbors or country without oversight by good government. Great examples by the Washington Post: BP oil wants less restriction on drilling in Gulf of Mexico. Isn’t this the company responsible for that huge leak? Also, a trade association opposes USGS efforts to study coal tar emissions from parking lot paving. Coal tar is known (and accepted by real science) as loaded with carcinogens. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants the government to eliminate publication of industrial injuries and illnesses now reported to the Labor Department. I guess the public really shouldn’t want to know about accidents, emissions, diseases related to money-making industries in the U.S. And so it goes under President Donald Trump. Stand up and fight. [emphasis added]

Herb Skovronek of Morris Plains
The “Star-Ledger article” in question is EPA emerges as major target after Trump solicits policy advice from industry, republished from the Washington Post of 4/16/17.

I want to focus on the underlying message of this letter.

The first premise is that, unlike employees, neighbors, and people who comprise “the country,” industrialists have no moral right to work for their own good. This is of course altruism, and Skovronek apparently believes that the world owes him whatever he happens to want. The second premise is that whatever the government does in terms of regulating industry is good because it chooses to do it, and that industry will run roughshod over everyone and the environment if it is not regulated by government bureaucrats.

Skovronek has it exactly backwards.

Unregulated industry—that is, industry to the extent it is free to operate—has made the world an immensely better place since the dawn of capitalism as an organized social system some two hundred plus years ago. It is the role of business—especially the entrepreneurial “cream-of-the-crop” of business—to bring the knowledge of the scientist and the ideas of the inventor to the general public at all economic levels, in the form of mass-market products and services that allow even the poorest inhabitants of industrial countries to live better than kings and even early industrial “one-percenters” in the relatively recent past. And industry has done that splendidly. Our lives are saturated with the life-enhancing benefits of industry, to which we owe our flourishing lives

Historically, government unconstrained by proper constitutional limits has been by far the greatest bane to mankind, being responsible for endless wars of aggression, conquest and plunder, slavery, genocide, and redistribution of wealth on a scale private criminals couldn’t even fathom—all under cover of law.

Time has indeed proven that industry will not work for the good of its employees, neighbors or country. That is the moral beauty of capitalism—and we should be thankful for that. Business—the voluntary organization of human, financial, and material capital under a focused productive goal—does and should work for its own good in pursuit of its creative goal. The greatness of capitalism—the basic essentials of which are outlined in the Declaration of Independence—is that personal profit and gain is achieved, and can only be achieved, by providing willing customers with economic values that, in the consumer's’ own judgement, betters their lives. The means is voluntary trade, the win-win basis of any civil, enlightened society. The greatest of unregulated capitalism, to the extent it is unregulated, is that as industry grows, so grows the general standard of living. (Note: “unregulated” does not mean no rule of law. See my Objective Standard article Where Does Valid Law End and Regulation Begin?.)

Skovronek’s knee jerk condemnation of “industry” as some kind of exploiter who must be kept under the thumb of government regulators as beasts of burden—a mindset that springs from the same collectivist generalization that gives birth to racism—is morally abhorrent. We should be joining industry representatives in questioning the regulations coming out of the EPA, especially given that environmentalism is rooted in a standard of moral value that puts non-impact on nature above human flourishing. Business is by far humanity’s greatest benefactor of all time, and yet is the most persecuted minority around today. It’s time we recognized the former and corrected the injustice of the latter.

I often wonder about anti-business bigots: Why do they buy products made by business? Why don’t they try living without business products, even for just a little while?

Related Reading:

Elizabeth Warren's Flawed Understanding of the Source of Worker Productivity

Businessmen—Ayn Rand

The Left’s Insatiable Lust to Soak American Business

On Bigotry: America’s Undefended Minority—Businessmen

Gladwell & Co.’s Monstrous Injustice Against Businessmen—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard
Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist's Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged – Edited by Debi Ghate and Richard E. Ralston

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