I know that for the past thirty years, at least since the Reagan Administration, the US has perused a policy of “let the market fix it,” “deregulate” and other such policies. These policies are wrongheaded and have led to the largest human made environmental disaster in the history of the these United States. I speak of course, of the oil volcano in the Gulf of Mexico. Because BP (or as it should be called British Petroleum) was allowed to drill without proper safety protocols and without the environmental protection redundancies they refused to incorporate into their rigs in the Gulf. Indeed, why should they? Under capitalism the point of a corporation under such an economic system is to maximize profits regardless the human, environmental or social costs.
Naturally, this lead to an oil disaster. Because these measures were not taken we now have a huge oil slick in the Gulf destroying beaches which many people in coastal Alabama, Mississippi and Florida rely upon for the tourist industry. But this is not all. Although the annual blessing of the fishing fleet occurred as normal, the Gulf of Mexico, which provides these United States now polluted with oil and so-called dispersants (toxicity of which is unknown) with more than a third of all fish and nearly half of all shellfish consumed in the US. Not to mention that the fishing industry provides hundreds of thousands of jobs for Texans, Louisianians, Alabamians, Mississippians and Floridians either as fishermen directly or processing the catch.
So we must ask ourselves, what does British Petroleum owe the American people for the damages they have caused? The President says 20 billion. But can 20 billion dollars really pay for the damaged beaches, the destroyed wild life, the wrecked fishing industry and the ruined lives and economies of five states? We say no. The only solution to this problem is the nationalization of the oil industry, tight safety regulation of the nationalized oil industry and a new deal for renewable energy (covered in a previous article). Anything less will result in future oil spills, if not in the Gulf, on the West Coast, and if not there, in the Arctic and the East Coast.
Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” won’t clean this mess because that hand cares nothing about human beings and cares only about maximizing profits. Indeed, twenty years ago the very same people now claiming that the market could fix Prince William Sound in Alaska are making that claim here. That sound still has oil in it to this very day. The fishing industry in that sound is utterly destroyed. The livelihoods of thousands of Alaskans who rely on that sound are still destroyed twenty years later.