Saturday, April 18, 2015

How the Libertarian Ideal Killed a Young Mother

This is the ideal Rand Paul claims to champion, when he is not pandering to the freakazoid warmongers of the repug primaries.

Burr Deming at Mad Mike's America:

For decades, her image has intruded into occasional dreams on sometime restless nights. I wonder what life might have been for her and her child had she lived.

fire fallAs flames swept through an apartment block, this was the last desperate moment of a mother falling with her child from a collapsing fire escape in Boston. Her fall was fatal, but her body cushioned the fall of her young daughter, allowing her to miraculously survive. It won the photographer, Stanley Forman, the World Press Photography Award in 1975.
The fire escape collapsed. The fireman held onto the fire ladder, but the tenuous hold between him and Diana Bryant was not strong enough.
Fire escapes became a standard requirement pretty much everywhere in the country after a number of industrial fires. One, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan in 1911, killed 146 workers who could not get out of the building. Boston, along with most cities, instituted a requirement of fire escapes in all multi-floor apartment buildings. But Boston regulations did not require any more than the most shoddy materials or assembly.
The city wide shock brought additional reforms to Boston. Safety in materials and structure became required standards.

Libertarian theory holds that such regulation is unproductive at worst, and redundant at best. Corporations do not need to be ordered into safety standards by the heavy hand of government. Competition for renters will provide the incentive. If that incentive is not enough, the market rules. Lives lost will not have justified the cost of saving them.

Contemporary conservatism has largely been absorbed by the same philosophy.
The last federal Republican administration made food inspections voluntary. The Peanut Corporation of America sent out contaminated peanut butter to kids all over the nation. Eight people died. The Nestle Corporation turned away FDA safety inspectors under that same conservative voluntary program and 69 kids got sick from cookie dough.
Corporate executives make decisions based on profits, current and future. Human lives become data points, entries on a spreadsheet. Morbidity and mortality calculations are important only for their impact on the bottom line.
For me, and apparently much of Boston, a photo of a young mom and a little girl falling five stories made it personal.
Diana Bryant died on impact with the pavement. The two year old child was seriously injured, but somehow survived. That survival remains a miracle. The prevailing theory is that her fall was slightly cushioned by her step-mother’s body.
That cushion of blood and flesh was not provided by libertarian philosophy or by the incremental calculations of corporate profit.
Tragically, it also was not provided, as it ought to have been provided, by the construction codes of the time governing Boston, Massachusetts, and much of the country.

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