One of the biggest issues of the day (and for most of this great nation’s history) revolves around the idea of Regulations. The big scary word that, to many, is essentially a swear word, something that automatically evokes a negative response the second they hear it. To others, however, the word gives a sense of protection and honesty that, unfortunately, must be put into place to protect the weak from the strong.
I want to take a very short and shallow look at regulations and why we need them, despite the fact that they do sometimes inflict some harm on the American economy.
This will come as no surprise to anybody who reads this or knows me, I am strongly in favor of government regulations, and it comes down to a reason that most people can relate to, I’m sure. I care more about the health and wellbeing of myself and my family than I do about the profits of billion-dollar corporations. Sure, it’s a little selfish of me; I’ll admit that. But it doesn’t for a single second make me want to change my views. Regulations did not simply come about for the fun of it. They were put in place to keep bad people from doing bad things.
I care more about the health and wellbeing of myself and my family than I do about the profits of billion dollar corporations.
To see why I think this way, let’s go back in time for a little bit and explore some business practices of the past.
The Turning Point
The best place to start when we think of shady business practices is the absolutely incredible novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. If you have not had the pleasure of reading this novel I highly recommend it to you. It gives an amazing insight into the conditions of Chicago meatpacking companies at the turn of the 20th century. Everything from recycling rotten meat back into the supplies to sending out meat they know have human body parts in it. The workers are forced to work long hours with little to no safety measures in place for them in conditions that most modern people wouldn’t even find acceptable for the animals, let alone the humans. At one point the main character, Jurgis, gets hurt while on the job due to these poor safety conditions and is immediately fired and replaced. Despite his hard work up to this point, and despite the fact that it is the fault of his job that he’s hurt, he gets tossed aside like a broken wrench, just another tool that needs replacing.
That’s just a very brief summary of only a few issues raised in the book. It doesn’t even mention other issues such as horrible living conditions, indiscriminate pollution, child labor, sexual assault, and glorified indentured servitude that were all rampant during that time.
All of these issues were common at the time because there were no laws in place to prevent them from happening, so the rich business owners cut all the corners they could to make more profits. There was no law saying that a business could not force a person to work for 80 hours a week, getting no overtime, and knowing that if they slacked off or did not work the required hours they would be instantly fired and replaced. There was no law preventing these factories from dumping their waste into the same water that people used as their drinking supply. There was no law saying that a business could not hire a six-year-old child to crawl into the machines to clean them, and no law that said the business was in any way responsible for that child when he maimed himself on those machines.
The book laid the problem out for the American public and the government finally took some action against it. Food companies were finally forced to allow in inspection officials to ensure that the products being sent to consumers were safe. Working conditions began to improve because of new regulations stating the number of hours a person could be forced to work, as well as age limits. Average people who had no clue what they were putting into their bodies no longer got sick from meat that the owners of the meatpacking factories knew to be tainted and still sold anyways.
But, why? Why were those regulation imposed? Was it simply to punish the business and limit their profits? Was it just the government attacking businesses and corporations for no reason whatsoever, just spitefully making their lives harder? Or greed, hoping that they could get more revenue for themselves if they made it harder for the richest people in the country to operate?
Or was it to protect you, the consumer. To protect you, the employee? To protect your children from eating rotten meat, and to protect your loved ones from being injured on the job and then cast aside indifferently? To protect the food you eat, the water you drink, and the air you breathe?
What about Freedom?
One of the main arguments against regulations is that it infringes on the freedoms of individuals. I’m not going to spend much time on this, because if you are the type of person who thinks that one person should have the right to poison another person due to personal freedom than nothing I say matters to you. As the right love to point out so often: freedom isn’t free. They usually say this about the military, and I will never disparage what those men and women who serve have sacrificed for our nation.
However, that saying applies to so many other aspects of living in an advanced and civilized nation. Citizens of the United States today live in the safest and most prosperous period in all of human history. There are so many ways that we could be better (*cough* healthcare *cough*) but, for the most part, we have it really, really good. In order to live this wonderful life of ours, we agree to a social contract with the government. We get a certain level of lifestyle in exchange for paying taxes and giving up certain freedoms–usually ones that could cause harm to others. It’s government 101, and there is simply no way around it as long as human beings are part of the mix.
I challenge anybody to show me a group of prosperous and happy people who have absolute freedom and don’t live under a strong and active government.
This is the part where I try and instill a bit of common sense into the argument. As with most things these days there are a lot of people who don’t bother to look at the complexity of issues and understand that most things work on levels and not extremes. There are undoubtedly people out there who believe that all regulations are bad, and they should all be abolished. There are others who think that everything in this world should have some level of control over it. Extremism is never the answer to any problem, and anybody who takes the time to study the intricacies of the issue, however, know that the solution resides more in the middle area.
It would be amazing if we lived in a world where we didn’t need to tell people not to simply grind up rat shit and dismembered fingers into the meat being sold to the public
I am, once again, in favor of the government regulating businesses. Does that mean that I agree with every single regulation put in place? No, of course not. But I’d be willing to bet that some of those regulations I don’t care for are in place to protect groups of individuals or our environment. They don’t help me– they possibly even hurt me–but I just have to remember that everything in the world is not about me so I grumpily accept that this is the way it has to be so that others aren’t suffering at my expense. It’s a hard pill to swallow at times, but my selfishness gets pushed aside knowing that what’s going on is for the greater good. I may suffer, but millions benefit, so who am I to stand in the way of their health and happiness?
Now, it would be amazing if we lived in a world where we didn’t need to tell people not to simply grind up rat shit and dismembered fingers into the meat being sold to the public. It would be fabulous if companies willingly tried to limit their waste and not dump toxins into the water supply. If corporations cared more about the wellbeing of their employees and the public than they did about profits the world would most likely see most of these laws vanish. If powerful people could be trusted to do the right thing, then we would not need any of the dreaded regulations.
But that’s not the world we live in.
I will say quickly that I believe the majority of humans alive today are fairly good people. They just want to live their lives and respect those around them, all while hoping to get the same respect back from others. They don’t set out to hurt people, or take advantage of them, or cast them aside like trash when their usefulness has worn out.
Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of people out there who really couldn’t care less about other human beings. They don’t care who they hurt, they don’t care what businesses they destroy, and they sure as shit don’t care about any possible future human beings. They care only about themselves, here and now, and the acquisition of as much money and power as they can get their hands on, and they will do anything and everything they can to make it happen at the expense of the rest of us. That is simply the reality of human beings. Some people suck, and they lie cheat and steal their way to the top, where they then abuse their power and make life miserable for the rest of us.
So we either suffer a little bit under the regulations, or all of humanity suffers greatly from the lack of them.
Those people, those sick assholes, are the reason that we need regulations. Those awful people who believe that money is more important than the safety and well-being of millions of human beings. We need regulations to protect us–you, me, and our loved ones–from people who think of us as nothing more than numbers. We need regulations to protect our children and our grandchildren. We need regulations to give them a world that is clean and safe, where they too can still go out and experience nature and not just see rows upon rows of factories and oil refineries, whose thick black smoke blocks out the sun. Much like grade school, there is always somebody out there who ruins things for the rest of us, and we are forced to implement rules for the safety and wellbeing of everyone else.
All of us alive today are but a tiny fraction of the number of human beings that will ever exist on this planet. Billions have come before us, and, hopefully, trillions more will follow us after we are gone. Far too many people don’t care about the future, though, and would gladly turn this planet into one giant factory if they thought it would benefit them. Government regulations try and stop it. Regulations attempt to protect the little man, and future generations, from the greed and ambitions of morally corrupt individuals with great power. So we either suffer a little bit under the regulations, or all of humanity suffers greatly from the lack of them.
It’s a pretty easy decision for me which one I’d prefer.