I can’t imagine how anyone can vote for Rand Paul. I’m not even talking about his moronic take on the Civil Rights Act. I mean, that’s pitiably foolish, and his whole “I”m not a racist, but…” act doesn’t excuse his adopting the position that government must never interfere with private business even in the face of egregious social injustice. But at least if the people of Kentucky are fools enough to elect the man, the CRA is in no danger of being undone by Paul’s idiocy. We might not be so lucky when it comes to his potential choices for dealing with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which he recently had the goddamn gall to characterize as an “accident”. Paul even criticized the anger towards BP as un-American. To which I say: Fuck you, sir, and the political philosophy you rode in on.
How, after all, did this “accident” come to happen? BP and other companies like it used their considerable resources to minimize the number of safeguards they were forced to employ on their wells. Of course, they couldn’t lobby their way out of regulation entirely, so of the rules that remained, they skirted or just plain violated any that they found inconvenient. Were they enabled by a lax and easily-bribed enforcement agency? Certainly so, but lax enforcement would not matter if corporations were as civic-minded as Paul’s Libertarianism pretends. The tragedy of the Gulf has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen for the indefinite future, because BP behaved as all corporations do, and did everything in their power to allow themselves to operate as irresponsibly as they could. And why should they not? Irresponsibility always looks profitable in the short term, and the market is intrinsically short-sighted.
Aside from showing up Paul’s Libertarian philosophy as hopelessly naive and mortally dangerous, these facts illustrate that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was not an accident, except to the extent that going all-in on two pair against a straight flush is an accident. The catastrophic oil pollution in the Gulf is the outcome of series of calculated risks. BP, Transocean, and Halliburton all took gambles they thought they could get away with. The result is that 11 people died and the gulf region, and potentially the entire east coast, will suffer incalculable ecological and economic damage as a result.
Is it un-American to attack BP over this? Hardly. There’s nothing more American than retribution. It came to us with the first Protestant settlers. Our country was raised on the stories of divine vengeance against the sinner, the terrible swift sword that would destroy the unjust.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
Glory, glory, hallelujah! But, as corporations possess no souls, God cannot judge them. Therefore we must.
In this regard, Paul even falls short of his own political philosophy. Even if we accept that the only function of government is to act as some kind of night watchman, surely this is a case in which its action is warranted. When callous negligence results in nearly a dozen deaths and widespread destruction, the negligent party deserves punishment. The reason Paul can’t advocate for retribution is that in order to do so he must confront the truth that the natural state of any corporation is to operate in bad faith to the greatest profitable extent. The philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism, to which Paul is committed, cannot maintain its superficial appearance of reasonability in the real world of greedy and destructive businesses.
In this country we have adopted the pretense that corporations are people, with the same rights as ordinary citizens. What would you call a person who tries to wriggle out of all responsibility, and happily breaks any law he wants so long as he’s in no danger of being caught, without regard to the danger his actions put others in? If a man behaved like this, at the cost of eleven lives and untold damage to an entire coast, who would defend him? Who would say it’s un-American to bay for his blood?
If we must accept that corporations have the rights of men, if we must accept that the government has the right to take a man’s life, then we ought to at least have the option to give a corporation the death penalty. Maybe Rand Paul wants to cuddle BP, Transocean, and Halliburton and tell them how sorry he is that they had this tragic accident as a direct result of their moral laxity and resistance to necessary safeguards. For me, though, a boot on their throats is not enough. This is the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, and it can blow their heads clean off.