Monday, August 16, 2010

Rand Paul, Ayn Rand, Now What Now?

Every so often I get a student who read Atlas Shrugged when he (somehow it nearly always is a male student) was fifteen or sixteen.

He's nearly always an otherwise bright student, a kid I want to like, and try hard to teach.  But his critical acumen has been blunted -- well, destroyed -- by his encounter with this philosophy.  I supposed we can call it a philosophy?  With this crack-pipe of a book.  

In any case, I sometimes try, mildly, to point out the errors of the Randian position (If a fast food company poisoned its customers, who would eat at that restaurant?  If Wal-Mart treats its workers unfairly, surely they would all quit?  If people are injured at the steel mill due to its unsafe working conditions, why, they can always sue!  In civil court, of course.  Or, I suppose, their survivors can...and if enough people sue...and their lawyers are better than the steel mill's lawyers...and the steel mill has not happened to have bought the judge, being vastly richer than the mill worker who is making two dollars a day, why then...) --- it's like arguing with a Pentecostal, though.  Nowadays I mainly smile and say, Ah, Rand.  And move on.

Here, though, at the Washington Monthly, they're still fighting the good fight.  Which pleases me.  Someone needs to.

As Paul envisions the system working, just so long as everyone honors the free market above all, "no one will apply for those jobs" if a mine's operators don't do a good job protecting worker safety.

Tony Oppegard, a Kentucky attorney and mine-safety advocate, called Paul's statement "idiotic." He added that underground mines are already offer dangerous working conditions, and if Paul successfully eliminated safety mandates, "there would be a bloodbath," he said.

As for the notion that coal-mine workers would just get jobs somewhere else if they weren't satisfied with the safety precautions, Oppegard concluded, "There's no other job opportunities."

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