The following is my comment I posted in response to this article by Patrick Watson on mauldineconomics.com. It appears my comment is no longer viewable at the bottom of the article as the comment was done with the Facebook commenting plugin which the website the article appeared in no longer appears to use. But you still can read my comment below:
by Glen Wallace
The 'protected class' referred to in your article is referring to protection by way of the circumstance of relative wealth. But, what I see as a fundamental oversight by those freemarket advocates in the ‘protected class’ is that some level of protection can be afforded to lower and middle classes by way of the government in the form of rules and regulations. As an example of that oversight by freemarket advocates, I need only present an email from this site (mauldineconomics.com) I received back on May 25, titled 'Inside: Highlights from Day 3 of the SIC 2017' that included a brief summary of the Strategic Investors Conference including one short paragraph that stated:
“Regulation was also discussed, with Faber receiving a round of applause for a passionate soliloquy deriding laws and regulations. “It is your duty to fight the government every day,” he said.”
Given the high entry fee to that SIC conference I think it is safe to say that most likely every member of that audience giving Faber a round of applause is a member of the ‘protected class’ protected by the circumstance of wealth. For Faber and his audience there at the conference, I don’t think they understand from a personal experience level, having to rely on the government and regulations to protect them from exploitation and harm by some ruthless capitalist member of the ‘protected class’.
The wealthy typically can afford to live far away from a factory or plant, so no need is seen to have any regulations in place restricting pollution and toxic discharge from those sites — the affluent can avoid the effluent. It is typically the poorer communities that live near those plants and factories and have to breath the air and drink the water that might be contaminated by the sites pollutants. But wealthy freemarket, anti-regulation advocates seem to think — ‘why is there any need for regulations restricting pollution when I get to live so far away from the polluters?’
If Faber, or any of his wealthy audience, wants to buy a bottle of 200 dollar scotch from a storied distillery, I’m sure he has no worry that bottle of scotch might contain toxic levels of wood alcohol even if there were no proper government distillery regulations. But the working class guy who just wants a cheap drink, might have to rely on government oversight and regulations to insure that cheap bottle of whiskey he bought is safe to drink — in moderation of course. But it is rich people that can afford the best of everything where a competitive marketplace can often, but not always, substitute for government regulations given the huge importance on a reputation for quality in such a market. But for the rest of us coupon clipping bargain shoppers, who are not protected by the circumstance of wealth, we are often dependent on the power of government to act as a measure against the power of business, to help ensure the products we buy are safe.
While as a leftie progressive I am willing to admit that some regulations are onerous and unnecessary, I have yet to hear a right winger freemarketeer admit that at least some regulations are very valuable in protecting the worker, the environment and the consumer from harm and exploitation by business. I usually hear arguments against regulations along the lines of letting the market decide and just file a lawsuit if harmed by a business instead of imposing regulations.
I then would counter that letting the ordinary market and judicial system be the de facto regulator is horribly flawed insofar as it is reactive, at best, where regulations are proactive. I say ‘at best’ because a business can go on harming the consumer, the worker or the environment for years before enough people notices to file a lawsuit or stop buying their products. And even if they are caught by the marketplace or are sued, the most that often happens is the business just declares bankruptcy and the executives and owners leave with all the millions they gained from all those years of exploitative business practices. And the most that could be hoped for is criminal prosecution in the most egregious cases of harm by a business. But even if there is a conviction in such cases, I am sure it is small solace to the victims. Wouldn’t it be so much better if there were some good regulations in place to proactively protect the worker, the consumer or the environment from harm in the first place?