Latest Major Chemical Spill Exposes Flaws of Libertarian Approach to Govt.
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Not too long ago - the last “do not use” water ban was lifted in West Virginia - more than a few weeks after the devastating chemical spill in Charleston. Theoretically - that means that West Virginians should be able to drink their water without any concerns that it’s still contaminated.
But if West Virginians are still concerned about their drinking water being contaminated - they’re not going to get any help from their governor. At a press conference on Monday - when asked by a reporter if the water was actually safe to drink and to use - Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said that, “It’s your decision. If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking with this water then use bottled water.” Tomblin added that, “I’m not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don’t use it.” He finished by saying that, “I’m not a scientist, you know. I have to rely on the best information that I have.”
This week - the company that owns the factory - Freedom Industries - the one's who caused the leak admitted that a second chemical spilled into the Elk River. But Governor Tomblin doesn’t seem too concerned about that - and isn’t in any rush to hire more scientists to ensure that the water is safe.
He’s saying that the people of West Virginia should play scientist - and decide for themselves if the water is safe to drink. While Tomblin might be a Democrat - in this instance - he's taking a very libertarian approach - and that comes with a lot of flaws. Libertarianism assumes that we are all capable of making those complex kinds of decisions - and assessing risks for ourselves.
But we aren’t all scientists. We can’t decide for ourselves whether drinking water does or doesn’t have dangerous chemicals in it. We need regulations to keep us safe - before chemical spills and other disasters happen.
In Europe - governments and lawmakers proactively address problems and potential disasters - to prevent harm to their people. As the E.U. government describes it - “The precautionary principle enables rapid response in the face of a possible danger to human, animal or plant health, or to protect the environment. In particular, where scientific data do not permit a complete evaluation of the risk, recourse to this principle may, for example, be used to stop distribution or order withdrawal from the market of products likely to be hazardous.”
While the very mention of the “precautionary principle” is enough to scare libertarians straight - it’s essential that we address problems before they happen - not aft.
What’s going on in West Virginia right now a classic example of how libertarianism is a flawed system.