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June 25, 2017

The Human Cost Of Government Regulation: 79 Dead In One Day

This NYT article is a mass of evasive and sneaky explanations for the failure of government regulations and regulators to create and enforce reasonable building codes. At every turn it seems it was pressure from "business friendly" politicians that forced the regulators to allow substandard materials to be used. Why Grenfell Tower Burned: Regulators Put Cost Before Safety is a typical NYT article; it wows the unwary with seemingly in-depth reporting but it is clear that the conclusion was written before the reporting was complete.

Promising to cut "red tape," business-friendly politicians evidently judged that cost concerns outweighed the risks of allowing flammable materials to be used in facades. Builders in Britain were allowed to wrap residential apartment towers -- perhaps several hundred of them -- from top to bottom in highly flammable materials, a practice forbidden in the United States and many European countries. And companies did not hesitate to supply the British market.

How this would have turned out worse without the existence of any regulation is difficult to imagine. The only difference would be that the people responsible would go to jail. The fire-safety regulators and the building code writers and the inspectors and all of the other government bureaucrats whose very existence is to prevent exactly this catastrophe will be carefully insulated from any blame. There will be a large and expensive government inquiry, and they will find irregularities in the regulatory apparatus, but mostly they will find that it was private industry that is the real culprit. "Mean old Alcoa should never have sold us that exterior cladding!"

A formal government inquiry into the fire has just begun. But interviews with tenants, industry executives and fire safety engineers point to a gross failure of government oversight, a refusal to heed warnings from inside Britain and around the world and a drive by successive governments from both major political parties to free businesses from the burden of safety regulations.

So the very people who failed so spectacularly will be doing the inquiry? Brilliant!

And let's not forget to blame rich people!

Survivors have charged that the facade was installed to beautify their housing project for the benefit of wealthy neighbors.


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posted by CBD at 12:00 PM

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