I want to return to my “Big Fat American Government” piece I posted a couple days ago. I think the horrific explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas is a chilling counterpoint to the kind of government response that worked so well in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings. What happened in Texas is what can happen to people in states where folks claim they don’t want government meddling in their lives. The deadly explosion was the result, in part, of a malignant glorification of rugged individualism that imposes deep costs to actual rugged individuals. And, parenthetically, that ‘Get Government Off My Back’ meme is the worst kind of straw man; no one really wants government meddling, not even the people and corporations receiving public welfare. But sometimes we need it. This is from the New York Times opinion page and the author describes the Texas debacle better than I could:
The explosion in West, which killed at least 14 people, is now entering a dark pantheon of events in Texas, ones that will surely lead to debates in the state about government regulation and oversight — or the lack thereof. About what “public safety” really means, implies, entails. About Texas’ passionate history of pushing back at what some see as big-government intrusion — a trend that traces back to the regulation-free days of wildcatting in the oil patches.
As before, there will be demands that Texas be willing to scrutinize companies so tragedies like the one in West never occur again. But if history is any guide, lawmakers and officials will still err on the side of industry and less so on the side of public safety. And there will be another West in the years to come.