Monday, March 19, 2012

Fiction: The Fuel of Regulation

How Wired Magazine sees Love Canal
From Karl Marx to Upton Sinclair to Michael Brown, the tradition continues; If you want the government to run things, make up a scary story.

Who remembers the Love Canal story?  If you don't, the script went something like this: Evilcorp (Hooker chemical) dumped dangerous chemicals into a canal, covered it with dirt, built houses on it and sold it to poor people for corporate profit.

That is not a strawman, that is what you will hear from most Americans if you mention Love Canal.  Just look at the way Wired told the story in 2008. Thanks to the major media narrative, a work of fiction by Michael Brown (Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals), and the endless assaults on commerce by fellow travelers trying to spread the 'truth' of Marx, this is the story we are left with.  The tell us at every turn that the only reason anybody gets hurt is because someone did not care, or worse, some corporation did it to make a buck.

As usual, the truth is the opposite of what your caring, loving, Democrat party member neighbor/professor/news writer told you.  At Love Canal, the government injured and killed people despite ample warnings by Hooker Chemical.

In a nine page 1981 Reason magazine article by Eric Zuesse (The Truth Seeps Out), and other sources we learn that:
- The US Army and the City of Niagara Falls dumped waste into the canal, including Manhattan Project waste, before Hooker became sole owner of the site.

- Hooker Chemical (Electrochemical) was the first entity to seal the bottom of the canal with clay and treat it as a proper long-term hazardous waste disposal site.

- The City of Niagara Falls created all breeches in the canal, after they owned the property.

- The property was sold to the government, after threats of condemnation and seizure under eminent domain, for $1, with ample information and warning of what was buried there and the accompanying hazards. From the deed:
Prior to the delivery of this instrument of conveyance, the grantee herein has been advised by the grantor that the premises above described have been filled, in whole or in part, to the present grade level thereof with waste products resulting from the manufacturing of chemicals by the grantor at its plant in the City of Niagara Falls, New York, and the grantee assumes all risk and liability incident to the use thereof. It is therefore understood and agreed that, as a part of the consideration for this conveyance and as a condition thereof, no claim, suit, action or demand of any nature whatsoever shall ever be made by the grantee, its successors or assigns, against the grantor, its successors or assigns, for injury to a person or persons, including death resulting therefrom, or loss of or damage to property caused by, in connection with or by reason of the presence of said industrial wastes. It is further agreed as a condition hereof that each subsequent conveyance of the aforesaid lands shall be made subject to the foregoing provisions and conditions.
So, the real story is: The government, from local to federal, was using a canal dug in 1890 as a waste pit. A chemical company came along in the 1950s and improved the area to a standard that exceeded government standards well into the 1980s.  The storage area that Hooker used remained intact until municipal government began digging willy-nilly through the hazardous waste repository after they owned it.

After the city discovered that Hooker Chemical's warnings were true, they sold the land at auction to the only sucker who would bid on it, and then proceeded to prevent him from improving the property at all through a flurry of regulations and permit requirements, none of which had anything to do with the hazardous waste in and around the site.

Eventually the property was sold a few more times and Niagara Falls, eager for tax revenue, approved a subdivision be built on the hazardous waste swamp created by that same local government.

If we had truly responsible government in the USA, every government official associated with Love Canal would be in jail and their property sold for restitution.  Even a casual examination of this case shows that Hooker Chemical was one of the only honest players in the disaster.  Of course, government made them the biggest victim.

As I indicated in the subtitle, this is not new.  Upton Sinclair wrote fiction, now quoted as canon whenever people talk about industrial regulation.  In The Jungle, Sinclair spun the yarn of a man ground to death in a packing plant, becoming part of the sausage produced there.  It made no difference that the event never happened, it was not even an exaggeration of a finger or leg amputation adapted to fiction, it was just fiction.

Worse than that, it was fiction designed to shove Americans toward Socialism that fell short of Sinclair's goal of a government owned and operated meat processing industry of the type he was fond of in Europe.  To Sinclair's disappointment, what the Progressive Teddy Roosevelt did was initiate the haphazard bombardment of the food industry with "inspectors" and regulations that, to this day, never solved a problem that never existed to begin with.

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