Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pay No Attention to the Reality Behind the Curtain

In a very interesting chapter on Nationalism, in his somewhat abstract (“highly schematised and simplified” is the author’s own self-assessment) but closely-argued book, Thought and Change (1964), Ernest Gellner delivers himself of the following trenchant epigram:

The philosopher-kings of the underdeveloped world  all act as Westernisers, and all talk like narodniks.

The observation applies as well in America, with the Bible Belt playing the role of the underdeveloped world.   The populist politicians  put on a charade of being Just Folks, while still serving the interests of slash-and-burn capitalism.


In the post below,

            What’s the Matter with Kansas?

we spoke warmly of the book of that title by Thomas Frank.   The book’s thesis is easily summarized:   The bosses are grinding labor into dust;  in response, broad sectors of the populace are getting worked up about … abortion. 
That might strike you as an exaggeration, since the stories that support it are usually undramatic, involving neither celebrities nor sex nor dramatic explosions.  But there is one recent story that did involve a deadly explosion, so we actually get some follow-up.  Frank’s thesis is supported once again:

A Fertilizer Plant Blows Up a Texas Town and State Lawmakers Rush to Regulate...Abortion Clinics
In the two and a half months since an explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer storage facility left 12 first responders dead and at least 200 people injured, two things have become clear. The disaster could have been avoided if the proper regulations had been in place and enforced—and state and federal agencies don't appear to be in a hurry to put those regulations in place or enforce them.
Texas, whose lax regulatory climate has come in for scrutiny in the aftermath of the West explosion, went into a special session of its state legislature on Monday to push through an omnibus abortion bill designed to regulate 37 abortion clinics out of existence. But the 2013 session will come to a close without any significant action to impose safeguards on the 74 facilities in the state that contain at least 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate.
Lawmakers in Austin have a handy excuse for punting on new fertilizer regulations: That would be intrusive. State Sen. Donna Campbell, the Republican who helped to shut down Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster of the abortion bill on procedural grounds, told the New York Times that lawmakers should be wary of monitoring chemical plants more closely because there's "a point at which you can overregulate."

For details of just how bad it is (“Free from the constraints of fire codes, the West Fertilizer Co. stored ammonium nitrate in wooden boxes and didn't even have a sprinkler system.”), check out the article.

[Update, 7 July 2013]  For a scholarly survey, from MIT,  of the way in which “companies freely displace, or ‘externalize’, costs of production onto the public by polluting neighborhoods just outside the factory gates”, cf.  Sacrifice Zones (2010), by Steve Lerner.   Among the ecological Gomorrahs singled out for study, is Corpus Christi, Texas.

No comments:

Post a Comment