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Thursday, April 26, 2007

 

Slacking of the ropes

A recent article in the New York Times said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was leaving many of its regulations to be regulated by the industry. This article was about workers that worked in a microwave popcorn plant who started getting sick after the popcorn manufactures added and additive that gave the popcorn a more buttery taste. The workers were complain about the action not being taken saying someone needs to be monitoring the health and safety of the workers basically that if OSHA does not do it than no one will, since the beginning of the Bush administration OSHA has issued the fewest standards in its history. While reading this article I could not stop thinking about a case we talked about in class Holden v. Hardy. In this case the Court dealt with the unhealthy working conditions in the mine. The miners did not like the new regulations that were placed on them, so they filed suit. The only thing different about this is that government is not using its coercive power to regulate--some people are asking them to regulate it. To me the government is doing the right thing. Letting not only the industry control the regulations but also the market. The industry is not being coercive by forcing people to work in such conditions that it endangers their health. The workers have entered into a contract voluntarily. I also do not see any externalities. The workers received higher wages for working in the part of the factory that mixed the additives together. Though they did not know the risk associated with this type of work the manufacturers did not either. The workers were part of a market transaction with the higher pay.
I also believe their is some rent seeking behavior on behalf of the industry. Some of the biggest industries that OSHA regulates gave more than $630 million in political contributions since 2000, with more than half going to Republicans.

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