Sympathy for the Devil, BP

Let none say that Lew Rockwell is a stereotypical right-winger.  As ever, his heart bleeds for those poor souls who would meet with nothing but condemnation from the more hard-hearted and judgmental among us.  For example, he finds it within him to sympathize with the suffering of poor BP, the real victim in the recent oil spill disaster.  Even though BP is the “leading victim,” Lew has “yet to see a single expression of sadness for the company and its losses.”  In fact, “the words of disgust for BP are beyond belief”!

Oh, the humanity!  Why, after all it’s losing thousands of barrels of oil a day (seriously, folks, that’s what he said–and the kid who murdered his parents is an orphan!).  Their stock is declining in value.  And eleven of their employees were killed.  Besides, the environmentalists are ecstatic over the chance to blame someone, so we know BP must be on the side of the angels.

Honestly, any day now I expect to see a piece at LRC or Mises.org boo-hooing because Monty Burns got a scratch on his paint job running over a worker in the street with his Bentley.

So if I did something stupid to injure or kill myself,  and in the process also did billions of dollars worth of damage to other people’s property, I’m entitled to sympathy?  I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a parallel case involving anyone besides rich people or a corporation, where Rockwell wouldn’t be screaming about “cultures of entitlement” and “victimology.”

So what if they’ve hurt themselves?  They did it through their own negligence.  I’m waiting for Lew to shed tears for all the poor people living in misery they brought on themselves.  Crickets chirping.

Considering that the economic and environmental damage will probably amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, and that BP’s liability is capped by law at the amount of direct cleanup costs plus $75 million, their senior executives should be rejoicing that the entire company hasn’t already been liquidated.

As for those eleven workers who died, why exactly is that supposed to be a tragedy for BP?  BP probably had dead peasant insurance on them from the same company where Massey Coal had its policy.

By the way, I can’t let this kind of sheer, breathtaking stupidity get by unchallenged:  “The abstraction called the ‘ecosystem’ … has done far less for us than the oil industry, and the factories, planes, trains, and automobiles it fuels.”

Um, it seems to me that the evolution of life itself, the existence of an atmosphere of breathable oxygen, the existence of a food chain capable of supporting hominids long enough for them to become the dominant species and invent those factories and cars–all of this stuff falls pretty clearly under the heading of “ecosystem.”

Is there a bit of a disconnect here?  Someone from a philosophical tradition that stresses all the Hayekian knowledge problems involved in central planning, arrogantly claiming that a handful of hierarchical organizations directed by human central planners sitting behind desks have done more for us than the complex unplanned system responsible for bringing us and the entire biosphere into existence?

Burke is often quoted against the hubris of social engineers and central planners:  “An ignorant man who is not fool enough to meddle with his clock, is however sufficiently confident to think he can safely take to pieces, and put together at his pleasure, a moral machine of another guise, importance and complexity, composed of far other wheels, and springs, and balances, and counteracting and co-operating powers.”   What about those fool enough to do the same, not to society, but to the entire biosphere?

Let’s get something straight.  BP did hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage to other people and their property, and the government–the government which Rockwell says “treats every capitalist producer as a bird to be plucked”–is protecting it from tort damages over and above about a tenth of a percent of the actual economic harm it did.  Sounds to me like BP did some plucking of its own.

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