A Small L is Better

Conservative and Libertarian pundits are having an outrage competition among themselves over Obama getting BP to put some money up front for victim compensation.  The best and the brightest pontificaters are joining the dumbest and the dullest and they’re all spitting mad.  It’s an Outrage!  It’s a Shakedown!  A Shakedown, I tell ya!  It’s bad and evil and will lead to the fall our republic!

This is why I’m a small L Libertarian.  Pragmatic.  Willing to compromise when it’s necessary.  Or, according to the Big Ls, someone with no principles.  (Libertarians spend an inordinate amount of time comparing the sizes of their Ls.)

I understand the ideological viewpoint and can see where the pundits are coming from.  From a conservative or libertarian viewpoint the correct and proper way to do this is to let it wind through the courts, slowly, slowly, and eventually, get compensation to some of the victims.  That’s what happened with the Exxon Valdez mess.  Two decades later there’s still oil sitting  below the surface of the ground.  Much of the fishing business still hasn’t recovered.  The lucky residents and business people have received pennies on the dollar. Others got fractions of a cent on the dollar.  The rest have received nothing.

That’s the right and correct and legal way to do things.

Discarding Utopian ideology for a pragmatic approach makes a lot more sense.  Victims can get reimbursed faster and have a chance to recover at least somewhat from the massive mess BP created.  It’s a small bit of payback as well.

Big Oil is one of the special interests that owns congress.  They receive special tax consideration, huge discounts on leases, and other favors that have saved them tens of billions of dollars over the years.  Now, BP gets to pay some of that back.

Twenty billion dollars may sound like a lot, but the mass media isn’t reporting that it’s really five billion a year for four years.  That’s a pittance for a company the size of BP, with assets worth over six hundred billion dollars.  It would be like you or me having to pony up five hundred bucks a year.

We can only guess at the conversation Obama had with BP.  I’d like to think it went like this:

“Guys, you’re going to have to pay out sooner or later, so let’s do this.  You set aside five billion a year for four years, and we’ll announce you’ve put up twenty billion.  We’ve got a good guy to do the payouts, a fair and independent guy who has lots of experience with this kind of thing.  It will give you some good PR, which you really need.  It will also head off lawsuits, because people who have already been paid won’t have as much of a case.”

That would be great.  A friendly agreement designed to benefit everyone.

But maybe it went like this:

“Ya got a real nice oil company here.  Real nice.  Sure would be a shame if anything happened to it, ya know what I mean?”

Considering that BP caused this mess by cutting corners and ignoring basic safety practices, I’d have no problem with that approach either.

Sometimes you’ve got to set the ideology aside to do something that works. That’s why I sport a little L. It’s rather cute, and much more useful in the real world than a big one, which often just gets in the way and looks ridiculous.

1 Comment(s)

  1. My concern over having a fund put aside is that it will ultimately be run by the government in some manner. Knowing this you can guarantee that scam artists will be lining up around the corner for this money. Having it go through the courts will make it very hard for the scam artist to get a hold of any of that money. I do think that they should find a way to speed up the court process for these people though. If Katrina didn’t teach of a lesson on how the government squanders money in the name of helping people in a disaster, I don’t know what will.
    I am also concerned about the precedent this will set for future disasters. What is some company that sell popular widgets goes out of business from their own stupidity and fault. Does this precedent now allow stores that sell this widget to sue for damages cause by the lack of widgets? I am sure other examples would fit here but I think you get my point.
    This takes me back to the Oklahoma bombing victims who rightly complained about the money the victims of the world trade center got when they got nothing.
    Its a slippery slope and its one I want to be very cautious going down.

    Tom | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

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