What should have been the virtually avoidable death of a 3-year-old riding in a “kiddie” roller coaster, and given front page coverage in the Chicago Tribune along with a full-page follow-up, showcases how arbitrary state-by-state, non-universal regulations, of, in this case, one particularly industry and its product, is capable of placing the health and safety of untold numbers of Americans at risk.
The specific story, covered in the August 22 Chicago Tribune, “Coaster death exposes lax Illinois standards,” by reporter Heather Gillers, describes how, on August of 2011, a 3-year-old boy, Jayson Dansby— riding without his parent or any other adult guardian, and only accompanied by his twin brother, as was considered legal operating procedures for this particular ride— climbed out of a slow moving “kiddie” roller coaster by wriggling out of an obviously inadequate safety bar restraint placed over his lap, and was subsequently struck and killed by one of the moving cars.
The continually unaddressed, underlying problem— allowing industry to regulate itself
The crux of the problem, as reported by the Tribune reporter, is that in Illinois safety requirements for protecting small children on amusement park rides (the most vulnerable, who obviously need the most conscientious protection oversight) “…are left to the manufacturers that design the rides.”
Or in other words, allowing manufacturers to regulate themselves, while disregarding any obvious conflicts of interest that will come into play when the first priority of any manufacturer, or any industry, is to make as much profit as possible, and to achieve those profit margins, in part, by reducing the cost of any regulatory measures— such as the additional minor costs of designing securer harnesses for children— which happens to be required in all moving vehicles, including strollers, yet not apparently in amusement park rides.
And where does this trend of allowing industry to voluntarily regulate itself evolve from— to, in effect, dodge public health and safety regulations where it can to pursue what it considers to be its priority profit agendas? Because if you really want to try and solve the problem, and not just write endlessly on various derivative developments that stem from it, you had better identify the source of it.
And the source of incompetent industry regulations— that affects a whole range of public health issues, far beyond those raised in this particularly tragic case— comes from modern free market economic theory, of the kind promoted by the late University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman. Created and honed in the mid-to-late 1970s, when corporations were focusing on figuring out ways to not just defend themselves against “costly” regulations designed to protect the public and the environment, but to actively avoid them in the future, by controlling the very elements that could pressure them to regulate their products.
Such as, by reducing access of accurate information to the public by increasing their financial control of the mainstream media, by creating front groups to counteract legitimate consumer and environmental public interest groups, and by pouring money into Washington representative coffers to buy off Congressional votes to ultimately change the laws that oversee industry regulatory actions.
The Milton Friedman free market economic theory that emerged during this period was designed specifically to DEREGULATE industry as much as possible, to increase short-term profits for industry and its Wall Street investors, with the alleged justification that it was being done for the best interest of the “greater society.” And was replacing the prior, more socially conscious and corporate “unfriendly” economic policies that were designed to responsibly regulate industry— to look out for longer term economic and public health and environmental sustainability problems— and which were created by the likes of Harvard economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, who had advised the FDR, JFK and LBJ administrations.
And ever since their introduction in the late 1970s, these replacement, Milton Friedman-styled, corporate-beneficial, free market economic policies have been enthusiastically supported through every American political administration, from Reagan on up to the Obama Administration.
This corporate friendly economic theory was also enthusiastically lauded by the Chicago Tribune editors, shortly after Obama took office, in the March 22, 2009 Chicago Tribune Magazine cover story: “Obamanomics: The education of a president, the Chicago School Way.”
The Chicago Tribune praised the intellectual and complex analytically approach of the Milton Friedman-“Chicago School” economic theory, while conveniently failing to mention any of the concrete applications of the economic theory, whose adverse effects have been systematically eroding the public’s economic security, the safety of the public’s health, and the stability of environment. Or in other words, just about every major factor that goes into forming the foundation of any sustainable economic plan.
Some typical, significant, applications of Milton Friedman styled free market economic theory have included:
The passage of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) in 1992, which has, from that year forward, allowed the Pharmaceutical industry to increasingly subsidize the FDA’s drug review budget— now at a payment of over $1 billion a year, that has resulted in grossly compromising the safety of prescription drugs, by rushing them out into the market before adequately testing them for their safety.
Further deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry was accomplished 5 years later, in 1997, near the end of the Clinton administration, when pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer television advertising was allowed— making the United States and New Zealand the only two industrialized nations that allow the direct marketing of pharmaceutical drugs to the public—helping to pave the way for Americans to use the most pharmaceutical medications of any other nation in the world.
With additional health hazards compounded by 250 million pounds per year of pharmaceutical biochemical byproducts making their way into the country’s drinking water supply, from incomplete water treatment to the disposal of unused prescription drugs.
The passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed the mass construction of microwave cell towers across the country, while blocking the ability of challenging their construction and location based on any public health or environmental risks— in effect placing nearly the entire U.S. population at ever increasing exposures to utterly abnormal, low-level, manmade, microwave radiation exposure 24-hours a day, which have been indicted over the past decades in hundreds of studies for degrading nearly all aspects of biological systems, from cellular systems on up to organ systems, and leading to increased health risks from fetal deformities on up to cancers.
The deregulation of the banking industry in the late 1990s, which allowed the banks to make financial deals with the insurance industry (banned for 60 years prior to this time, and installed during the FDR administration), which of course led to the massive, insurance industry-backed credit-default-swab mortgage trades, which in turn led to the eventual collapse of the financial system in 2008.
While in addition to these specific Congressional “Acts,” which were passed in accordance to the deregulation dictates of Milton Friedman styled free market economic theory, there have been accompanying, general “government partnering with industry” agendas, established during the height of the Clinton administration, which was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of this corporate friendly economic theory,
On the economic front, government partnering with the priority interests of industry has led to the continual push for corporate global expansion, accompanied by outsourcing of jobs abroad (to protect corporate and Wall Street profits), to the allowance of, what should be illegal, corporate monopolies domestically, wiping out fair competition among smaller businesses and leading to additional job and career losses (to protect corporate and Wall Street profits).
While government coziness with industry priorities on the public health front has led to multiple deregulatory effects on a vast range of biologically hazardous industry products, which has led to the steady decline of the public’s health, and in giving the United States the dubious distinction of its citizens having THE WORST health (the most serious disease occurrences) of any other modern, developed nation.
Blame the victim, not the lack of regulations
Meanwhile— in the case of 3-year-old Jason Dansby, needlessly killed, in all likelihood, only because the particular amusement park rides industry in question did not feel it necessary to construct a more secure safety harness— those involved in the roller coaster tragedy, from the manufacturers to the amusement park ride operators to the state regulators, have all hidden behind two well-worn corporate excuses.
That one, they were not responsible, because they were “just doing their jobs” and were following the “letter of the law” (regardless if that law was written to protect industry concerns over the safety of the public it is serving) and that two, the fault lay not with any wrongdoings of the adults involved, but apparently with the “inappropriate” actions of a 3-year-old child.
The Tribune reporter quoted the Illinois amusement park rides regulator as concluding “the (kiddie roller coaster) accident (as) a result of “patron error.” And quoting the comments of another amusement park rides manufacturer supplying similar kiddie roller coaster rides in New Jersey that: “‘the rider (the child) had to be responsible for staying in the restraint properly’”— even if the restraint was not designed to adequately hold in an anxious and rambunctious average 3-year-old, or 2-year-old, or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7-year-old, for whom these rides are designed.
Apparently, these children are expected to have the maturity and decision making skills of adult riders— even if these psychological traits have not yet developed at their ages. And if they do not act in accordance to “properly expected” behavior, then the fault must be placed on their actions, and not on any of those of the adult designers or manufacturers or ride operators.
But these kinds of typical industry excuses are not at all surprising, because they all ultimately stem from the same corporate protocol: to “blame the victim”— initiated in the 1970s by the Tobacco industry to fraudulently challenge the contraction of lung cancer from those who smoked cigarettes. That the fault apparently was not due to the inhaled tobacco smoke laced with carcinogenic chemicals, but rather due to the alleged, innate, “tainted” genetic make-up of the lung cells of those who had the misfortune to get lung cancer from smoking.
And different variations of this “blame the victim” excuse have been used by the chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology industry, the nuclear power industry and the telecommunications industry— all to avoid accountability of their products creating damage to the public’s health.
And if the person’s “alleged” weak biological make-up cannot be made the issue, then the person’s “faulty” behavior can— as in the kiddie roller coaster case, or for example, in any gun related injury or death liability issue. For guns, it is the usual “guns don’t kill, people kill” excuse, while in the case of a kiddie roller coaster death it is apparently the faulty behavior of a 3-year-old acting like a 3-year-old, and not like an adult.
FIFTY possible permutations of individually-rendered, state-by-state regulations to protect the public’s health and safety IS NOT better than ONE national set of regulations.
Following from the deregulation protocol of Milton Friedman-styled free market economic theory, industries should be allowed to voluntarily regulate themselves, because they are apparently more than responsible to perform this self-regulation. And in being allowed to perform this regulation on their own, with no government oversight, the public can rest assured that they will be acting in the alleged best interests of the greater society.
And so it was, and remains, the case of amusement park rides regulations in Illinois, though much to the misfortune of the late 3-year-old Jayson Dobson. Other states also have the option to voluntarily increase regulations on, in this case, safety harnesses for children riding in kiddie coasters. And while some have, others, like Illinois, have not.
In the case of the kiddie roller coast ride in question which caused 3-year-old Jayson Dobson’s death— the “Python Pit”— as pointed out by the Tribune reporter: “ (the Python Pit) is still welcoming unaccompanied children even smaller than Jayson… and no changes have been made to the restraints.”
Manufacturers and corporations love this set up: of individual, variable, state-by-state regulations instead of a single, clear, universal and national regulatory standard. Because they know how incompetent the present state-by-state system is in enforcing protective regulations on their products.
Because if one state happens to strictly regulate a biologically hazardous, or other type of hazardous, industry product for the best interests of its residents, the affected industry can simply focus more of its sales on another state’s market, and put that state’s residents at increased risk.
By the same token, corporations would not be caught dead applying the same haphazard regulatory principles to the running of their own businesses that expand beyond a central company and across state lines.
They are well aware that uncoordinated and non-uniform regulations lead to chaos and the incompetent running of any organization. As they equally know that as any organization grows and expands (as any society) to keep it on tract requires more focused and more uniform regulation, and not less.
And while this kind of uncoordinated regulatory system would never be tolerated in business, where money is at stake, not only has it been tolerated, but it has been enthusiastically supported in the United States for the past 30 years, where apparently something of considerable less priority value is at stake— human health and human life.
Not only is state by state individualized regulation incompetent and inadequate regulation, but it is also criminally irresponsible regulation, because it is putting the public’s health and safety at totally arbitrary risk, or non-risk, depending upon where they had the good luck, or bad luck, of being born.
And, it is also ILLEGAL REGULATION.
Regardless of how the state regulatory system began over 200 years ago, it is no longer a relevant or responsible form of regulating a U.S. population of over 300 million. And it is also an illegal way of continuing to regulate the safety of the public’s health within the context of the U.S. Constitution, which affords all members of the public equally access and protection under the law— and not just those of selective, or arbitrary, GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS.
And until this serious flaw is addressed and changed, in addition to overhauling the corrosive political and industry influence and interference within the bureaucratic workings of the U.S. regulatory system — whose roots are firmly planted in a society-undermining modern, free market economic theory— not only children, but teens, adults and the elderly will continue to be placed at virtually unavoidable risks for injury and premature death, due incompetently regulated, of ever increasingly hazardous, industry products.