scum invariably rises to the top in government, there can never be enough mud slung around during campaign season.
The latest gem of a political attack comes from the pro-Barack Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA which released an ad that makes a casual connection between opponent Mitt Romney and the death of a woman from cancer. In the ad, titled “Scrap Steel,” Bain Capital, the equity firm Romney founded, is accused of laying off numerous steel workers at a mill in Kansas City, Missouri. One of those laid off employees lost his health insurance and therefore couldn’t provide for his cancer ridden wife. It turned out that the man’s wife didn’t lose her health insurance till at least two years after the mill’s closing and that she passed away four years later. Priorities USA has since rescinded the ad but is determined to still cast Bain Capital in a negative light. To make matters worse for the Romney campaign, Bain’s legacy has also come under scrutiny from the mainstream media.
It is now being reported that in addition to the mill in Missouri, Bain Capital also purchased its sister steel mill in Georgetown, South Carolina. Like the mill before it, the Georgetown mill would also end up going through bankruptcy. However there was another issue besides financial difficulty that plagued Georgetown Steel; which was that of pollution. As the Associated Press informs:
In 1998, Ms. Carter and her neighbors sued Georgetown Steel, then owned by the company Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney co-founded, Bain Capital. They sought millions in cleanup costs and accused the mill’s owners of leaving their historic Southern neighborhood looking like it had been hit by a “chemical bomb.”
It should come as no surprise that a story such as this is being accentuated. Environmentalism has always been a blanket progressives wrap themselves in to justify their support for big government. As economist Joseph Schumpter brilliantly put it:
Capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment.
In order to establish if the residents of Georgetown would have a case against Bain Capital under proper, normative law or the application of the non-aggression and homesteading principles, it would have to be determined if the steel mill was established before the community developed. If so, then whatever emissions came forth from the mill would act as an easement over the surrounding unowned land. In other words, the owners of the steel mill would have homesteaded the land by releasing the so-called dust upon it. As Murray Rothbard points out in his invaluable essay “Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution,”
This homesteaded easement is an example of the ancient legal concept of “prescription,” in which a certain activity earns a prescriptive property right to the person engaging in the action.
As for the common misconception that barring all unjust air pollution would put the brakes on economic progress; it does not necessarily follow. New technology is constantly in development to reduce emissions. It can be applied and the cost would “ultimately be borne by the consumers of the firms’ products, i.e., by those who choose to associate with the firm, rather than being passed on to innocent third parties in the form of pollution (or as taxes)” as systems engineer Robert Poole Jr. suggests. Just because a way of life is supported by aggression toward the innocent should not shield it from prosecution. It certainly doesn’t make sense to claim that because a roving band of thieves is dependent on robbing mansions to maintain their lavish lifestyles, the law should not apply to them. The same reasoning goes for air pollution.
In all likelihood, this new revelation of Bain Capital owning a steel mill responsible for environmental damage will be used by the Obama campaign to attack Romney. The $30 million in profits Bain received over the course of managing GS Industries will be vilified and Romney will me made out to be a heartless, Scrooge-like figure concerned with profit above all else. This is a mistaken premise however. Bain should be attacked to the extent that it owned Georgetown Steel at the time of it releasing pollutants onto the property of others.
That would be the logical argument. But like a strict code of ethics, politics is always bound to reject logic. Making rational arguments doesn’t win elections after all.