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I've got those deregulation blues

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Who do you think has the best interests of society in mind through the work they do: public servants like teachers OR those who make the big decisions for private industry?

This would make for an interesting poll.

We live in an era where much of the effort done by people who work on behalf of the public good is denigrated. A focus on accountability has arisen mainly because public servants are paid from public monies, and we are living during an extended tax-cut craze. (Indeed, it is sadly ironic that the politicians who put down public servants are also paid from our taxes.)

The end result is that public sector employees are now held accountable for all that they do. The work of health-care workers, social workers, government employees and especially teachers have all been put under public scrutiny.

If regulating the public sector is what the public truly wants, I accept it. (I can certainly agree with regulating the spending habits of Harper's Senate appointees!)

I want to make the case, however, that regardless of the extent to which we regulate the public sector, we must reverse the trend of deregulating the private sector.

This trend began about 30 years ago with the onset of an economic paradigm that began to replace the social welfare policies of Keynesian economics. What used to be called the corporate agenda, academics and some journalists now refer to as neoliberalism. (Neoliberalism, by contrast, is very similar to the laissez faire economics prevalent during the Industrial Revolution.)

On the domestic front, neoliberalism has four main tenets: corporate tax cuts, union-busting, privatizing the commons, and deregulating industry. All four are the antithesis of what constitutes a civil society, but it is the last point I want to discuss.

Let's look at a few examples of what deregulation of the private sector, or its spin-off, self-regulation, has brought us.

In the 1980s, British Prime Minister and neoliberal cheerleader Maggie Thatcher pushed for the British meat industry to regulate itself. Not long afterward, self-regulation of the meat industry led to Mad Cow Disease, several deaths, and a near collapse of the British meat industry.

Getting rid of public meat inspectors has also caused much suffering in Canada in recent years. In 2008, the Listeriosis outbreak at Maple Leaf Foods in Toronto led to the deaths of 20 people. Four years later, a serious e. Coli Outbreak occurred at XL Foods in Alberta.

In 1996, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government privatized the regulation of water quality. A few years later, an e. Coli outbreak caused the Walkerton catastrophe -- seven people died and approximately 5000 people became seriously ill. The subsequent inquiry blamed the Ontario government for abdicating the regulation of water quality.

Who would argue that food and water safety is not important enough for government regulations to be enforced? Yet deregulation of private industry continues.

In April 2010, deregulation led to the deaths of 11 workers on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The Gulf of Mexico has still not recovered from the more than 200 million gallons of crude oil that poured into it each day for 87 straight days.

This past July, 42 deaths resulted from a train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Half of the downtown was destroyed. Deregulation allowed the rail company MMA to employ only one worker to oversee the maneuvering and parking of a 74-car freight train carrying fracked crude oil from North Dakota. Rather than pay to help the townspeople, the U.S.-based MMA declared bankruptcy.

The most egregious example of corporate greed, however, resulted from the decision of Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan to deregulate the American financial industry. This led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-08, which brought about thousands upon thousands of home foreclosures and, lest we forget, brought the world’s economy perilously close to collapse.

These are only a few of the many many examples of the chaos caused by deregulation of the private sector.

It does not make any sense to regulate the public sector while the private sector is deregulated. For the sake of public health and safety, it is at least as important to regulate the private sector. In other words, put people before profits!!

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