Workers Compensation law in Wisconsin is government regulation of business. Nobody likes government regulation in theory; the bureaucracy, the red-tape, small-minded liberals bent on redistributing wealth from the makers to the takers so as to create dependent masses subject to the control and enrichment of their socialist, elitist masters. Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a look at what happens in the real world in the absence of government regulation of working conditions.
The May 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine has an article, The Ship-Breakers, about how large ships are dismantled and recycled, literally by hand, by unskilled laborers in the third world. The article and incredible photographs are at once riveting (amazing how they get every last scrap and turn it into money), revolting (the personal danger and harm to these boys and young men as well as the environmental damage to the ocean and beaches), and reassuring (that we have regulations to prevent such abuses).
Other examples of capitalism unfettered by regulation include the e-waste (computers, phones, televisions) processing site at Agbogbloshie in Ghana. Here boys as young as five years old climb through the jagged edge piles and use their bare hands to take apart the old devices and burn the plastic to separate out the copper and aluminum. Breathing in toxic fumes and suffering bodily injury are part of the job.
On April 24, 2013 a garment factory building in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,129 people, mostly girls and young women who sew clothes for Western markets. Initially, disregard of building regulations led to a dangerous structure and then indifference of worker welfare after structural cracks were seen sealed their fate.
China’s rapid industrialization and rising consumerism has resulted in stifling pollution of its air, water and land. In Beijing and Shanghai, citizens routinely wear masks when going outside. China relies on coal for roughly three-quarters of its power generation and burns nearly as much coal as the rest of the world put together. China’s own Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a notice posted on its website that 16% of its land is polluted beyond use. To its credit, China states it is enacting and will be enforcing tough environmental regulations. Hopefully the economic growth at all costs era is closing.
Industrialization and capitalism are partners with democracy and education in bringing better living conditions to billions of people over the last 150 years. However, without reasonable and real regulation, unchained capitalism is dangerous to people and the environment. Our workers compensation system in Wisconsin is a collection of laws designed to strike a balance between protecting workers injured on the job while also allowing for business to proceed in a predictable and affordable manner.