Can Governments Really Make the Workplace Safer?
During a recent interview, Ontario’s Labour minister Monte McNaughton spoke about the rules that businesses will be expected to follow as the economy reopens, and the consequences for businesses that do not obey the government’s rules:
We want all businesses to create a workplace safety plan that identifies the risks of transmitting the COVID-19 virus in the workplace. We want them to determine what controls are needed to mitigate the risks, for example, installing Plexiglas to separate workers from customers or staggering shifts and breaks…and put those plans in place.
…we’ve also now put out 134 health and safety guidelines, so every business who is reopening has a guideline to follow….During the COVID-19 crisis, our ministry has done more than 11,000 workplace investigations, we’ve issued 6,500 orders to improve health and safety in businesses across the province.
We’ve had to shut down 23 workplaces during the COVID-19 crisis. The Occupational Health and Safety Act lays out the potential fines for corporations, which can be a maximum of $1.5-million fine depending on the severity.
Does the Government Make Us Safer?
Those who say that private businesses would not provide safe working conditions without government mandates are often the same people who claim that an altruistic government rescued men, women, and children from the deplorable, inhumane working conditions inflicted on them by the greedy capitalists during the Industrial Revolution. But, as Will Rogers once said, “the problem in America isn’t so much what people don’t know; the problem is what people think they know that just ain’t so.” (qtd. in Thomas E. Woods Jr., The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History [Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004], p. xiii).
Ludwig von Mises sets the record straight, noting that on the eve of the Industrial Revolution,
Business was imbued with the inherited spirit of privilege and exclusive monopoly; its institutional foundations were licenses and the grant of a patent of monopoly; its philosophy was restriction and the prohibition of competition both domestic and foreign. The number of people for whom there was no room left in the rigid system of paternalism and government tutelage of business grew rapidly. They were virtually outcasts. The apathetic majority of these wretched people lived from the crumbs that fell from the tables of the established castes….
The factories freed the authorities and the ruling landed aristocracy from an embarrassing problem that had grown too large for them. They provided sustenance for the masses of paupers. They emptied the poor houses, the workhouses, and the prisons. They converted starving beggars into self-supporting breadwinners.
Thus, the government’s social system was responsible for the wretched lives of the masses of paupers who were not members of the favored
Article from Mises Wire