Bangladesh Robber Baron fallacy

Just read this article about the Bangladesh factory disaster this morning. Truly terrible what happened, however the usual progressive/statist smugness comes to the surface pretty quick in the comments “oh see what the free market causes, we need government to save us from these evil people.” Here’s my response on the board to that sentiment (longer article coming this weekend):

Except that the “Robber Barons” is a progressive statist myth. Please see Tom Woods on this:

Basically those that compare working conditions of the late 19th and early 20th century or those in emerging 3rd world countries to those today in the US are guilty of a “ceteris paribus” fallacy, that is, you are making a comparison and drawing a conclusion that is flawed because not all of variables are held constant, namely the variables wealth and technology in a given society. Do people value safety? Sure, but value is subjective and we arrange things on our value scale ordinally (we rank them in order of preference). Do we value safety MORE than we value not starving to death? I think not. So if our choice is a) not starving to death or b)comfortable/100% certainty of safe working conditions we will choose (a) every time. We will work so that we can buy food and not starve to death and we will do so in an environment that while not ideal is the only option available and in fact is the better of all other options available.

Now I’m not excusing the owners of that building/business for building an unsafe building, but consider the alternative proposed by progressives. Government mandating to the nth degree every aspect of building design. It would cost so much to build that building there that they simply would never have built it, and thus there would have be NO jobs for anyone and they would have been left to scratching in the dirt to make a living. Is the current outcome good? No, but it is still BETTER than the alternative, where instead of 1000 people dying and 2000 surviving maybe 2500 die of starvation and 500 live through subsitence farming.

They likely built it this way because of crooked govt, paying off inspectors, and never thinking they could get in trouble. In a free market there is no one to pay off. They would have built it better knowing 100% with certainty they would go to jail were it built shoddily