Wednesday, December 28, 2011

100 years ago yesterday: Libertarian remedies in action

100 years ago yesterday a New York jury acquitted Max Blanck and Isaac Harris of criminal negligence in the fire that killed 146 women and men in the Asch Building (Triangle Shirtwaist) fire (TRIANGLE CO. HEADS ACQUITTED ON CHARGE OF MANSLAUGHTER, The New York Evening World, December 27 1911). The families of the victims were barred from the courtroom the day the jury return with its verdict and a cordon of police escorted Blanck and Harris out of the building and to the subway.

Neither man was ever convicted in criminal court for any of the deaths that day although in 1913 they were lost at case in civil court and were instructed to pay $75 in compensation to the family of each person who died. In that same year Blanck was arrested and fined $20 for once again locking workers in at his factory.

Many people today think that the men who owned the Triangle Shirtwaist factory were convicted and it was that which led to improvements in workplace conditions for American women and men but that is almost the opposite to what actually happened. It was the anger among the public after witnessing business owner after business owner get at most a slap on the risk for endangering the lives of their workers that led to state and federal regulatory bodies that worked to prevent these tragedies from happening in the first place.

In other words, we have "real world" data that indicates that the Libertarian remedies for bad work places, bad managers and bad products did not work.

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