Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Week of Malice and Negligence

Now that we have all taken in the extensive media coverage of yesterday's events in Watertown, Massachusetts, bringing at least one stage of the attack on the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon to closure, we may learn a thing or two from the narrative that encompassed the entire week. On the large scale the week began with a violent criminal act, which was then investigated as such with patience and persistence. Both paid off at the end of the day on Friday; and, theatrical terms, the "audience" of Watertown gave all the agents of law enforcement involved in the process the standing ovation they deserved. The lesson from it all was that, when properly managed, law enforcement can deal with criminal malice; and we should be glad we have a system that works that way.

Between perpetration and apprehension, however, we had a second headline-grabbing catastrophe in Texas. I have no trouble classifying this one as an industrial accident, but I certainly hope that the investigation of that accident will be as patiently and persistently investigated. Stories are already leaking out about the possibility of regulatory negligence, the unintended consequence of those who think they can reduce staff in the interest of "working smarter."

If this turns out to be the case, then one might view the entire week as an object lesson in the hazards of placing the market above all other priorities. The week began with an ideological act of malice that could easily have been provoked as a reaction against such thinking. This was then followed by an act of negligence whose repercussions were just as dire. Have we learned yet how to react to both of these horrible acts? Have we learned to tell the difference?

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