But the issue is even more important than that. Without health and safety we would not have effective functioning markets in the UK.
You would not buy a coffee when out – it may not be safe. Or any food from supermarkets, for the same reason. Or drive a car – which would be a death trap.
The reality is health and safety gives us the confidence to buy. It does not harm markets and private enterprise – it’s the bed rock on which much of it is built.
So all those economists who have been shouting for decades that brand names are the market solution to exactly this problem are wrong then?
Please do note that I\’m not saying that regulation or legislation might not be better (or even worse) than the market solution. I\’m rather noting that Ritchie is insisting that regulation or legislation is the only possible answer.
As an example, the growth of Heinz was really rather built on the fact that in the early and unreliable days of food preservation their products killed rather fewer people than those of other manufacturers.
Or to offer a more modern example: who actually thinks that in the absence of legislation and regulation stating that it\’s a criminal offence to poison your customers that McDonalds would so relax their policies so as to poison their customers?
Or perhaps a slightly recondite example? As you regular readers know my day job involves dealing with weird and wonderful metals. In the metals markets we don\’t have legislation or regulation as to the quality of the materials that are sold. For things like copper, aluminium and so on we all use the London Metal Exchange system. You as a producer apply to have your production certified by this private sector organisation. Once you\’ve got it we all buy and sell this production quite happily. You can borrow against stocks and so on because banks agree that with an LME cert you\’re fine.
Move down the lists to minor metals like molybdenum, gallium, germanium and so on and there\’s not even such a central body. Sale and purchase is done by looking at the actual chemistry of the lot of material itself. We generally use a simple one page contract from the Minor Metals Traders Association (which has language along the lines of \”according to accepted industry standards\”) but there is no legislation or regulation. Those in the market know roughly what they expect to see and get.
The terms of how you complete a contract are generally understood (stick material into bonded, neutral, warehouse, get one of three or four companies to sample and analyse it, release it to buyer and get a telegraphic transfer in return) and are not based on legislation or regulation, simply on the basics of industry practice and a decent dose of Common Law.
Get to the weirdo stuff I deal with and there\’s not even something like the MMTA. Every deal, every specification, is unique. For example, in one oxide I deal with two customers insist that Th and U must be below 1 ppm and one will accept 5 ppm Fe and 2 or 3 ppm Zr while another demands Fe below 3 ppm and Zr below 1 ppm.
There is no regulation or legislation on any of this. It is purely my reputation on the line that I provide what the customer asks for. And if I don\’t I take the material back and do better next time.
No, I don\’t insist (at least not here and now) that this system is better than legislation or regulation. But I do insist (and with things like Th and U it is of course health and safety which is the issue) that in the absence of such legislation or regulation there is indeed a system still regulating the quality of goods provided.
It\’s called reputation: yes, I know this is an extreme example but in the tiny little world of weirdo and wonderful metals \”Worstall\” is a brand name and I make damn sure that that brand doesn\’t get damaged. Precisely and exactly because the maintenance of said brand makes me money.
As it does for Heinz, McDonalds\’, Johnson and Johnson* and everyone else out there trying to flog stuff to people.
*Anyone doubting this simple idea should try googling for \”Chicago Tylenol murders\”