Twelve miners died after the Sago Mine explosion in West Virginia, and a thirteenth is in critical condition. That much has been all over the news this week. What hasn’t been, as Jordan Barab reminds us, is the mine’s 200 citations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the year leading up to this horrific but preventable accident. That includes 21 citations for “accumulation of combustible materials,” the likely fuel source for this kind of tragedy. The Sago mine had three times the industry average for accidents. The highest of the penalties for these citations? A $878 fine. But as Jordan notes, most of the penalties were closer to $60.
The human tragedy in West Virginia might give pause to some of the ardent libertarians committed to arguing that miners willfully and knowingly take risks upon themselves by entering into free contract arrangements, and that the industry which employs them will correct itself for the sake of free-market competition for employees. But not Glenn Reynolds. Why consider the perverse incentives that led to twelve men’s deaths when you can instead blame the media for passing along rumors that they hadn’t died?
The miners’ families aren’t in anguish because of false reports that these men were alive. They’re in anguish because these men are dead.