Would a free market have less industrial accidents?
In any system the possibilities for anything (at least that conforms with reality) is possible. To simply name a ‘pure laissez faire’ free market as being less accident prone is only half of the battle. Even in a bad system, the qualities of the individuals within it is the primary determinant of success.
In a true free market, a meritocracy is an inevitability. The companies that truly adhere to the profit motive would seek men that understood what it meant. Companies that did not would not, and eventually those companies would suffer the consequences of such poor decisions. But a company is just a conceptual entity. What are the primary determinants of a company’s behavior?
Business and corporations are not what one needs to worry about. The investors (owners) and the consumers are the source of a company’s and therefore a market’s virtue. They are the ones that need to understand and seek profits as their highest virtue and therefore, their primary motive.
An investor that does not seek to educate themselves, actively monitor and modify their investments and seek to maximize their profits – or the consumer that does not similarly educate themselves pre-purchase and consciously apply their moral virtue to such purchases such that they seek the best quality they can afford at the lowest price they can get, will both inevitably get what they pay for.
So too comes responsibility in both cases. No investor should expect more profit than their investment choices should grant them and no consumer should expect more value than their purchasing dollars can purchase. No purchases by either for any resource can be less than their morality calls for. (the lowest price being asked for the quality they require) And these costs necessarily include costs of liabilities from such accidents. The costs of the accidents must be reflected in the returns on the investments held when accidents occur. Such costs would then be reflected in the cost to consumers from the company responsible.
If it truly was a ‘pure’ laissez faire economy, no liability for an accident could be unnecessarily placed as a burden upon others who do not bear any responsibility for the event. A desire to make a moral examination of the company’s practices for moral adherence wouldn’t even be a necessity, as the moral adherence to profit as the chief motive coupled with that necessary assignment of liability would be reflected in the costs of doing business and therefore in the cost of their products and ultimately reduce company profits.
The moral behavior of the companies in such a world of conscientious investors and responsible consumers cannot avoid running more efficiently or they will cease to exist. The investors will pull their capital backing and the customers will shun the products of any accident prone business. Operators of such businesses would be motivated pro-actively to steer away from accident prone behaviors. In such a market, ‘accidents’ would inevitably be an increasingly rare occurrence.
The answer to the question, would a free market have less industrial accidents? The answer is Yes.
(It should, however, be repeated that such a market cannot endure until the notions that ‘profit is good’ and ‘sacrifice is evil’ are so widely understood by both parties that it is second nature. Proselytize responsibility, accountability, self-sufficiency and critical thinking!)