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Rule of Law: Out the Window



John Stossel
Fox Business
June 16, 2010

BP should have to pay for the damage they did in the gulf, as determined by the laws on the books. But President Obama wants to change the law. He wants to retroactively raise that $75 liability cap. That’s just wrong. I want BP liable, but we still have to respect the rule of law. It’s not fair to increase penalties retroactively. Anyway, the cap is moot if a company is found “negligent.” I’m sure BP will pay much more than $75 million.

BP has volunteered that it will pay “any legitimate claims.” I wonder where that will end.

David Boaz emails the following from a colleague:

How far back should liability for damage claims here go? Everyone agrees that the iconic Louisiana "shrimper" who's out of work deserves compensation for losses. But what about the owner of a hotel who finds his revenue dropping by half? What about the guy who owns a Quicky-Mart or restaurant that witnesses a 30% reduction in sales because tourists aren't coming? What about the company that sells napkins to said restaurant? The tort lawyers and blame throwers will waste lots of money suing over such things.

Don Boudreaux also warns that now, in the heat of the moment, is not the right time to re-think our penalties. As Winston Churchill said, “Hard cases make for bad laws.”

The fact that this spill has uncorked a geyser of emotions - emotions still at fever pitch - means that now is not the time to take any steps that risk fundamental alterations to the sharing of power by federal and state government, or, indeed, any steps that change public policy at all.

The Justice Department has announced that it will look into legal action to prevent BP from issuing the dividend. GMU Law Professor J.W. Verret writes why that should scare us:

Even if BP’s dividend decision is a bad idea, it is not the Justice Department’s call to make. The timing of this development, when the BP disaster has brought the president’s poll numbers to an all-time low, indicates that the independence of the Justice Department may be at risk.

The Founding Fathers were mindful of politically motivated prosecutions by the English Crown. That concern was the primary impetus for the constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights. The decision under consideration by the Justice Department undermines its integrity and threatens the rule of law.

Related Content

BP’s ‘Nightmare’ Well: Internal Documents Uncover Negligence
Brandon Keim, Wired Science, 06.15.2010

Rep. Paul: Free Market Would Have Kept BP Responsible
D. Gaking, Lysander Spooner Institute, 06.15.2010

A Crisis of Competence in the Gulf
Conn Carroll, Morning Bell, The Heritage Foundation, 05.26.2010

Lindsey Williams On The BP Oil Catastrophe
Jeff Rense, Jeff Rense Show, 05.11.2010

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