[Editor note: Some important facts are emphasized in this post: the Gulf oil spill occurred on property owned and managed by the federal government, and the operator-at-fault (BP) has been the most politically active in its industry. Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman magazine and www.thefreemanonline.org, where this article first appeared.]
With some 7,000 barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day from BP’s exploded Deepwater Horizon well, offshore drilling and oil-industry regulation have returned to the front pages.
The familiar old trap is set: Do you want unfettered markets and oil spills or government regulation and safety? The implied premise is that the oil industry operates in a free market. So, the argument goes, the only alternative is government regulation.
On first glance that story is plausible.…