THE MYTH OF LAW-ABIDING JOE PUBLIC

If you are an upright citizen, pay your taxes and do not engage in drug-dealing nor obtain a financially crippling divorce (perhaps because you have been wise enough to stay single) then, surely, any such situation would not befall you. And even if, for some odd reason, you suddenly were to find yourself under suspicion for some crime which you did not commit, then that would merely be a tiny misunderstanding to be speedily cleared up, right?
Wrong. No matter how strait-laced and impeccably law-abiding you are, you may at a moment’s notice find yourself being referred to not as “Mr Joseph Public” but, rather, as “the Defendant”. Remember how the politicians and the media literally make their living from screaming to the public that “something ought to be done” about this or that. More and more “things” (which means people) are created about whom something should be “done”. You eventually find that you are one of the victims of government.
An example: “Something ought to be done about those heinous environmental polluters”. Unless you have been spending the past ten years backpacking in Nepal, you will know that newspapers in just about every country regularly feature stories about how “evil, privately owned Big Businesses” are polluting the environment and how those same evil businessmen must be forced to pay for the environmental clean-up thus necessitated.
How can this affect you? Here’s an example: until the late Sixties, government environmental agencies in most countries actively urged companies to dispose of chemical waste by sealing it in containers and burying it. Yes, that’s right – bury containers full of that toxic chemical stuff. Unfortunately, it turned out that this advice was not a smart move. Steel drums rust and let chemicals leak into the ground, polluting the water supplies. Massive scandals have erupted involving companies which were following government guidelines in the past. Now they find themselves in the position of being sued for huge damages when that government advice of 20 years earlier turned out to be unwise. But that is not all. Courts in the United States have ruled that it is in the “public interest” that “the polluters be made to pay”. It is the new order of things not only to sue companies that have polluted in the past ~ but also their “collaborators”.

If-you-are-an-upright-citizen

This means if a company buried toxic waste somewhere 20 or 30 years ago, it may be sued today – even if it was following official guidelines in the past. If the company is bankrupted, the legal way is now wide open to sue instead those companies and individuals who ‘collaborated’ with the now-bankrupt polluter. It is possible to sue a tn company which 30 years ago undertook a contract to haul chemical waste to the dumps u you just happened to buy that trucking company many years after that contract was completed then you may still be sued for damages. And if that trucking company that you bought just happens to be a privately – owned business and not incorporated anywhere, that means (hat you – personally – may be liable for the damages stemming from another company that followed bad government advice a generation ago! Lloyd’s and other insurers are al stuck with clean-up costs that should be spread over the entire populace.

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