While visiting the islands of our only mid-Pacific state last spring, I took up a sport new to me. Surfing. The rush of riding a wave is undescribable. It has become a minor addiction in the Shinghal house and we have made it a point to get away from our landlocked city to surf three times since April. Being novices, we do not really know the lingo, board brands or the major players in the game. However, there is a controversy this week that has board makers and riders talking the same language. Clark Foam, the company that has been perfecting the blanks for boardmakers since the 60’s, has locked its doors citing overzealous government regulation as a key reason. The EPA, the Orange County, CA Fire Authority and OSHA are all called on the carpet in a letter explaining his departure from the blank business. Gordon “Grubby” Clark said,
The way the government goes after places like Clark Foam is by an accumulation of laws, regulations, and subjective decisions they are allowed to use to express their intent. Essentially they remove your security, increase your risk or liability, and increase your costs. This makes the closing of Clark Foam and similar manufacturing and accumulation of issues and not a single issue. They simply grind away until you either quit or they find methods of bringing serious charges or fines that force you to close.
He pointed out an ugliness of our litigious society by saying,
Our official safety record as an employer is not very good. We have three ex-employees on full Workman’s Compensation disability — evidently for life. There is another claim being made by the widow of an employee who dies from cancer. According to the claim chemicals and resins at Clark Foam caused the cancer. A few years ago we had one of those horror stories one hears about lawyers. Almost $4,00,000 in lawyers fees and the ex-employee suing Clark Foam got $17,000. The Judge in the lawsuit advised me “this is just the cost of doing business (in California).”
I’m sorry, three long term disability claims in forty years? That doesn’t seem excessive to me. But maybe I am practical. I think that it is evident – even if you are not libertarian – that regulation is about to wipe out an entire industry. I think that Mr. Clark sums it up nicely,
“When Clark Foam was started it was a far different California,” Clark wrote. “Businesses like Clark Foam were very welcome and considered the leading edge of innovation and technology. Somewhere along the way things have changed.”
You can say that again, Grubby.
UPDATE by Stephen Gordon: Reminds me of a book I once read.