Government has responsibility to protect its citizens
Building regulations and fire inspections can be a nuisance for business owners. The rules are inconvenient at times, intrusive and sometimes expensive.
But the deadly nightclub fire in Brazil that killed more than 200 people was a reminder of why they are necessary.
Although the details of what happened still are unraveling, it seems clear there was a failure to protect the well-being of the public.
It was startling for many of us to learn just how little was done to ensure it was a safe place for the public to gather. Flammable and toxic materials were used in the building, and there was only one exit and no other ways to get out. There was no fire sprinkler system, and portable fire extinguishers were of poor quality and failed to work adequately. Almost twice as many people as permitted — perhaps as many as 1,200 revelers — were packed into the club when it caught fire.
The outcome was predictable, and indeed the club had been given only a mid-range safety rating by fire officials. We are surprised it was that high. Yet nothing was done because Brazil's laws allow such conditions to exist, and even required inspections apparently were skipped.
There was a failure of government in Brazil and there are now calls for reform and justice.
Since the beginning of our nation, there has been an ongoing argument over the role of the government and at what point it steps over the line and becomes too intrusive. We are hearing it today and likely will long into the future.
It is a legitimate argument. The idea of individual responsibility and the freedom to go our own way is intrinsic to American society, so it is understandable that this conflict exists.
But at the same time, there are clear markers of where government has a responsibility. One of these involves ensuring the safety and well-being of people, especially in public places.
It is important from time to time to step back and realize why these types of regulations exist and be glad they are enforced.