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Chawkbazar fire and chemical business

March 15, 2019 00:00:00

The great Adam Smith, widely known as the Father of Economics, once quoted that it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Thus it is only rational that we would always make decisions to preserve our self-interests. Smith argued that the market should be free from intervention and the forces of demand and supply would determine adequate production at a reasonable price as required by civil society. This "self-regulating" market mechanism would ensure proper allocation of resources and any lapses would be duly punished. The term "the Invisible Hand" was thus coined to describe this self-regulatory nature of the market.

But does this invisible hand actually punish market perpetrators? Well in theory, the answer is probably yes. However, in reality, the market has often failed to punish the greed of businessmen who provide a substandard product produced in repugnant conditions.

The most recent example of such a case related to this country would be the Chawkbazar fire. The production and storage of highly flammable chemicals in unsafe conditions only escalated the inferno that went on to claim the lives of at least 70 individuals and cause millions of taka worth of damage. Then why are the chemical businesses in old Dhaka still thriving? Should the invisible hand not ensure that the consumers no longer cooperate with businesses that endanger their lives? Does it not go against their self interests? This brings up the question as to whether the consumers are actually rational.

Ahmad Yeaseen

Ramna, Dhaka


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