Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Poverty kills

In more ways than one. Frederic Sautet writes over at the Coordination Problem blog:
Clearly the impact of earthquakes is mostly an economic issue. What happened in Kobe many years ago or in Christchurch last weekend doesn’t compare with what happened in Haiti. And the difference is economics. NZ has a building code and by and large buildings are built according to the code in place—it is enforced. But it is not the building code that ultimately saved people's lives; it is capitalism. Indeed, compare this to Haiti. Haiti probably had a poorly enforced building code. But it is not because building inspectors in Haiti are corrupt that buildings are poorly built. Rather it is because of the lack of surplus in the economy. It is the surplus created in a free economy that enables people to dedicate more resources to earthquake protection thereby making code enforcement easy. As long as Haitians will be poor, building codes will not be enforced because people have more urgent things to do with the small amount of resources they have.
The sad truth us that no-one died in Christchurch partly because of luck and partly because New Zealand is a relatively rich country and thus can afford buildings that, mostly, withstand the effects of an earthquake. On the other hand countries like Haiti are poor and the buildings there reflect this and people die because of it.


scrubone said...

Plus, it's flat. An earthquake like that on a hill city would cause massive landslides, wiping out stuff in large swathes.

In Christchurch, things have pretty much stayed where they were, just shaken up a bit.

Mark Hubbard said...

Um, speaking as someone on the hill in Diamond Harbour, Banks Peninsula, and looking over to the Port Hills, I beg to differ scrubone.

And not one house has fallen from the hills. Indeed, due to liquifaction, the flat areas have feared far worse then the hills - and the inhabited hill ares in Chch are extensive.

Mark Hubbard said...

Typos: change to fares, and areas ...