Thursday, October 30, 2008

Earthquakes, economics, Obama

Somewhat lost amidst the election hubbub and the fact that international news is often not really news in the U.S., Pakistan has continued its run of bad luck with a 6.4 magnitude earthquake this week that has left scores dead and thousands homeless. The country is no stranger to earthquakes, having suffered one three years ago in which over 70,000 perished.

Earthquakes are not unique to Pakistan and take place all over the world. California, of course, has experienced several high-profile tremors. I even experienced one while living in Holland. What really differentiates Pakistan, and other developing countries that are impacted by these events, is how many people die in them. An earthquake in Bam, Iran five years ago that registered 6.6 on the Richter scale cost the lives of over 25,000.

What's interesting is that while the earthquakes in Pakistan and Iran resulted in hundreds, and even thousands of deaths, an earthquake of a similar magnitude in Los Angeles -- home to millions of people -- resulted in a comparatively small number (57) killed. The reason for this isn't mysterious -- people in Los Angeles are richer than those in Pakistan and Iran and can afford better housing, office buildings and infrastructure more resistant to earthquakes. They also have better technology and means of rescuing those people trapped in the resulting rubble.

This is obvious, but it is also significant. This helps explain the very name of this blog -- to get rich is glorious. The richer you are the more problems you can solve. People can become more educated, receive better health care, live in better housing -- the list of ways in which our lives are improved is almost endless. Society itself benefits as richer people also tend to be more tolerant and can afford to adopt a lifestyle that is more friendly to the environment.

This is why economic growth and policies to expand our economy absolutely must take a pre-eminent place in this country's political discourse. It's why I get so frustrated with single issue voters who only pay attention to women's rights, gun control or whatever other pet cause they champion.

It's also why I find Obama's anti-free trade rhetoric, oil company bashing, talk of expanded regulation (McCain isn't entirely guilt-free here either), tax increases on the most successful and wealth redistribution so maddening. These aren't policies meant to expand the economic pie so that each of us receives a bigger slice, it's about dividing up the current pie in a different way. That's not the path to prosperity and it's not the type of change I can believe in.

1 comment:

zi said...

i know one Pakistani who would wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. i'm sending him this post.