Monday, March 01, 2010

A tale of two earthquakes

The Wall Street Journal examines why the death toll in Chile is so much lower than in Haiti (700+ vs. 213,000-230,000):
One reason is luck, as the quake hit offshore and away from populated areas, save for the city of ConcepciĆ³n. But even in that city of one million, the death toll might have been worse. That it wasn't is due in part to Chile's stricter building codes, which have been developed over long experience with quakes along the Eastern Pacific fault line. Chileans have prepared well for the big one.

But such preparation is also the luxury of a prosperous country, in contrast to destitute and ill-governed Haiti. Chile has benefited enormously in recent decades from the free-market reforms it passed in the 1970s under dictator Augusto Pinochet. While Chileans still disagree about Pinochet's political actions, they have not repealed most of that era's economic opening to the world. In the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, compiled by the Heritage Foundation and this newspaper, Chile is the world's 10th freest economy. Haiti ranks 141st.

Those reforms have allowed Chile to prosper, while many other Latin nations like once-wealthy Argentina have stagnated under the burden of Peronism. Wealthy nations have the resources to invest in safer buildings, modern health care, telecommunications and search-and-rescue capability.
Like the blog name says...

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