Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Interesting, thought-provoking column from Thomas Sowell today.

Two earthquakes; one in California registers 6.5 on the Richter scale, one in Iraq registers 6.6. The one in California kills less than 10 people. The one in Iraq kills tens of thousands of people. The primary difference? Wealth.

Sowell says that wealth saves lives:
Wealth enables homes, buildings and other structures to be built to withstand greater stresses. Wealth permits the creation of modern transportation that can quickly carry people to medical facilities. It enables those facilities to be equipped with more advanced medical apparatus and supplies, and amply staffed with highly trained doctors and support staff.

Those who disdain wealth as crass materialism need to understand that wealth is one of the biggest life-saving factors in the world. As an economist in India has pointed out, "95 percent of deaths from natural hazards occur in poor countries."
I'll leave the implications for how last summer's French heatwave (and the catastrophic loss of life that resulted) reflects on their culture for another time. But as Sowell points out, there is a cultural aspect to all this:
There is another side to the story of these two earthquakes and their consequences. It gives the lie to the dogma being propagandized incessantly, from the schools to the media, that one culture is just as good as another.

It is just as good to lose tens of thousands of lives as not to? What hogwash! It is just as good to lack modern medicine, modern transportation, and modern industry as it is to have them? Who is kidding whom?
Of course there are other differences between the Iraq earthquake and the California one. Still, the wild disparity in natural disaster deaths between the United States and much of the rest of the world must be accounted for.

No comments: