Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

A Tale of Two Quakes

It was the best of quakes, it was the worst of quakes. It was a minimal death toll, it was a ravaging death toll. Two earthquakes happened in the month of December at opposite ends of the world. They both measured about the same intensity on the Richter scale, one in Iran measured 6.6, the other, in California measured 6.5. That's about where the similarities end.

The death toll in Iran has topped 30,000. The one in California led to 2 casualties. (Just two!?!) Yes, so why the eye-popping difference? Well, some will blame Bush of course (no that link is not satire - it's real!), but I'll blame the mullahs. The vast majority of these deaths in Iran were preventable. It is the mullahs and the general ideologies of closed anti-capitalist regimes that stifle the progress of technology and wealth - perhaps the two most overlooked factors in preserving lives.

Contrary to what some pretend to believe, wealth is a good thing. It was precisely because of wealth that we are able to engineer buildings that can maintain their structural integrity through a quake. It is wealth that allows for modern transportation as well as highly trained emergency relief teams armed with top end medical equipment to effectively respond to disaster. Make no mistake, it is wealth that saves and improves the human condition.

No so in Iran. It took days for relief teams to arrive on the scene. When those relief teams did arrive, they had almost nothing to work with - save for what they brought - as the local hospitals were leveled. I guess the clerics who preside over Iran needed some time to mull over the offers of international aid. They reluctantly "allowed" US help but refused Israel's overtures. I guess when you're a mullah it's preferable to allow public suffering than to take aid from the "Zionist Enemy." Just another one of those sacrifices that the average Arab (the Arab Street?) must make in the name of Arab nationalism. Apparently standing behind the unofficial slogan of "Death to Israel" is paramount, even when confronted with deaths of your own.

One would hope that incidences like these would lead to change, but it's not likely. Iran suffered a similar tragedy in 1990 when 40,000 were killed by the Gilan quake. And still, for all the country's natural oil wealth, vast portions of the population live in huts made of sticks and mud.

How could this be? I thought it was cultures that reject the unrefined materialism of the West in favor of communal states of spiritual solidarity that are truly superior. With all we hear from the anti-capitalist and the anti-globalization movement one would expect America to be center stage for tens of thousands of deaths via natural disaster. After all, it is American Corporations that are presumed to have little consideration for public safety when it comes to turning the almighty profit. But poverty, especially when it is nation wide, leads to early death. It is open markets that create wealth, and wealth is the only cure for poverty. But for all the rhetorical compassion for the poverty stricken third world, it is the Nader Greens and anti-globalists whose policies will assure similar death tolls in future natural disasters.

UPDATE 1/20/2004:Some response to this in the comments section of the week's Carnival of the Capitalists.


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