As a Californian, my heart goes out to the people in China who have just been hit with a huge and deadly earthquake. One way to look at the situation is to say California has been lucky for about a century. The last quake in a populated area we've had that matched the size of yesterday's Chinese quake was San Francisco in 1906. But the numbers don't lie. When a quake over 7.0 hits in other countries, the death tolls will be in the tens of thousands. In California, the death toll will be in the tens or maybe the hundreds.
This picture tells the difference. Concrete with rebar. In California, we build to code and the codes have gotten tougher over the years. The major death scene in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake happened 60 miles from the epicenter where a stretch of double decker freeway built in the 1950s collapsed. If not for people leaving work early to watch the World Series, there could have been bumper to bumper gridlock on that stretch of freeway and the death toll could have been in the hundreds instead of an official count of 67, but it wouldn't have jumped to the thousands.
We have some free market fetishists in California. I know. One of my sisters was married to one for a while. One of them was governor for a while and then became president. But they are idiots. Ronald Reagan had a famous quote that the worst sentence anyone could ever hear was "We are from the government and we are here to help." Oh, how the conservatives love that one. Witty old Ronnie, the Great Communicator!
I'd like to shove a few hundred volts into his lifeless corpse, bring it back to the living long enough to say this. "Building inspectors, you stupid turd! Those pointy headed bureaucrats have saved thousands of lives and millions if not billions of dollars damage in the state where you were governor. They're from the government! They helped!"
It's not that God loves us more than the Chinese or the Armenians or the Iranians, unless that infinite love was sent in the form of building inspectors. It makes more sense to take the rational view and accept that the government has a vital role in a healthy economy and the free market is not the solution to every problem.
Go forth. Make sure the people hear the good news.
This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.