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Three Cheers for ... Building Codes?


Here's an interesting angle on Japan's devastating earthquake: building codes saved lives that would have otherwise been lost. The New York Times reports:

From seawalls that line stretches of Japan’s coastline, to skyscrapers that sway to absorb earthquakes, to building codes that are among the world’s most rigorous, no country may be better prepared to withstand earthquakes than Japan.

Had any other populous country suffered the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, tens of thousands of people might already be counted among the dead. So far, Japan’s death toll is in the hundreds, although it is certain to rise.

And lest you think this is just another liberal publication supporting the regulation of property rights--which was my initial reaction--I point you to conservative journalist Claire Berlinski, who not too long ago wrote a fascinating piece on this same subject, as it applies to her home-country of Turkey:

Almost 10 years ago exactly, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, killing as many as 40,000 people. Thousands were crushed in their beds when their buildings, such as the one pictured above in Kaynasli, collapsed.

An outcry ensued over the shoddy construction material, loose building codes and widespread corruption among licensing officials: these were correctly blamed for the high death toll.

Interesting food for thought.

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