Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Of building codes and safety

One of the things I've heard from Glibertarians is, "we don't need building codes, the free market will take care of that." So how did that one work out for Haiti? Seems like Haiti did have building codes that would have prevented much of the damage caused by their recent earthquake... but they were ignored, because the free market said that people who complied with the building codes could not compete price-wise with people who ignored the building codes, and Haiti's perpetually cash-starved and dysfunctional government lacked the capability to enforce them. The result: tens of thousands of deaths, millions homeless.

Okay, next thing the Glibertarians say is, "well, okay, we need building codes, but only for structures being built by contractors, not for a structure that I build for myself, because I know how to build a safe home for myself!" So, uhm... that worked out really well in Haiti too, yes? Most Haitian homes were built by the people who lived in them, and when the earth started shaking, they fell over... onto their neighbor's home, which then fell over onto their neighbor's home, until the whole neighborhood underneath the first home was a pile of rubble down at the bottom of the hill. So even if you were one of the Haitians who built your home carefully to comply with earthquake standards, it didn't matter -- your home ended up smashed by the rubble of the homes around you whose owners didn't comply with earthquake standards!

That's how Glibertarian ideas work out in modern societies. Their ideas work only for yeoman farmers who build homes far from any other homes, and didn't even work well in the rugged frontier American West... for example, the frontier mining town of Pioneer, Nevada, burned to the ground in 1909 because a fire started in one of the wood-frame structures constructed by the people who occupied it and it spread to all the other structures, destroying them all. If they'd had fire codes, that wouldn't have happened. But according to the Glibertarians, that's how we should all live -- in a society where our neighbor's house could fall over or catch on fire and destroy our home at any time. As for me... I'm happy to live in a modern apartment building constructed to post-Loma-Prieta earthquake standards. This thing starts shaking, I have a pretty good notion that it isn't going to fall over and kill me, because our building codes here were enforced. Which, alas, was not the case in that Libertarian hell-hole called "Haiti".

-- Badtux the Construction Penguin


  1. "Glibertarians" Love it :)

  2. Holy shit. I've never heard ANYONE argue against building codes.

    You'd think people living in a country that has San Fransisco and Chicago in it would know better.

    Truth is, free markets will never work out an optimum solution when public interest and profit conflict head on. Or even obliquely, come to think of it.

    The whole idea of free markets is a god-damned myth, anyway.

    Just one more reason why WASF!

  3. Funny, I was just talking to my "tea party libertarian' friend, and one of the things he was against was "city building codes" and "taxes", then he complained about "potholes" and the wait at the hospital.
    So I'm stealing "glibertarian" for people like him.

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