NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 6, 2005

When it comes to natural disasters, developed countries incur fewer losses of human life than do their less-developed counterparts, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

According to Red Cross and Red Crescent data, statistics clearly indicate a positive relationship between a country's wealth and its safety. For example:

  • The average death toll over 10 years for developed countries was 44 deaths per event, compared to 300 per event in underdeveloped nations.
  • Florida's worst hurricane in recent years, Andrew (1992), killed only 23 people while a 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh killed 150,000 people.
  • A 1994 earthquake in California, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, killed 57 people, while a 2003 earthquake of about the same magnitude, killed at least 26,000 in Bam, Iran.

While America has never experienced the severity of the recent tsunami in South Asia, which measured 9.0, the disaster will likely have taken more than 150,000 lives once all the deaths are counted.

However, the United States would be better prepared to handle such a disaster, says IBD. A country's wealth enables it to invest in early warning systems and more mobile means of escape. While the aid flowing into the affected countries will help them in the short run, the answer to better handling such disasters in the future is for governments to liberalize their economies and open them up to free trade.

Source: Editorial, "Poverty Kills," Investor's Business Daily, January 4, 2004.


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