Resilient Japan

Three lessons from the week's disasters

An 8.9 earthquake, a 33-foot tsunami, a series of crises at their battered nuclear plants: The people of Japan have withstood the last week with admirable tenacity. There's no shortage of lessons the rest of the world can learn from what we've been seeing. Here are three of them.

1. People are resilient. Disaster movies and disaster research might as well come from different planets. When Hollywood shows you an earthquake, an eruption, or a towering inferno, you see mass panic, stampeding crowds, maybe a looting spree. When sociologists study real-life disasters, they see calm, resourceful people evacuating buildings, rescuing strangers, and cooperating nonviolently. How cooperative can people be? "At a convenience store in one battered coastal prefecture," The Washington Post reported shortly after the Sendai quake, "a store manager used a private electric generator. When it stopped working and the cash register no longer opened, customers waiting in line returned their items to the shelves."

These patterns shift somewhat from culture to culture, and if a disaster coincides with certain conditions—severe class distinctions, a serious pre-existing crime problem, a police department that's especially corrupt—a post-disaster riot may break out. But that's the exception, not the rule. On Monday, Ed West of the London Telegraph asked with awe, "Why is there no looting in Japan?" A better query would be, "When people do loot, what prompted the plunder?"

So it shouldn't be a surprise to see survivors keeping their heads, sharing food and other resources, and doing all they can to contain the damage. That's what usually happens after an earthquake. It's just that most Americans haven't read about, say, the Kobe quake of 1995, when the disaster researchers Kathleen Tierney and James D. Goltz reported that "Spontaneous volunteering and emergent group activity were very widespread throughout the emergency period; community residents provided a wide range of goods and services to their fellow earthquake victims, and large numbers of people traveled from other parts of the country to offer aid." When westerners imagine Japanese people facing a catastrophe, they're more likely to picture an agitated mob fleeing Godzilla. Then they're taken aback when real life doesn't resemble a flick about a fictional fire-breathing lizard.

2. A society's resilience increases with its wealth. When an earthquake shook Haiti last year, an estimated 316,000 people were killed and 1.5 million left homeless. The Japanese quake was far more powerful; it was followed by a tremendous tsunami; and the affected area had a bigger population. But the death toll is expected to be closer to 10,000, and the number of people left without homes is estimated at 500,000. We don't know what the long-term effects will be of the radiation leaks from Japan's power plants. But no matter how bad those might get, I would be deeply surprised if they're as damaging as the long-term effects when the Haitian quake contaminated the country's already-fragile water supply. Last October, for example, the country saw its first cholera outbreak in decades.

Obviously, there are many differences between Japan and Haiti. One of the most important is that Japan is much richer.

Think back to 2007, when Cyclone Sidr killed somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people in Bangladesh. In the wake of the disaster, Emma Batha of Reuters noted that a 1991 storm of comparable strength killed far more Bangladeshis—over 140,000. A 1970 cyclone led to around 500,000 deaths, even though it was a category 3 storm and the others were category 5.

Batha listed some of the ways Bangladeshi society had adapted to make disasters less lethal: new cyclone shelters, better weather forecasts, smarter construction practices, and a vast network of volunteers—tens of thousands of people—who "went out to tell villagers how to protect themselves and help evacuate those in danger's path." But the deeper change that made many of those improvements possible is that Bangladesh had grown much wealthier over those four decades. The chief barrier to further improvements, meanwhile, was the poverty that remained. "We cannot make our houses stronger," one aid worker told Batha. "The poor people only have bamboo." How much room for improvement remained? "The year after 143,000 people were killed in Bangladesh," Batha wrote, "a similarly sized hurricane hit Florida; just 18 people died."

Note: It's a wealthier society that's more resilient, not a country with a cluster of rich people huddled around a dictator. A poor nation can't ward off disaster by finding oil or by using aid money to fund some big development projects. It needs the sort of bottom-up, entrepreneurially-driven growth that allows ordinary people to produce, trade, and build real wealth. And it needs the sort of liberty that allows those people both to use that wealth to protect themselves and their neighbors and to pressure their government for better policies.

3. Resilient policies evolve; brittle policies are imposed. We've heard a lot of praise over the last few days for Japan's seismically savvy building codes, which legally enshrined the engineering standards that allowed Sendai's skyscrapers to survive the seventh biggest quake in recorded history. It's worth noting that on paper, Haiti had building codes too. They didn't do the Haitians any good.

The difference here isn't simply that Japan enforces its regulations and Haiti doesn't. If the Haitian state suddenly acquired the will and ability to crack down on its citizens' substandard structures, the result would be the slow-motion disaster of mass homelessness. And if Japan's building codes suddenly disappeared from the books, the next skyscraper project still might find that no one will insure it if it doesn't follow the same standards as before. That's not to say there's nothing that can be done to improve Haitian building practices while the country is still poor. But as architects and engineers on the island have been discovering, what's needed there are ongoing improvements to local know-how that rely on regional resources, not blueprints designed far from the scene of the devastation.

Japan's rules are far from perfect, but they evolved through experiment and experience, a process that Lawrence Vale and Thomas Campanella summed up in their 2005 book The Resilient City. Public authorities may try to introduce sweeping new plans after a disaster, they wrote, but "larger urban patterns are not easily or readily altered." More often, "particular building codes or practices may change in an effort to limit future vulnerability." Japanese cities are dense, organic orders whose jumbled layouts are notoriously opaque to outsiders; the country's citizens have a long history of resisting plans that would substantially reshape a city. But over the last century they have incrementally altered their codes. Before 1965, skyscrapers were banned altogether, but with advances in engineering the government finally relented and allowed them to appear.

In his 1994 book How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand acknowledged that building regulations can "block creativity and defy reason" by being "answerable to remote abstractions that have nothing to do with the present case or opportunity." Nonetheless, he made what amounts to a Hayekian defense of building codes, arguing that they're an "adaptive and local phenomenon" that embody "good sense, acquired the hard way from generations of recurrent problems." I'm more libertarian than Brand, so I'm more tolerant of the idea that people should be able to take risks with their own homes. But I can appreciate the difference between policies that evolved over time, with form following failure, and policies imposed from on high, with form following abstract assumptions.

That distinction's implications go far beyond how buildings are constructed. Traditionally, emergency management in America was relatively decentralized. That didn't change much after FEMA was founded in 1979, and it's a good thing it didn't; the agency had a well-deserved reputation for cronyism and incompetence, though its performance improved somewhat in the '90s. After 9/11, though, it was absorbed by the gigantic new Department of Homeland Security, and the country's emergency response system grew more centralized, militarized, and dysfunctional. The disaster researcher Kathleen Tierney—one of the scholars whose report from the Kobe quake is quoted above—wrote a withering account of the results in 2006. Traditional emergency management, she noted, takes an "all hazards" approach, in which institutions "assess their vulnerabilities, focus generically on tasks that must be performed regardless of event type, and then plan for specific contingencies, guided by risk-based assessments of what could happen." But DHS was oriented toward more specific threats, and it had the authority to impose its obsessions. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, communities that once had assessed their own risks and vulnerabilities were "required to develop plans and programs for dealing with fifteen different scenarios, thirteen of which involve terrorism, WMD, and epidemics."

In other words, DHS ignored approaches that had evolved over time in state and local governments, volunteer groups, and the private sector. When it cooked up its new ideas, such as the much-mocked color-coded threat levels, "almost no one representing either academic social science or professional emergency management was at the table." Worse still, "as we saw so vividly in Hurricane Katrina, the government’s stance is that the public in disaster-ravaged communities mainly represents a problem to be managed—by force, if necessary—and a danger to uniformed responders. Social science knowledge with respect to the value of grass-roots preparedness efforts, community-based organizations, and the role played by both pre-planned and emergent disaster volunteer groups was never used in developing planning schemes for extreme events."

If you think the Obama administration has reversed those trends, think back to its secretive, sclerotic reaction to the Gulf oil spill last summer, as the government blocked access to information and held up local efforts to contain the damage. When volunteers in one Alabama town set up a blockade of barges to keep oil out of the Magnolia River, for example, it amounted to an act of civil disobedience—the bureaucratic approval process just wasn't fast enough. We've seen a lot of terrible things in Japan in the last week, but we haven't seen anything like that. When it comes to withstanding a disaster, they just might be more resilient than we are.

Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Max||

    C'mon, Jesse, the Japanese have relied way too much on the state.

  • barfman||

    *barf*

  • Old Mexican||

    He's the pet yorkie. Cut him some slack.

  • Gregory Smith||

    You're absolutely right. They are not a good example of a libertarian society.

    I admire Hong Kong more (specially during the British mandate).

    Rango Smoking Controversy: Common Sense from A Parent.
    http://libertarians4freedom.bl.....sense.html

  • ||

    Japan may not be libertarian, but at least it has a low incarceration rate, unlike good old amerikkka (#1 in the world...)

  • Gregory Smith||

    Japan doesn't have a MULTICULTURAL population of $300 million. Oh, and Japan isn't soft on crime like America.

    ADVERTISING WITH ROACHES.
    http://libertarians4freedom.bl.....aches.html

  • JD the elder||

    "$300 million"? Oh well, whatever. The more important point is that "Japan is not multicultural" is a long-running canard. Japan may not be as visibly multicultural as the US, but they've got plenty of Chinese and Koreans (whom they love to blame for crimes) plus minorities like the burakumin and Okinawans who don't necessarily look like "minorities" to outsiders' eyes.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Chinese and Koreans are ASIANS, they come from submissive cultures where "losing face" (doing something embarrassing in public) in shun upon. Seriously dude, the idea that we should be more like Japan is ridiculous, can a cow be a dog? Can the son be the moon? Can America be Japan? Of course not!

    http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/

  • GILMORE||

    You win the accidental poetry award.

    can a cow be a dog? Can the son be the moon? Can America be Japan? Of course not

    "Son" was a nice touch.

    Your first sentence unfortunately kind of sucks; I'm not even sure what you're saying is serious...because it reads pretty fucking stupid. saying 'Chinese and Koreans are ASIANS' (ohrlly?) is kind of begging the question. The point is that Asians are not, contra your de facto assertion, not nearly a monolithic ethnic community; you might as well be like, "Hey man, Africans are Black; they're basically all thre same" ...ignoring the fact that there have been serious race-hatred issues between different african communities. Even in "asian" countries far smaller than Japan there are significant ethnic/cultural differences within the population. So much so that they've had civil wars between each other over these differences. You may not be able to tell the differnece between a Shan, Karen, Rakhin, or Burman, but *they* certainly can. Forget China or Japan.. You try and convince the Chinese and Japanese that they're basically 'culturally the same', and you'd probably get invited to decide whether Kung Fu or Karate kicks your ass harder.

    But maybe I misread you. I still think the "Cow Not Being a Dog?" is pretty Teh Awsomeness. I think it should be made into Haiku in honor of Japan.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Just like Westerners often embrace individualism, easterners embrace collectivism. As for Africans, their issues haven't been about race but culture. A tutsi and a hutu look the same, it's their CULTURE that sets them apart.

  • e||

    "Westerners often embrace individualism" except for Europe and Canada which are collectivist nightmares of oppression.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Checked out "Locked Up Abroad" and see what Japan does to drug dealers.

  • Tony||

    The government owns all the land in Hong Kong.

  • fish||

    And leaves the inhabitants pretty much alone to become productive and prosperous!

  • Stephen||

    for the time being. that agreement has a termination date.

  • fish||

    C'mon, Jesse, the Japanese have relied way too much on the state

    Hey Max how come you haven't been helping the cold, frightened and hungry Japanese citizen fill out their March Madness brackets like the president suggested?

  • some Terrier||

    Wofford all the way!

  • ||

    I am taking dead pool bets on which left wing commenter firsts mentions that the nuclear reactors are owned by corporations.

    tony
    Max
    Chad
    MNG
    Sugerfree/John

    Someone else?

  • Ted S.||

    Joshua Corning. :-p

  • The Fringe Economist||

    The point isn't how libertarian each society is. It's that wealth helps us survive disasters and we tend to be resilient, unlike what Hollywood would have us believe.

  • PantsFan||

    If the core has no water, then indeed Japan is hooped

  • Paul||

    But that's the exception, not the rule. On Monday, Ed West of the London Telegraph asked with awe, "Why is there no looting in Japan?" A better query would be, "When people do loot, what prompted the plunder?"

    In America, government loots you!

  • GILMORE||

    FP beats everyone to the obvious punch

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/a.....f_disaster

    "We faced down Nukes, Earthquakes, Firebombings.... we find Godzilla destroying Tokyo entertaining... you Gaijin have shit so easy, we laugh at your concern for our 'resilience'... remember Tarawa, round eye. We Dont Fuck Around. We call Fallout 'bad weather'. And quit giving us shit about killing whales and dolphins. We like killing fish, cow murderer. Mind your own beeswax. Also: Jerry Ree Rewis is the King. No Elberis."

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mi.....hJLRzVvMM8

  • ||

    Fuck you whale, and fuck you dolphin!

  • Episiotomy||

    Stalking you is harder than it looks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaXYrUeZP7A

  • ||

    But you make it look so easy.

  • Japanese||

    Ok, they're not fish, but sea-mammals. Who gives a fuck. They're fun to kill. Sue me. Oh, wait, you already have. Fuck you, Greenpeace. Yeah, bring that rainbow warrior shit... I'll cut you in half, hippy.

  • ||

    Japan doesn't have nukes. Know why? Because they have fifty billion killer robots.

    You can't nuke the robot hordes. Know why? Because the Japanese have built them into the bodies of every single Japanese car.

  • Realist||

    TRANSFORMERS!!!!

  • ||

    Elvis is great. I didn't used to buy into that crap, but then I found out that he loved Monty Python. Obsessively so. Like quoting-them-all-of-the-time loved them.

    Makes me want to eat a peanut-butter-and-banana-deep-fried hamburger.

  • Akira Torimoto||

    JERRY REE REWIS!!

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    While on the toilet right?

  • ||

    That's Lyndon Johnson.

  • Off Topic and Fucked Up||

    Protesters Destroy Recall Petitions Against Wisconsin Democrat
    Thanks to a reader in Wisconsin for sending me this link to a press release from the Recall Jim Holperin Committee and video posted at the website of conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes, regarding intimidation efforts directed against Republicans seeking signatures on recall petitions against one of Wisconsin Democratic State Senators who fled to Illinois:

    [Committee] Leader Kim Simac and volunteers for the Recall Jim Holperin Committee will hold a press conference tomorrow at 12:00 pm at the Lincoln County Courthouse.

    This is the location of the conflict between Recall Petition Signers and Union Protesters last Thursday, March 10, 2011.

    The petition rally was originally scheduled at a local Merrill restaurant but was relocated after the proprietors received many phone calls and felt they needed to back out. The committee then set up in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse to offer citizens an opportunity to sign their names to the petition. Over 1,000 calls had been sent out the previous day notifying area residents of the petition rally.

    Upon arrival, members of the recall committee were encircled by union protesters carrying signs and a leader with a mega phone who began chanting and ranting loudly. They packed in tightly around the petition collection table so as to prevent those attempting to sign from doing so. At one point, a pro union protester, pretending to be interested in signing the petition, wrote profanity across a partially collected petition form, than began ripping up the completed petitions that were in close proximity.

    The policemen who were there, and who were standing in close proximity to these events as they unfolded, did nothing to assist those collecting the petitions as they were being destroyed, despite such an action being a Felony under Wisconsin law. Police also did nothing to clear the walk way for citizens that wanted to sign the petitions. Recall Committee members received many phone calls the following day from Merill area citizens who stated that they showed up to sign the petition, but were too afraid to get out of their vehicles and approach the recall table.

    http://legalinsurrection.blogs.....tions.html

  • Pip||

    "The policemen who were there, and who were standing in close proximity to these events as they unfolded, did nothing to assist those collecting the petitions as they were being destroyed, despite such an action being a Felony under Wisconsin law. Police also did nothing to clear the walk way for citizens that wanted to sign the petitions."

    Someone around here laughed when the WSJ said that what was happening in WI was akin to a coup d'état.

  • Colin||

    If you can survive Godzilla, you can survive anything.

  • ||

    "Uh, everyone, please strap yourselves in, as we are experiencing a little Godzilla-related turbulence. It doesn't look too bad, though. He usually lets go at about 30,000 feet, and, after that, we'll just have to worry about Moth-Ra, Ged-Ra, and Rodan."

  • Episiotomy||

    Uh oh, my heart just stopped.

  • fish||

    Ah Japan I'll miss your Kentucky Fried Chicken and your sparkling whale free seas!

  • MechaGodzilla||

    YOU HAVE MORE TO WORRY ABOUT

  • Gamera||

    Saitei!

  • Jim||

    Ah, that's Ghidorah, thank you very much!

  • King Kong||

    Not without me you can't. And I ain't leavin' Kong's Island.

  • Max||

    The Japanise are cheating by stayinh healthier, so, sure, they're resilient:

    n Japan, health care is provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee. People without insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Since 1973, all elderly persons have been covered by government-sponsored insurance. Patients are free to select the physicians or facilities of their choice.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max,

    Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee.


    That would explain why their debt is 200% of their GDP. That's two hundred in pet yorkie times, Max.

  • Max||

    THen they need to raise taxes on the rich

  • Paul||

    Japan, health care is provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee.

    Holy shit! Max just figured out what's wrong with the Japanese economy!

    You guys need to go easier on Max. He's smarter than he lets on!

  • Paul||

    I mean, Japan's economy has been stagnant for fifteen years! Max identified the problem: It's the spending, stupid!

  • fish||

    Fuck you! Move to Japan then!

  • Paul||

    Something near the reactor is opening up for sure.

  • Almanian||

    There's no shortage of lessons the rest of the world can learn

    My immeddiate take aways:

    1) Stay the fuck away from places that have 7.0+ earthquakes and giant fucking tsunamis (esp. island nations)

    2) Also, avoid nuke plants during natural disasters

    3) Never eat spinach with a stranger

  • ||

  • Paul||

    I think that got covered yesterday.

  • ||

    Ah crap, that's some fail for me.

  • Paul||

    NAh crap, that's some fail for me.

    ah, just means you don't live here.

  • one libertarian||

    ...as we saw so vividly in Hurricane Katrina, the government’s stance is that the public in disaster-ravaged communities mainly represents a problem to be managed—by force, if necessary—and a danger to uniformed responders.

    You may not have noticed, but that isn't the case only in "disaster-ravaged communities" lately.

  • ||

    A society's resilience increases with its wealth.

    ¥ in toilet.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/artic.....es-bidless

  • CE||

    What I learned:

    Don't buy a house near a nuclear reactor.

    Don't buy a house on the coast.

    Stock up on food, water, and medications before the next disaster hits.

  • ||

    I have it on good authority; society is always one stubbed toe away from chaos, anarchy, and cannibalism.

  • American Middle Class||

    and we're one missed paycheck away from homelessness!

  • Zeb||

    Ever read "The Wanting Seed" by Anthony Burgess?

  • ||

    When westerners imagine Japanese people facing a catastrophe, they're more likely to picture an agitated mob fleeing Godzilla. Then they're taken aback when real life doesn't resemble a flick about a fictional fire-breathing lizard.

    In all fairness if a skyscraper tall nuclear laser beam breathing lizard monster started pounding around the city i was in i think i might freak the fuck out.

    If it was an earth quake I would probably be much more calm and collected.

    Also it was the Japanese who made the Godzilla movies not westerners.

    Obviously it is not just Hollywood that thinks poeple will freak the fuck out but Japanese film makers as well.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Also it was the Japanese who made the Godzilla movies not westerners.

    Yeah, I know. The "westerners" in that sentence referred to western audiences, not filmmakers.

  • ||

    I could swear I saw Perry Mason in one of those movies.

  • Jim||

    You did. He was added in to the American release to make it more palatable to our audiences. It's all crappy editing, though. He was also put into Godzilla: 1985.

  • ||

    If it were up to me, they'd insert him into all movies. Like Harry Dean Stanton back in the 80s.

  • GILMORE||

    Like Harry Dean Stanton back in the 80s.

    Be still my heart...

    BEST ACTOR EVER

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IzCyp-dwbs

    "look at those assholes over there....ordinary fucking people...I hate them."

    BEST MOVIE EVER

  • BakedPenguin||

    I think they also re-shot a couple scenes with Mason (I forget his real name) and some Japanese actors for a little more verisimilitude.

    As you pointed out, it didn't really work.

  • DNS||

    (I forget his real name)

    Raymond Burr (I loved Perry Mason when I was a kid).

  • ||

    Ironsides!

  • ||

    Watched that one, too. Cool theme music.

  • ||

    Why should I give a shit about some shitbag Japanese?

  • ||

    Is that you Tulpa?

    And why Warty? I know why you think Epi is heartless...but Warty?

    Maybe I should pay more attention to what Warty writes.

  • Zeb||

    Anyone who loves kitties and metal as much as Warty does has to be alright.

  • ||

    He also loves Rebecca Black.

  • Warty||

    I made it through approximately 4 seconds of that, and it was the worst thing that's happened to me in months. You will pay.

  • ||

    Warty prefers Prussian Blue when it comes to teenage music acts.

  • Warty||

    Did you listen to it? Rectal's wailing would be preferable.

  • ||

    You know that was a remake of a "lost" Bob Dylan song, right?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....M&feature;

  • DNS||

    He also loves Rebecca Black.

    This one? Yikes, heller, you are a cruel, cruel man. This one is a kook!

  • ||

    No you fool! Don't you know anything about the greatest music sensation of the century?

  • ||

    God that's probably the worst thing I've ever heard in my life. My braincells...they're burning! Fuck you Heller.

  • ||

    Personally, I like the Japanese. They're totally nuts, which keeps us from being the craziest culture on Earth, they love technology, and they gave us sushi. And Shogun! I even took Japanese in college.

    I bet they recover pretty quickly. And I still think they'll figure out that government running everything isn't good for their future health. They've shown the ability to adapt in the past, after all.

  • Warty||

    Dude, I love the Japs. You fail on many levels, dipshit.

  • Warty||

    This is how much I fucking love Japan.

  • DNS||

    From the comments:

    Before it's to late.

    Born again.

    Kill Bieber kill!

    Born again

    What will you have me do?

    I guilty for bashing Bieber.

    I hold high Bieber beatings.

    Yes I'll bash Bieber again.

    Take me to your promised land.
    winterknightx 5 days ago

    RAWK!

  • ||

  • ||

    Thank you for that link. Now I have to clean up my nosebleed.

  • Peenchy||

    Because you'll want them on your side when the Chinese invade

  • ||

    I am very sad that nobody got my pop-culture reference.

  • Tman||

    I think it's easy to argue that "{insert nationality here) are a hardy bunch and we have much to learn from their ways".

    The problem with this type of thinking is that:

    a.) Our country isn't homogeneous, either racially or culturally. We are a nation composed of every single nationality from around the world. We will never be "like the Japanese/Chinese/Tibetans/French/Germans/Chileans" etc., and thank fucking god for that.

    b.) The natural tendency in these situations, regardless of the "resilient" nature imbued in any particular culture, is that people are people. Some are useless savages when disaster strikes, some turn in to hero's. Most probably get shock and have no idea what to do. There were some amazing heroic stories that came out Katrina, or the Australian floods, or even 9/11, and I'm sure we'll continue to hear similar stories out of Japan. There were also probably plenty of assholes running Japan, Australia and New Orleans too. Guess which story the US press would prefer to cover in order to boost ratings.

    I am all about praising the Japanese for their "resiliency" and heroic honor during this time of crisis, but I'm not prepared to admit that we Americans aren't capable of equal heroics when faced with similar tragedy. I've seen two major disasters in Nashville since I've lived here (tornado's and floods). In both cases I was shocked to see that the base instinct of Nashvillians was to volunteer and help others. I;m not shocked by this any more.

    I expect it now.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Did you read the article, Tman? The line about Japan being "more resilient than we are" referred to our emergency management bureaucracy, not to ordinary Americans, whose behavior in disasters is generally excellent.

  • Tman||

    I was making a general comment which is in line with your article Jesse, I was actually agreeing with you. I was just trying to add some of my own perspective.

    I'm allowed to agree with you, right?

  • Paul||

    As long as you keep the agreements to a minimum, then yes.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I was actually agreeing with you.

    Ah. Sorry for misconstruing your meaning.

    I'm allowed to agree with you, right?

    As libertarians, I think we're required to disagree.

  • Tman||

    Ok, well, I thought you could do a little better with your sentence structure in this article. Your run-on sentences are endemic to your libertarian rants.

    That better?

  • Almanian||

    As libertarians, I think we're required to disagree.

    Well, I happen to disagree, Mr. Walker (if that's your REAL name)

  • ||

    Its a boy Mrs. Walker
    Its a boy.
    Its a boy Mrs. Walker
    Its a boy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....r_embedded

  • Max||

    So you're saying they have a better state bureaucracy? What kind of libertarian are you?

  • Paul||

    Now we know Max didn't read the article.

  • ||

    Max doesn't read articles. His attention span is limited to the title of the post, if anything at all.

  • ....||

    "ordinary Americans, whose behavior in disasters is generally excellent"

    Except for blacks who always treat disasters as an excuse to steal.

  • Max||

    Ron Paul?

  • GILMORE||

    Yeah, those Mt St. Helen's looting sprees? Off the heezy, yo....

  • db||

    Oh, Crap:

    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko told members of Congress today that there is no water remaining in the fuel pool at reactor 4 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Jaczko told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that "we believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool radiation levels are extremely high, which could impact the ability to take corrective measures."

    Source: http://nei.cachefly.net/newsan.....at-region/

  • Almanian||

    I think we're gonna need a bigger boat lead vest

  • ||

    Live pictures of helicopter dumping water

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv

  • db||

    Some confusion on the question of whether there's water in the #4 spent fuel pool. US NRC says no, Japan and TEPCO say yes.

    Spokesmen for TEPCO and Japan's regulatory agency, Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency, on March 17 Japan time refuted reports that there was a complete loss of cooling water in the used fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4.

    The spokesmen said the situation at reactor 4 has changed little during the day today and water remained in the fuel pool. However, both officials said that the reactor had not been inspected in recent hours.

    http://nei.cachefly.net/newsan.....at-region/

  • PantsFan||

    Someone should make a bracket of the HnR commenters.

  • Attila the Huh||

    Huh?

  • ||

    Max and Tony would be in the NIT, fer sherr.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Obviously, there are many differences between Japan and Haiti. One of the most important is that Japan is much richer.

    SWPL, please!

  • ||

    new untapped market- movies about resilient people acting calmly, next up movies about not getting invaded by aliens

  • ||

    Obviously, there are many differences between Japan and Haiti. One of the most important is that Japan is much richer."

    The most important distinstion is that Japan is full of Japanese people and their culture.

  • Bob||

    So looting was widespread in Haiti because they're poor.

    And nobody's bothering to loot rich Japan.

    Truth is some nations are just not meant to be rich.

  • Will||

    "Note: It's a wealthier society that's more resilient, not a country with a cluster of rich people huddled around a dictator."

    No wonder America doesn't do well with disasters.

  • tano||

    Good article, overall, but zoning regulations have very little to do with the difference between Japan and Haiti, c'mon! You seem overly eager to give the state credit for what the country's people do.

  • ||

    I've been following this disaster pretty closely since about 10 minutes after it started, and this is the first English-language article I've read that addresses why Japan is handling such an enormous disaster as well as it has been without dabbling in condescending cultural/ethnic stereotypes ("positive" or otherwise) and half-truths/outright falsehoods about either the scope of the disaster or the people involved. More proof that reading Reason is always worth my time.

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