The Rise and Fall of the City of Bam

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Amir Taheri offers some interesting background on recent real-estate development in Bam. After numerous destructive quakes in Bam in the 20th century, Taheri writes, Iran declared an end to construction in the city. Then came the Khomeini revolution.

"The revolutionary turmoil of 1978-79 provided racketeers with an opportunity to seize large chunks of land in Bam and use it for poorly designed and badly constructed houses and shops. The racket was backed by a group of powerful mullahs who, in exchange for a cut in the proceeds, issued fatwas (religious opinions) that canceled government orders that banned house-building in the city.

"The mullahs claimed that the shah had wished to keep Bam empty because of a secret plan under which the city would be turned into a Zoroastrian center. They also dismissed warnings from the National Seismological Center in Tehran that opposed the repopulation of Bam. The mullahs claimed that the Hidden Imam would protect the new inhabitants of the city against all disasters.

"Thus," according to Taheri, "more than half of those who died in the earthquake could be regarded as victims of a racket ran by mullahs and their associates with the help of religious prejudice and superstition."

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  1. Greedy developers, shoddy construction in disaster-prone areas and corrupt, theocratic leaders who disregard warnings from credible scientists.

    Sounds like Florida.

  2. Shouldn’t the elimination of the building restrictions, and the absence of structural codes, make Bam a libertarian paradise?

  3. make Bam a libertarian paradise

    Yes, because Islamic theocracies are libertarian so long as their infrastructure is free from regulation.

    Fool.

  4. Just means that if you rely on the government to tell you where to live, the next government may get in and tell you things that do not favor you for natural selection.

  5. More important, what will Emeril say?

  6. Not sure of the exact numbers but if memory serves, the earthquake a week ago in California was roughly the same magnitude (6.5 vs 6.7) and resulted in 6 or 8 deaths. Single digit deaths, not hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands.

    Eight deaths out of a population of 27,000 versus 30,000 deaths out of a population of 200,000. That says a lot.

  7. Yeah, that is it. Taheri and Freund figured it out. It is the mullahs who caused all this damage in Bam. Just remeber before you use this tragedy to settle old scores, earthquakes in Turkey, and Armenia a few years back caused similar numbers of victims. No mullahs there though.

  8. Steve — While a lot of the devastation in Bam was probably due to cheap construction and dense population, magnitude doesn’t tell the whole story in terms of earthquake effects. Local conditions can cause effects to vary drastically. For a recent example, consider the effects of recent San Francisco earthquakes on areas built on unstable fill near the bay, as opposed to the rest of the region. I’d guess that Bam, in addition to being in a region prone to have earthquakes, is also in a region prone to amplify their effects.

    See: http://www.seismo.unr.edu/ftp/pub/louie/class/100/magnitude.html for more on the science. Apparently there’s a “Mercalli Intensity Scale” which is meant to gauge relative effects, though it’s really just a system for categorizing observations

    anon — I don’t think the point of the OP was that “Mullahs cause earthquake deaths”, but rather that this particular situation was one that could have been prevented.

  9. It is the mullahs who caused all this damage in Bam.

    You’re mistaking who the mullahs are for what the mullahs did. Idiocy by any other name is still idiocy, and whether you do it in the name of Allah or Zoroaster or the “public good,” when as a public official you count on the “Hidden Imam” to protect your buildings from earthquakes, you’re not doing your job.

  10. “Yes, because Islamic theocracies are libertarian so long as their infrastructure is free from regulation. Fool.”

    Islamic theocracies aren’t a libertarian paradise (joe was using that term as hyperbole), but I think most libertarians do oppose building codes. While it may be that some of the tens of thousands who died chose their own risks and paid for it, surely some of the victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Earthquake codes are partly an attempt to correct this sort of market failure in dealing with negative externalities. Libertarians should accept that, or find a better solution.

  11. Not being a libertarian I cannot say whether your plea has fallen on deaf ears.

    What would make a libertarian paradise would be a perfect lack of non-libertarian policy. Your example fails because prerequisite to the abandonment of such codes is an open market. Yanking building codes out of some naieve belief that an invisible man – I’m sorry, Hidden Imam – is going to take care of you is libertarian neither in effect nor in intent. There is nothing libertarian about the notion whatsoever.

  12. This “conspiracy theory” makes the second shot from the grassy knoll seem insignificant, doesn’t it?

  13. Libertarians should accept that, or find a better solution.

    How about institutes funded by building insurers? Kinda like Underwriters’ Laboratories for building codes.

    However, such suggestions are for advanced societies with property rights and insurance markets. Absent those things, obviously government giveth regulation and government taketh away, and people will continue to die in five figures.

  14. Just so I’m clear, rst:

    Invisible Man = Bad

    Invisible Hands = Good

    How many times have I been told on this site that building and zoning codes can be safely eliminated, because The Market will create as much or more pressure on builders to utilize good practices? 100? 1000?

    Well, here we go: a bunch of ideologues got rid of building codes and let builders do whatever the hell they wanted.

  15. In this article, Thomas Sowell explains the difference being one of wealth. Obviously wealth without responsibility (think Saddam and his be-yewtiful palaces) leads to the suffering of the poor. But don’t be so quick to condemn the free market. Shoddy developers tend to be marginalized when there is incentive to provide good construction.

    Check it out:
    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/ts20031230.shtml

  16. The lesson to be taken away is that mumbo jumbo will hoo doo you.
    Libertarianism is not mumbo jumbo (except for the part about voting–anarchist speaking here)

  17. Ruthless, the degree to which market forces are venerated around here rises to the level of mumboo-jumbo. When there is never an admission of the possibility of a counter-example, and when each piece of contrary evidence is taken, on faith, as being proof of the original proposition, then you’ve reached the level of theology.

  18. Invisible Man = Bad

    Invisible Hands = Good

    The hands are not invisible, joe. You are oversimplifying in an attempt to equate two wildly different endeavors: blind adherence to “Allah” vs. mathematically sound fiscal policy.

  19. OK, rst, then please tell me how the elimination of structural codes in Bam motivated by faith in market forces would have had a different result than the elimination of structural codes based on faith in Allah.

    If you build a building in an earthquake zone, and you don’t engineer in enough structural support, your building is going to fall down in an earthquake. Physics doesn’t care what the motivation of the misguided deregulators is. And neither do corrupt, fly by night builders.

  20. Sandy, the people whose shoddily built “hurricane-safe” homes in the Miami suburbs were ripped apart by Hurricane Andrew would be surprised to hear it happened because they don’t live in an advanced society with property rights and an insurance market.

  21. building and zoning codes can be safely eliminated, because The Market will create as much or more pressure on builders to utilize good practices? 100? 1000?

    Joe, I get the feeling that you’re smarter than this. I really hope so, at least. The Iranian market is not open enough to provide the pressure that can be created here in the U.S., and it was never the intent of the Iranian ideologues to pressure builders anyway. There is no pressuring of builders implied in the notion that they would be protected by a Hidden Imam. The social and economic characteristics present here are not shared in Iran. To reason from the assumption that they are is folly.

  22. Joe,

    The factor missing from this is the entire mechanism of competitive entgerprise on which the libertarian arguement rests. The people who died in shoddily built homes when the mulhas voided the existing building restrictions did not have the market option of buying anything better. The mullahs did not eliminate regulation they simply replaced one set of authoritatian rules with another.

  23. OK, rst, then please tell me how the elimination of structural codes in Bam motivated by faith in market forces would have had a different result than the elimination of structural codes based on faith in Allah.

    In Iran, they probably wouldn’t. They don’t have an open market. Like I said, Iran is not the West. Adam Smith doesn’t hold too much water over there. Don’t treat them the same way when you argue.

    At any rate, market forces are mathematical entities based on observed phenomena. Religion is a man-made social construct based on old books.

    If you build a building in an earthquake zone, and you don’t engineer in enough structural support, your building is going to fall down in an earthquake.

    The disposition of your If is independent of the presence of regulations. Your conditional does not imply that policy is needed, merely that if a house is not built with proper structural support, it will fall in an earthquake. Astute.

  24. The people in Bam apparently felt safe enough in their homes that they continued to live there. Check that, not “continued to live there.” Purchased new homes there. And why not? How is an average person looking at a house supposed to know whether or not it is going to stand up to a hurricaine? How is an average person building their own mud brick house supposed to know how to make it earthquake proof, or even that such a thing is possible? The only people in a position to make such a judgement are builders and those who are supposed to be holding them to appropriate standards.

    Image an Iranian purchasing a home. One builder offers to do the job for x, another offers to do it for 2x, but says his home is more earthquake resistant. The buyer goes back to the original builder, who tells him the other guy is trying to rip him off. Who to believe?

    20,000 people who didn’t know they were living in unsafe homes are dead. I suppose the next argument is a variation of natural selection.

  25. rst, Sandy-

    Answer sm koppelman’s example.

  26. Additionally, there is the conflict between religious faith and market principles in Iran’s situation. The mullahs said “build” and the experienced and honorable builders said “not worth the investment”. That’s the market working. But because people are always hopeful – and because not obeying a fatwa can be misconstrued in a theocratic nation – people moved to the dangerous area. Don’t discount religion as a motivation – I don’t think people understand just how central one’s faith is to one’s life. I am not saying that the mullahs were justified – certainly not! – but that sometimes people choose things that seem unreasonable because we don’t or can’t understand what their reasons are.

    The government tried to prevent building – the mullahs said “we know better” – honorable builders shunned the place, and the corrupt ones moved in. Part of the problem here – as in all world problems – is simply that there are people that *do* *not* *care* whether people get hurt as a result of their own actions. It is self-ishness, and it exists everywhere.

    Sermon of the Moment. 😉

  27. “The disposition of your If is independent of the presence of regulations. Your conditional does not imply that policy is needed, merely that if a house is not built with proper structural support, it will fall in an earthquake.”

    In a country with building codes, if you don’t build with proper structural support, you don’t get to sell or occupy the home. How to compare the two systems? Look at earthquake deaths in heavily regulated California. Then look at earthquake deaths in Bam. If there had been California-style regulations in Bam, the houses would not have fallen down, because they wouldn’t have been built that way.

  28. Joe,

    If there had been a competitive market for builders, and the residents of Bam had the option of choosing a home that was built to withstand an earthquake vs one that was not, there would be many fewer dead from this quake – and fewer still from the next one.

  29. “The government tried to prevent building – the mullahs said “we know better” – honorable builders shunned the place, and the corrupt ones moved in.”

    Replace “government” with “wetlands commission,” and “mullahs” with “builders and the libertarian law firms that took their cases” and you get a pretty good description of how people end up buying homes with basements that flood 80 times/year.

    “Part of the problem here – as in all world problems – is simply that there are people that *do* *not* *care* whether people get hurt as a result of their own actions.” Yes, and regulations like building codes are enacted for the purpose of preventing a corrupt minority of builders from engaging in harmful behavior that the responsible majority would steer clear of on their own.

  30. St Mack, I agree wholeheartedly. There is no justification for a government monopoly on homebuilding. But the existance of regulations does not preclude a competitive market in homebuilding – look at America. There are many, many homebuilders to choose from, all of which have to build homes that won’t collapse in a foreseeable natural event.

  31. isn’t the problem here not so much religious idiocy but automatic obedience to real or perceived authority?

  32. What I want to know is, can we send a few 747 loads of our personal injury lawyers over there to litigate this and thus give us a few years’ respite from their attention?

  33. and those who are supposed to be holding them to appropriate standards.

    And who exactly is that? By default, you say the government. But you do so because you trust the concept.

    Then look at earthquake deaths in Bam. If there had been California-style regulations in Bam, the houses would not have fallen down, because they wouldn’t have been built that way.

    Spoken like someone who thinks that a 7 earthquake in California is the same as a 7 in Iran. Wholly disregarding the differences in crust depth, plate dynamics, fault stability, regional geologic composition – ya know, all the characteristics that actually have something to do with the impact of an earthquake – fact of the matter is, regulations were in place. They were overriden by fatwa. Not a private policy determined by mathematical analysis of bedrock depth, water table, historical analysis of tektonic plate movements, material science, population density, maximum safe building height, nor any other civil engineering topic relevant to the construction of homes. No, nothing so systematic. Just the notion that God will stop the earthquake.

    Apples and oranges, joe.

  34. “If there had been California-style regulations in Bam, the houses would not have fallen down, because they wouldn’t have been built that way.”

    No, if there had been California-style regulations in Bam, the houses would not have been built at all. Only in a place as wealthy as California could houses built to such stringent specifications find buyers.

    So far on this thread, three methods of approving a house for construction has been mentioned:

    1. Religious leaders reading tea leaves, or whatever. (Iran)
    2. Government organizations with input from engineers (California)
    3. Private organizations of engineers

    You seem to be confusing the first one with the third.

    The third solution is superior to the second because there is more incentive to balance the benefits of increased safety to the cost of providing that safety.

  35. “isn’t the problem here not so much religious idiocy but automatic obedience to real or perceived authority?”

    dhex,

    Two sides of same coin.

  36. Iran doesn’t have a competitive market for building contractors? What? The mullahs kicked their Communist corevolutionists out of the government in 1981 or so.

    I’m sure quite a few of the bigger apartment buildings that collapsed were built by the state, but plenty of single-family and multifamily homes built quite privately collapsed too.

    As for Taheri’s original article, I’m not sure the anger directed at Khatami and his moderate reformist bloc will translate into renewed support at the polls for Khamenei and the hardliners. They’re both clerics in government, and the folks in Greater Bam are angry about the shoddy and inadquate service they’ve been getting since ’79. A lot of the younger voters who have grown frustrated with Khatami are fed up with him being too conservative and willing to compromise with the hardliners. I think we’ll sooner see the emergence of a mass movement against theocratic rule entirely at this point, not a groundswell of support for the conservatives.

  37. “Answer sm koppelman’s example.”

    Florida has tons of regulations. Regulation does not prevent ripoffs. Regulation does not prevent earthquates. Regulation does not ensure that homes will withstand natural disasters.

    Does goverment regulation make things safer or less safe? To answer that question, one has to look at the specifics of the market in question. Obviously, situations can exist where government regulation (in the short term) improves safety. This happens when the government (or a branch thereof): (1) knows more about a specific risk than the relevant population knows about said risk; and (2) the government wants to reduce the risk.

    Again, government regulation can reduce risk. But since governments are inefficient, a suitably equiped and informed private agent can almost always protect the population from the risk more effectively – or allow rational consumers to purchase the amount of protection they perceive as providing the maximum benefit.

  38. When I bought a house a few years back, I hired a structural engineer to inspect the overall integrity of the house. That’s my line of defense against shady developers and profit-minded mullahs. If I lived on top of a fault line, that would probably be taken into consideration as well.

  39. Building codes in and of themselves aren’t necessary.

    What IS necessary is some form of accountability when damage occurs. For some things, especially services, accountability at the time of sale may be sufficient (e.g. I buy groceries every week, so if I don’t like the food I’ll go elsewhere next week and they’ll feel the loss immediately). But with housing, there’s a huge time lag between when the sale happens and when the damage is incurred. If a home is damaged and shoddy construction is to blame, by the time the damage happens the builder may have retired or moved elsewhere, so loss of reputation and/or repeat customers is less of a threat.

    I’m told that in France, believe it or not, there are actually fewer building codes for residential buildings. (Please correct me if I’m wrong, I read this in LP News.) Instead, building standards are enforced by insurers and civil liability. Builders protect themselves from liability by purchasing insurance, and insurers base premiums on how well a building is constructed. And home buyers can decide how much risk they’re willing to assume. It’s (supposedly) a more market-oriented system. (The housing construction system, not the overall French economy.)

    Does anybody know what accountability mechanisms builders face in Iran?

  40. A nice piece in the Guardian as well on this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1113895,00.html

    The concluding paragraph:
    “What, I wonder, has Arundhati Roy to say now about the superiority of traditional building methods over globalised ones? Some Iranians might think that it’s a shame there wasn’t a McDonald’s in Bam. It would have been the safest place in town.”

  41. Um, Joe, Pan Realnosc,

    I tried following the example, and…couldn’t. It would be a good defense of regulation, maybe, since there are TONS of hurricane regulations in that area. Except you’re saying that the regulations didn’t work, and houses weren’t built to code…yet 27,980 fewer people managed to die (at last count), which may say something at least for living in a weatlthy capitalist society with property rights and insurance markets.

    So maybe when you work out whether you believe in regulation, let me know, and we can talk about it versus alternatives such as UL. Unless your house burns down from a UL-listed appliance in the meantime…I’m guessing absent regulation they’ll be killing you any moment now.

  42. How does this play on the Iranian political landscape? Sadly, the hardliners get the best of it in the short run, at least.
    This is in part because our State Department continues to pursue a “thaw” with the Mullah’s regime, rather than a more revolutionary course. In coffee-shops in America, Persian emigres peddle a theory that the US (and Israel) SUPPORT the Mullahs– and it’s gaining credence across the spectrum in Iran itself,,,the spontaneous expressions of affection for America have abated.

    God, how I wish the election were next week! In a parliamentary system, this would be the perfect time for Bush to call a snap election and humiliate his critics– Chretien wouldn’t have hesitated.

    Then Powell could leave– good riddance!

    I don’t think we should do anything ham-fisted, but now is the time to twist the knobs and dials a bit. Not on Powell’s watch, you can be quite sure– as in 91, he will exert his utmost to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  43. joe and Eric Hanneken,

    St. Mack has it right.

    More generally, the state’s regulations tend to crowd out or supplant market-based systems of information exchange, even when they don’t directly prohibit them. There’s a natural tendency, given the statist ideology absorbed through the schools and media, and the fact that one has already been taxed to fund the enforcement bureaucracy, to trust that the problem is being taken care of by “competent authorities.” People tend to believe that, because of government regulations, the principle of “caveat emptor” has been repealed.

    Similarly, I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say that “Unions performed a service once, but we don’t need them now that we’ve got government workplace regulations.” This even though decades sometimes pass between inspections, with fire exits locked shut. Likewise, the people who think they don’t need to worry about self-defense because “we have police to protect us.”

    It’s safe to assume, if a genuinely libertarian society ever comes about, that it will be brought about by people who on average are considerably less sheeplike, and less prone to depend on the government as a big daddy.

  44. I should add, BTW, that even in free market anarchy, it’s no violation of market principles for mutual defense associations or protection agencies to intervene when unsafe buildings threaten their neighbors with collapse or fire.

  45. For those of you who are against any form of building codes: Are you going to inspect the construction records of any building you have an association with during the typical course of a day? What if those records are totally unavailable? Every time you switch jobs, are you going to climb into the rafters to make sure the job was done right? Do you even know what to look for?

    The free market is not a panacea, it depends on information being available, and people being astute enough to check it. It’s arguable that people who don’t bother deserve what they get. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to spend all day inspecting the earthquake worthiness of every building I enter. I don’t have a problem with the government doing the dirty work for me.

    There’s a big difference between the government establishing building codes to make sure society is reasonably protected from the dangers of poor construction and establishing building codes to prevent a homeowner for painting his house purple. One is understandable, the other unforgivable.

  46. On average, a penny will fall heads 50% of the time and tails 50% of the time. But any one time you throw the penny, the result is inderterminate. Point of analogy: sometimes the state is right, sometimes the free market. Libertarianism is based on a number of factors, one of them is the belief, based on abundant evidence, that centrally controlled solutions on average create more problems than they solve. This cannot be disproved by any one example. Housing codes are always going to have their pros and cons. The cons include loss of liberty (not insignificant to those who believe in the pursuit of happiness) and higher housing costs, which leads to greater numbers of homeless people. Now, given a catastrophe of the magnitude of Bam, it’s likely that in this particular case the pros of a centrally controlled decision would have been preferable to what transpired in its place. That does not mean it would always pan out that way. And besides, while religion is obviously not the exact same thing as government, it can have a similar effect on the citizenry, i.e., taking the initiative out of the individuals.

    Having said all that, Joe, of course I realize that this example does not exactly reinforce libertarian ideals. What can I say, sometimes people will be dumb asses. But personally, I think I can do without bureacrats making decisions for me because they know better than me, the catastrophe of Bam notwithstanding.

  47. Poor people build poorly.

  48. thoreau,

    You are correct; civil liability and insurance is used in a wide array of fields in France as the means to regulate those fields as opposed to actual regulations.

  49. I agree, Kevin – we place trust in “competent authorities” because we don’t have the time to fully familiarize ourselves with the intricacies of homebuilding, but that does not absolve us of responsibility for our own decisions. Ultimately, the individual is responsible for protecting his interests. He is the person whose liberty and safety are most concerned. The situation in Iran was likely: (1) the land was likely cheap in Bam because it the ground was so unstable; (2) the mullahs possibly saw government restriction on building in Bam as attempting to limit the hand of God [“deciding who lives or dies,” you know]; (3) corrupt builders encouraged people to move in, seeing an easy mark; (4) financially desperate people crossed their fingers that an earthquake would not happen any time soon, because “hope springs eternal in the human breast” and sometimes defies reason; (5) the mullahs said the site was safe – are you as an Iranian and a Muslim going to doubt a mullah, who teaches God’s will? Do you think *you* know better than a mullah what place is safe and what is not? The arrogance.

    That sort of thing. There’s: some well-meaning government action, some academic religious conceit, some true belief, some hopeful trusting people, some opportunists, some crooks, and a fault line.

  50. “Most people don’t build their own homes, mak. They don’t even buy them from a builder. They buy them from an owner who bought it from an owner who bought it from a builder – to whatever power.”

    Joe, I totally fail to understand how that addresses Mak’s point. As long as you have the choice of buying the house or not, what difference does it make if you personally built the house yourself or bought it from a developer or a previous owner? It’s still your choice whether or not to buy it, and if you buy it in an earthquake zone, then you’re taking your chances, but it’s your chance to take. Right?

  51. Thinking that gov’t regulations are going to somehow absolve us from responsibility for our own decisions is ludicrous. Government is instituted to defend our rights and liberty from enemies, internal and external. Involving the gov’t in checklisting whether our home will collapse – well, that’s not it’s job. The notion that we have a “right” to live in a safe house, and that the government’s responsibility is to ensure that — well, the Founding Fathers have laughed themselves out of their chairs by now. Do we really need to be hand-held through life? It’s becoming the notion again that the State is our “father” and obligated to care for us; actually, it’s more like a guard dog. It has a certain role, and we take care of it sufficient for it to do its job.

  52. In this cased libertarianism is based on the fact the insurers and the UL work better, faster, and cheaper than government regulation.

    We already have housing insurers. If there was a UL equivalent for structural/housing issues then the need for government to do the job goes away.

    UL is a real world example of what the alternative looks like. Plus the UL has competition.

    Seems to work pretty good. So good that no one gives it much thought these days.

  53. The “well meaning government action” (building ban) did not contribute to the disaster. Only the removal of that action played a role.

  54. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans live in homes that can only be insured by grifter insurance plans because the legit insurance firms won’t insure house built, say in certain parts of miami. I guess the analagy is trust your health not to an AMA doc or your local county hospital, but to the hoo doo woman selling crystals in the mall because she doesn’t tell you to make some lifestyle changes…

  55. here, joe, i’ll throw you a bone:

    in a hypothetical libertarian society, people are free to build any kind of house they want, in any extremely dangerous place they like, and get killed for doing so. and many will. libertarianism isn’t about saving everyone from themselves — people are sometimes documentably stupid, even in the face of great and obvious danger. we are not logical. we are not reasonable. and market forces do not ensure maximum safety.

    this thread has devolved into trying to attack/defend the idea that market forces alone would/would not produce perfectly safe housing for everyone. clearly it won’t. (neither will regulation — japan is amazingly hyperregulated for earthquake construction, of course, and that didn’t prevent the destruction of kobe — though i would argue that regulated markets are safer in this respect.)

    but the point of a libertarian society is not to save everyone form themselves and others; it is to be free to save — or damn — yourself and accept the consequences of your choices. some homebuyers will inevitably feel that they should cut costs and corners because “it’ll never happen”; some will live in bomb shelters. come what may, they will live with their choices.

    if you don’t accept that safety is not the primary point of life, libertarianism is not for you. given that we live in the fat, wealthy, don’t-take-what’s-mine-from-me legalsafetyprotectionstate, it’s no wonder it has little appeal.

  56. Most people don’t build their own homes, mak. They don’t even buy them from a builder. They buy them from an owner who bought it from an owner who bought it from a builder – to whatever power.

  57. oh god, man, don’t tell me you’ve so exculpated any person from the outcome of their actions. that’s sad! it’s no wonder you’re a natural southpaw… 🙂

    even if we did, joe, even if we did they would likely build cheaper and less safe homes, as opposed to more expensive and safer homes. builders have a quality reputation to consider even in unregulated markets; people don’t.

  58. Are most Zoroastrians in the same part of the country as Bam?

  59. “For those of you who are against any form of building codes: Are you going to inspect the construction records of any building you have an association with during the typical course of a day?” –Sebastian

    “…we place trust in ‘competent authorities’ because we don’t have the time to fully familiarize ourselves with the intricacies of homebuilding…” –Rebecca

    A free market does not require us to personally inspect or familiarize ourselves with the internal affairs of all those we do business with. The process of inspection and certification is itself potentially a service available on the free market.

    Even in our statist society, there’s a free market in certifications for kosher food, with agencies catering to different sects of Judaism. There’s also Consumer Reports and the National Underwriters Laborotory.

    Unfortunately, though, part of the “crowding out” effect I spoke of above, is that the government’s regulatory practices crowd out competing private sector solutions. Given the tendency of people to think the government will protect them (“I’ve already paid them to do it, anyway”), there is little competitive appeal for a contractor to pubicize his certification by a particular safety inspection agency, or for rival inspection agencies to compete in terms of safety standards.

  60. agreed, kevin — but gov’t is usually less than trustworthy, of course. i live in chicago and bought a home last year. the idea of trusting the city inspector to tell me what might be wrong with the property at purchase is clinically insane — fundamentally, gov’t doesn’t work well here because they have no incentive or accountability in any such matter. they provide the service because regulatory law of the kind some here feel is useful compels them; in practice, however, the service and the regulation are worthless.

    my city inspector never came inside the home: drove up, filled out a form, had me sign and gave me a certificate of occupancy. THAT’s the outcome of well-intentioned regulation, folks — and why i hired the best private inspector i could find to take me through the place point-by-point, pulling up carpeting and looking behind appliances, because he IS accountable and incentivized.

    city inspectors, of course, are sometimes incentivized — by under-the-table payments by the seller or buyer. and then they sometimes do something.

  61. “builders have a quality reputation to consider even in unregulated markets”

    But the decades-long time lag between shoddy construction and the most serious consequences (the point of my crytpic “most people don’t build their own homes” comment) prevents reputation along from being an adequate safeguard. A motivated, financed, sleazy builder could have litterally thousands of units occupied before anyone realizes there’s something wrong. And given that the failure to utilize proper load sizing etc. is not apparent when looking at a completed house (until it falls down), the responsibility for ensuring that a house is built property cannot be effectively passed on to someone buying it in its 30th year.

  62. Approximately 30,000 dead members of the Axis of Evil?

    Maybe not a libertarian paradise — maybe a conservative paradise. 😉

  63. No no no. Conservatives do not want DEAD foreigners: they hope for the end of certain political systems that encourage death. Besides, the 30,000 dead members of an “AoE” nation were not the ones responsible for government policy. (Or if they were, I’ve not heard it yet.)

    If you think conservatives want thousands of people slaughtered, you have no idea what conservatives want.

  64. Although the Mullahs play a huge part in the responsibility regarding the destruction and abolishment of the wellfare of thousands of inoscent Iranians, it is the responsibility of the government to play a bigger part in the planning and management of the re-construction of Iran.I meen this mainly in regard to the increased supervision of various building codes that outline the fatilities of shoddy jobs and how things should be done correctly. However I do not meen that they are going to somehow absolve us from responsibility for our own decisions because this is ludicrous.

  65. Although the Mullahs play a huge part in the responsibility regarding the destruction and abolishment of the wellfare of thousands of inoscent Iranians, it is the responsibility of the government to play a bigger part in the planning and management of the re-construction of Iran.I meen this mainly in regard to the increased supervision of various building codes that outline the fatilities of shoddy jobs and how things should be done correctly. However I do not meen that they are going to somehow absolve us from responsibility for our own decisions because this is ludicrous.

  66. EMAIL: draime2000@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://www.enlargement-for-penis.com
    DATE: 01/26/2004 06:16:39
    Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors.

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