Construction, Greed, and Regulations

In my previous post, I used the production of drugs as a reason why a government is required for optimal outcomes. Of course, this also requires efficiency and purpose from the government, and admittedly performance is not always very good. That does not mean that governments should be abandoned and everything left to the private sector. No. What it means is the governments need to be booted into efficiency. In this post I shall address construction, and here the performance of government has often been patchy, but invariably the worst outcomes have arisen when minimalist governments were in place. Leave it to the private sector has produced the effects of greed.

The first example comes from ancient Rome. Romans were great constructors, and two of the examples included the provision of sewers and aqueducts. Both of these are for the public good, but neither can easily be made profitable for anyone else to provide them, or at least they could not in ancient Rome, nor in most modern countries. One of the advantages of the Roman government making them was also that they were made well. In terms of sewers, the Cloaca Maxima, built in the fourth century BC and upgraded by Augustus apparently still drains the Forum Romanum and some nearby area. The Romans built to last. The aqueduct that went around the side of Vesuvius survived a pyroclastic blast, and served all of its targeted cities but those that were buried until late in the fifth century, when maintenance was abandoned with predictable results. (The two main ones that were not served were Herculaneum and Pompeii.) I suppose there is an argument that had there been shoddy construction, we would not know about it, but most certainly there was none on the major projects. Why not? One reason may well have been that if you tried to cheat the state in ancient Rome, the penalties tended to be somewhat more severe than we dish out to our worst criminals. One option was to be sold to provide entertainment, and most miscreants would not provide it a second time.

Move forward to Tudor times in England. Ever wondered what caused the Great Fire of London? We don’t really know, but we have a very good idea what caused a number of lesser fires that caused wipe-outs of significant parts of towns. It was caused by the then recent invention of the chimney, and any reasonably well-off Tudor person would have one in his house – or maybe two, one at each end. Chimneys had to be made of brick, with substantial heat barriers, etc, but a few unscrupulous builders found that they could make a lot more money if they built the middle part of the chimney with wood. It was much faster to build, and as long as the owners did not let the chimney soot up, it probably did not matter. The problem was when it did soot up and was not properly swept; now the wood burnt rather nicely, and since the wood connected to the rest of the house, so did the house.

Fast forward to New Zealand. Up until the start of the 1980s, the country had strong building regulations, but by the mid 1980s, there was a bout of deregulation. The market always knew best, said the politicians. My view is the politicians were just plain lazy and could not be bothered doing any more than they absolutely had to. Anyway, there was a building boom, with houses, apartment blocks, and some larger building complexes. Many of the larger ones have not survived in their original form, and one, in Christchurch had short lateral steel reinforcing, so that when the earthquake came along, the flexing of walls in different directions meant there was insufficient length to bridge the gap, and the building pancaked. That was real saving – a few inches of steel missing per girder saved a few dollars and killed many of those trapped in it, thanks to slack governance. In Auckland, there were designs that would never have passed the previous building codes, and that used “new better value materials”. Ten years later, the buildings were found to be horribly leaky and rot and corrosion meant that effectively they were the next best thing to worthless. To make a few extra dollars for the builders and building materials suppliers, many of whom then wound up their companies so the owners had no legal resort, the purchasers easily lost a few hundred thousand dollars each. Here, the innocent lose, because when you buy a house, how many of you really know what the interior of it looks like.

Then, recently, in Taiwan an earthquake flattened a building. The concrete walls apparently had empty oil cans in the walls to save concrete. Concrete has tremendous compressive strength, so as long as the walls etc stayed vertical, there was no problem, as normally such walls have an enormous surplus strength. Unfortunately, concrete has a very poor flexural strength; it either moves as a block or it breaks. In an earthquake, the lateral forces and the cans meant that there was insufficient strength for it to move as a block.

My question is, why should citizens die because someone wants to make a few dollars and cannot be bothered to explain what the risks of using it are? The only organization strong enough to stop this is a government. It is needed, and “I can spend my money better than it can,” is just another form of stupidity or greed.


8 thoughts on “Construction, Greed, and Regulations

  1. Politicians are not just lazy, they are on the take. They love to deny that they are greedy, but they are. And they have to deny it, so they can get away with it, and do it some more.

    Why should people die so that some rich folk can make money? It is not as simple as making a few more dollars. Go in any top ski resort in the USA. I was recently at Truckee in Califonia. It was a traffic jam of private jets, some of them very large ones, with three engines.

    Google was ordered by the French government to pay 1.6 billion Euros in back taxes. That’s nearly 2 billion dollars.

    You are not talking about just a few buck here. These corporations are starving the governments. The government is the tool We The People use to rule. So the corporations in question are doing evil. The leaders of Google each fly personal jumbo jets. For years NASA filled up their jets for free. All this happen so that no government employee can be paid to detect their tax avoidance.

    The UK, with a similar situation, asked for only one tenth of the taxes the French are asking.

    Google, for example, is known to have shifted over $10 billion in revenue to its Bermuda subsidiary utilising the “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich” tax avoidance strategies, reducing its 2011 tax liability by $2 billion. Bermuda is part of the United Kingdom, the second country in command of the world plutocratic system.

    Human beings are not after money. Money did not exist then, The bucks they were after, ran in the forest. Human beings were after keeping a territory, and that meant treating other human being they knew little about as lethal enemies. This is the mindset which animates the likes of Google. They fly personal jumbo jets, not just because they can afford it, but because, this way nobody can even afford to question them. They want to be like gods, because, deep down inside, they want to kill us.

    The old slogan of Google? Don’t be evil. You don’t be evil, so that Google can be evil.
    The same extend to all these plutocratic, satanic corporations. They are moved by the ugliest instincts. And have acted on them, because all governments were too corrupt, so far, to stop those crooks. And then the Main Stream Media which the plutocrats own has persuaded the public that government, that is the public, is worthless.

    So here we are, and that crook of Hillary Clinton is running strong, thanks to demoncrats…

    • And it is not just in the US or UK – they do it everywhere. One of them, I think it was Google, paid something like $25,000 in tax in NZ. Now I now NZ is a small country, but the dealings are in the hundreds of millions locally so how they made this little and get away with it is ridiculous.

      Never mind – in the US it looks quite possible that your problems will be “addressed” by “the Donald”. Doesn’t that make you feel good?

  2. Business corporations that exist for only one purpose — to make a profit — can’t possibly be expected to regulate themselves. They must be encouraged to have a stake in a larger entity — city, province, country. That’s the job of government. But it’s a matter of balance, and often corruption creeps in, skewing the whole thing.

    • The corruption is official and even presidential in the so-called leading country, the USA. Obama spent months of his presidency literally sleeping with the plutocrats. At least so he did until I pointed that out to him. Then he left the plutocratic mansions for the hotel, but still had these $37,500 per person breakfast. I have seen small children attending.

      • The problem with the sort of corruption you refer to is that the participants do not consider it bad, as shown buy the fact they make no effort to hide it. The breakfast price is ridiculous.

  3. Ultimately, corruption affects the logical centers. Advanced plutocracy is when tax evading corrupt and corrupting monopolists thieves are viewed as “job creators” and “philanthropists”, and are spoken about as if they were secular saints. Crooks who cook books need to be hooked and booked, not praised and lionized.

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