This is one of those posts that is purely centered around me. I want to vent about the nuisance of people around me, specifically regarding the Japanese earthquake and the subsequent relief efforts. (If you want to skip the vent and go straight to the logic, jump to paragraph 4).
I am well aware of the colossal damage that was done, and agree that nobody will ever truly grasp the scope of the destruction. Furthermore, the nuclear reactor problem at the Fukushima Daiichi plant seems like it may persist for some time. I am saddened by the loss of life and the hardships that many Japanese are being forced to endure.
Now with the moral sentiment out of the way, why do we keep having fundraisers? Why do we continue to donate? And who are we donating to? I have only seen one group that transparently operates its finances
– all of the funds that you donate will be used for aid, the Ogawa family will match donations up to a total of $1 000 000 dollars and will cover all transaction and operational fees with a supplemental donation. How many organizations can claim the same? Yes, this is an appeal for charity reform and financial transparency. I also have to ask why so few of us will chip in for local issues, but the moment something happens halfway around the world we need to throw money at it? Because it is a fad, it makes us feel good to be involved in a topical issue. Never mind the blistering 10.2% poverty rate
among working-aged adults in Canada in 2008. How about the 23.1% of Canadians who were obese
back in 2004 with another 36% overweight. With the litany
of health problems that these bring on, Canada’s health care systems will soon be overflowing with patients costing healthy individuals a fortune so they can jam another big-mac down their gullet. Why bother focussing on any of our issues? Here’s a thought, maybe we’re helping elsewhere because of a sense of inevitability associated with our own problems?
So far it all seems like a baseless conservative-style gripe, but here’s where I turn this all on its head. Japan has been caught in one of the most detrimental economic slumps the world has seen (Argentina is the only nation I can think of with a more prolonged and devastating cycle-stagnation). Back in the early 2000s the world referred to the 90s as Japan’s “lost decade
“(it’s a wiki page but I vetted the sources), where near-zero nominal interest rates and easily obtainable credit created a domestic finance bubble that essentially halted economic expansion in Japan. (It’s worth noting that almost all nations maintain some level of economic growth and in terms of world rankings, it is relative growth – i.e. compared to the growth of others – that counts. For a nation to basically stop growing is a huge deal, especially when you consider that Japan was the world’s economic darling back in the 80s.) Since the 2000s… not much has changed. No major capital inflow to prop up the economy, no major domestic development, nothing to help dig them out of this hole.
Along comes an earthquake, a subsequent tsunami and then a major reactor breakdown. Many lives are lost, buildings are destroyed, lives are ruined. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; the world loves Japan. They contribute so much to the world that nobody wants to risk Japan suffering – hence why Japan has maintained one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in world history; other nations keep saying “they’re good for it.” Outsiders know that Japan will be rebuilt and want in on the way up. A massive inflow of capital will allow Japan to build their infrastructure bigger, stronger and infinitely more resistant, which will result in more employment for the Japanese and more demand for local resources. The more developed infrastructure will make Japan more competitive and allow it to grow and develop, solving 20 years of economic “stagflation.” It’s just like a forrest fire – much of the forrest is scarred, but the cleanse allows new, better, more resilient life forms to take hold – in fact, some seeds are only released in the extreme heat of a fire. All of this is to say that the net effect of the tsunami is going to be extremely positive for the nation. By no means do I wish to trivialize the lives lost, but people die no matter; Japan’s population has an opportunity to grow their standard of living and thrive because of the disaster. These benefits don’t even begin to consider the impact on increased production of building supplies, increased activity in construction and contracting firms worldwide, as everyone clamors to help the wounded nation.
When I see on the cover of my student newspaper that one of the colleges’ student council has pledged the surplus from their budget (a potentially undemocratic move – I’m still trying to re-find the link that demonstrates how student unions are completely undemocratic by nature, will link it when I find it) to the Japanese relief effort, and has challenged other colleges to do the same, I ask why? Couldn’t those dollars be put to more practical use? Will a few thousand dollars actually be the difference? Or are they likely to be eaten by administrative costs? When the Japanese people are going to receive a glut of support from their own government, what impact are we having? Their country is going to be better-off in the long run, massive amounts of money have already been channeled their way, our thoughts and prayers are with them… Let’s see if we can’t solve some problems at home as well.
Side note: anyone hear about that BP oil spill lately? Seriously, for how large the magnitude of the disaster was proclaimed to be, you’d think that the media and environmental activists would still be trying to milk it.
Next up: the ignorance behind the veil of ignorance: why Rawls is a nutball.