Lekcija orkana Harvey: Potreba po več državne regulacije

Joseph Stiglitz je potegnil dobro paralelo med finančno krizo izpred 10 let in orkanom Harvey, ki je opustošil Houston. Pravi, da te katastrofe kažejo, kako nemočni so neregulirani (finančni) trgi in kako nemočna je neregulirana urbanizacija, ko pride do resnih težav. Tako kot so veliki bankirji pred krizo izganjali državno regulacijo in pridigali o tržni samoregulaciji, nato pa, ko je počilo, prišli na kolenih prosit državo, naj jih reši, tako so v Texasu pridigali o koristnosti neregulirane urbanizacije kot najboljšega sistema, zdaj pa prosijo državo za desetine milijard dolarjev pomoči pri odpravi škode, ki bi bila bistveno manjša, če bi urbanizacija potekala regulirano.

In responding to the hurricane – and in funding some of the repair – everyone turns to government, just as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Again, it is ironic that this is now occurring in a part of the country where government and collective action are so frequently rebuked. It was no less ironic when the titans of US banking, having preached the neoliberal gospel of downsizing government and eliminating regulations that proscribed some of their most dangerous and anti-social activities, turned to government in their moment of need.

There is an obvious lesson to be learned from such episodes: markets on their own are incapable of providing the protection that societies need. When markets fail, as they often do, collective action becomes imperative.

And, as with financial crises, there is a need for preventive collective action to mitigate the impact of climate change. That means ensuring that buildings and infrastructure are constructed to withstand extreme events, and are not located in areas that are most vulnerable to severe damage. It also means protecting environmental systems, particularly wetlands, which can play an important role in absorbing the impact of storms. It means eliminating the risk that a natural disaster could lead to the discharge of dangerous chemicals, as happened in Houston. And it means having in place adequate response plans, including for evacuation.

Effective government investments and strong regulations are needed to ensure each of these outcomes, regardless of the prevailing political culture in Texas and elsewhere. Without adequate regulations, individuals and firms have no incentive to take adequate precautions, because they know that much of the cost of extreme events will be borne by others. Without adequate public planning and regulation, including of the environment, flooding will be worse. Without disaster planning and adequate funding, any city can be caught in the dilemma in which Houston found itself: if it does not order an evacuation, many will die; but if it does order an evacuation, people will die in the ensuing chaos, and snarled traffic will prevent people from getting out.

America and the world are paying a high price for devotion to the extreme anti-government ideology embraced by President Donald Trump and his Republican Party. The world is paying, because cumulative US greenhouse-gas emissions are greater than those from any other country; even today, the US is one of the world’s leaders in per capita greenhouse-gas emissions. But America is paying a high price as well: other countries, even poor developing countries, like Haiti and Ecuador, seem to have learned (often at great expense and only after some huge calamities) how to manage natural disasters better.

Vir: Joseph Stiglitz, Project Syndicate

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