Dave Killion — April 25, 2011

The cost to rebuild damage caused by the recent tsunami in Japan is estimated to be as high as $309 billion. This works out to about $2400 per Japanese citizen, and it represents a tremendous loss that will literally never be recovered. It will likely be generations before the effects of the loss are no longer significant. Life will be shorter and suffering will be greater than it would otherwise have been. That is the inevitable consequence of slower economic growth, and it doesn’t take an earthquake to make it happen.

Canada is predicting a $40 billion federal budget deficit for 2010-11. This works out to about $1200 per capita. Add that to last year’s deficit, or next year’s predicted deficit, and the cost to every man, woman, and child in Canada is nearly equal to that caused by the tsunami to the Japanese. In the US it is even worse, with this year’s per capita deficit reaching nearly $5000. The causation is different, but the results will be identical; death, poverty, and suffering all at unnecessarily higher levels. It is as if we visit a series of catastrophes on ourselves with every election. So here’s what I want to know: what is the difference between government and a natural disaster?


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