The Wonders of Capitalism
by David Sims
HERE ARE SOME illustrations of the behavior you can expect from capitalists.
Scotland’s Tay Bridge was built in 1879, becoming, for a time, the world’s longest railway bridge. On 28 December 1879, storm winds blew part of the bridge into the sea at exactly the moment a passenger train was going across. The train fell into the water, killing 60 passengers and 15 crew.
But it wasn’t just the storm that caused the bridge to collapse. The contractors who built it cut their costs by using worn-out girders. The defects on the girders had been concealed by a paste made from mixing beeswax and iron filings.
Despite all of the people on the train being killed, the train itself was recovered from the sea and expertly repaired, and the capitalists continued to operate it for their profit for another 40 years.
The MGM casino in Las Vegas caught on fire starting in its delicatessen, which got out of control because an exception had been made to the building code regarding sprinklers in that part of the casino, as required by the building code there. The capitalists argued that it was safe to allow the exception because the deli would be open 24/7 and any fire there would be quickly put out.
Shortly after the casino opened, however, the capitalists changed their minds about the deli’s business hours, and a fire started there while it was closed. The flames went “whoosh” when the deli fire ignited the combustible furniture in the casino and the flammable glue in the ceiling. Smoke rose up elevator shafts, stairwells, and ventilation ducts and smothered to death hundreds of people trapped on the upper floors.
Why were they trapped? Because the capitalists decided to lock the stairwells “for security purposes.” They didn’t want any of their guests to sneak into the casino and steal anything while the building was on fire, I suppose.
The Ford Pinto, notorious for being subject to ruptures of its fuel tank during rear-end collisions, was originally designed to include an inner lining that could keep the fuel contained even if the external metal tank was broken or punctured. This would have made the Pinto the world’s safest small car. But the capitalists at Ford Motor Company decided to eliminate the internal lining in order to shave a few dollars off their costs, and, as the result, the Pinto was one of the most dangerous small cars ever made.
When capitalists build dams, they usually aim for a structural life expectancy of only 50 years. During that 50 years, a town usually grows up in the dam’s flood plain. If the dam fails, as it did near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on 31 May 1889, the whole town will get washed away and nearly everybody in it will die. Meanwhile, the capitalists have been building other dams, also calculated to last 50 years — because building them better, so that they can last longer, would be more expensive and would reduce their profits. So eventually the whole country is full of dams that could fail more or less at any time. The government has to prioritize according to its best guess of which dams will fail first, and sooner or later they just can’t keep up.
In 1972, dam failures occurred at Buffalo Creek Valley, WV (125 people killed) and at Rapid City, SD (237 people killed), both times due merely to heavy rain. In 1976, the Teton Dam at Idaho Falls, ID failed the first time it was filled with water. In 1977, a dam failed near Toccoa Falls, GA (39 people killed).
Today, in the United States, there are more than 10,000 dams classified as “high hazard,” meaning that their failure would result in lots of dead people.
But think of the money that was saved.
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