The Norman Transcript

Columns

November 13, 2013

Are democracies better at dealing with disasters?

WASHINGTON — In an earlier post, I talked about how the economic conditions in the Philippines could play a role in the severity of the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan, but what about the country’s politics?

The Philippines is classified as “partly free” by Freedom House and has endemic problems with corruption and cronyism. But the country is an electoral democracy with an increasingly open political process, and recent progress has been made in reaching a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Will improving democratic conditions in the country make any difference in the country’s disaster relief efforts? They could.

Events like earthquakes, typhoons and droughts are acts of God, but the level of development in a country will often determine the extent of the damage. Chile experienced a more severe earthquake than Haiti in 2010, according to the Richter Scale, but only a fraction of the death toll.

There’s some research to suggest that democracies are better at preparing for disasters and responding to them than autocracies. Take Myanmar’s blocking of aid after Cyclone Nargis or China’s crackdown on those who questioned the shoddy construction that made the death toll from the 2008 Sichuan earthquake much higher than it needed to be.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen famously argued that famines do not occur in functioning democracies because democracies “have to win elections and face public criticism and have strong incentive to undertake measures to avert famines and other catastrophes.”

In a 2002 paper, London School of Economics economists Timothy Besley and Robin Burgess built on this argument in a study of how Indian regions responded to falls in food production and crop flood damage. They found that Indian states “where newspaper circulation is higher and electoral accountability greater” were far more responsive in responding to people’s needs in the wake of disasters.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • First, do no harm — to your bank account

    After being sued by the Wall Street Journal, the government finally released its Medicare reimbursement data last week. It included the less-than-stunning revelation that 28 of the 100 doctors who received the largest payments in 2012 were ...

    April 15, 2014

  • Reading between the lines

    Reading is such an improbable idea — a miracle, really. Yet simple squiggles on a page, arranged just so, can convey ideas that change the way we think or introduce to us characters we love for a lifetime. In celebration of reading — and ...

    April 15, 2014

  • CCFI tackling area’s child abuse problem

    Editor, The Transcript: To those of you who are reading this editorial, I assume you care or at least are entertained by the opinions of others. It is my hope and desire that when you read this editorial, you will care about the facts. ...

    April 12, 2014

  • Does Oklahoma need advice from Texas?

    Does Texas have a lock on “brilliant minds”? The names of Texans like Congressman Louie Gomert, Sen. Ted Cruz and that other guy ... I can’t think of his name ... oh yeah, Rick Perry come to mind very quickly. Add to that infamous list ...

    April 12, 2014

  • Why Comcast-Time Warner deal makes sense

    Say this about the deal announced Thursday for Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable: It’s big. Big price tag of $45 billion. Big combined subscriber base of 30 million households. And big risk of a veto from government antitrust regulators....

    April 12, 2014

  • Solid evidence within ice record

    In his November 10 Letter, Gary Reynolds misstated information in the October 27 op-ed by Catherine Hobbs, “New report says global warming is “unequivocal.” Mr. Reynolds incorrectly stated that Dr. Hobbs cited evidence from the 2007 UN ...

    April 12, 2014

  • Times two during April tax season

    Each April, it matters about which column the numbers fall into. Jerry’s first surgery for cataracts occurred in November and the other, December. “How’re you seeing now?” friends say....

    April 8, 2014

  • Soldiers home but not yet safe

    March ended with this uplifting news: For the first time in seven years, no U.S. soldiers died that month in combat. Not one....

    April 7, 2014

  • Fred Harris still sounds like a presidential candidate

    A tourist who happened to wander inside the Kerr Auditorium at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History Friday afternoon missed the introduction but caught the tail end of Fred Harris’ lecture....

    April 6, 2014

  • Latin inventors thrive — in U.S.

    If you think that Latin America is doomed to remain behind in science, technology and innovation — as one could conclude from the latest international rankings of patents of new inventions — you should meet Luis Von Ahn....

    April 1, 2014

Video
Facebook