December 19, 2008
For the purposes of this paper, a catastrophic human event is any otherwise preventable human-caused event which, either directly or indirectly, by design or by negligence, causes wide-spread suffering, deprivation, anxiety, or death. Examples of this include: wars; economic collapses; discrimination; ethnic cleansing, eugenics efforts; disparities in the ability to create wealth or acquire education; famines; pollution; inadequate healthcare. These are not necessarily isolated events; in many cases, they interrelate and amplify one another, such as the 2008-2009 financial crisis. In the United States, we have wealth disparity as great as any since the Great Depression, combined with rising healthcare expenses, two major wars paid for with deficit spending instead of tax increases, deep cuts to social “safety-net” programs, restrictions on bankruptcy protection, and overextended consumer credit, all mixed in with unregulated financial markets and a “housing bubble”. When the unstable housing market collapsed, the entire global economy, which depends heavily on the United States economy, went into free-fall as well (Gross, 2005; Klein, 2007; Krugman, 2008). Most hurt in the collapse are those in the middle and lower classes whose social safety-nets were cut, or who lost their homes, or who had to declare bankruptcy due to enormous medical bills (Effects, 2008; Americans Rank, 2008). Those in the upper class who are most responsible for the collapse are simply restructuring their portfolios, collecting huge bonuses, and asking for government bailouts, meanwhile blaming it all on unforeseeable market forces and the burdens imposed by labor unions (Pearlstein, 2008). For every example given here, there is at least one distinct sub-set of humanity (not necessarily a minority; think Pareto’s “80/20” Principle) which experiences suffering and other distinct sub-sets of humanity which remain largely unaffected or even benefit from the suffering of others (Weikart, 1998; Klein, 2007; Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF), 2003; Wright, 2003).
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