My beef with this LA Times article about the potential costs of The Big One (the earthquake, not the Memphis Flea Market) is surprisingly not the content. Although as the headline suggests, I find it quite intuitive that a massive earthquake would be extremely expensive for California businesses.
The article itself will probably do little to nothing to actually increase the kinds of actions that businesses need to take to prepare themselves for the inevitable massive earthquake. Generally speaking, the marketplace poorly assesses “black swan” events, even black swans that are quite predictable (such as Hurricane Katrina). Yet another study that shows that earthquakes will be bad (along with another bland piece regurgitating the press release) is an exercise in futility if the authors hope to spur businesses to action.
Instead, the responsibility for getting buildings to code falls on the government (state and local, that is). Unfortunately, in this time of cost-cutting, cities are busy cutting inspectors rather than adding them.
Even as the probability of the event approaches 1, its perceived lack of proximity will ultimately doom most calls to action. Human short-sightedness is simply too powerful.