Capitalism Works For Capitalists

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by Paul Craig Roberts, Paul Craig Roberts:

Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep . . . It starts at 6:30 AM and, together with numerous other stressful construction noises, goes through breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour and dinner. In south Walton county, construction crews are permitted to work from 7 AM until 7 PM six days a week Monday through Saturday. Residents miss the white construction crews. They didn’t get going until 8 AM, knocked off at 3:30 PM, and didn’t work on Saturdays But the Mexican construction crews produce non-stop construction noise 72 hours a week.

Construction noise is relentless. OSHA has added to it with beep-beeping machines. The noise, all penetrating, is very stressful. Many years ago on a large construction site a heavy equipment operator backed over a workman who, like the operator, was not paying attention. OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration) mandated beep-beeps on all construction and earth moving equipment, and on all large trucks. Even some pickup trucks go beep-beep.

Noise from these trucks and equipment is pervasive. It would be interesting to know what the score is between the people killed by the stress of the noise vs. those not backed over by construction equipment and garbage trucks. One would think that today the beep-beep could be dispensed with and the problem of inattention handled by cameras. But don’t expect any logic or intelligence from OSHA. Little doubt but that the beep-beep manufacturers are a well-entrenched lobby in Washington.

In Japan there are noise ordinances that prevent real estate developers from dumping noise from their activities onto the lives of residents. This is the reason that Japanese homes are prefabricated and assembled, not constructed, on site. The ability of a profit-seeker to reduce the quality of life of others is limited by regulation. But in the barbaric US, nothing counts but profits.

In the US prefabs might not be appropriate in all circumstances, but 72 hours per week after week of construction noise inflicted on a neighborhood is certainly not appropriate. Yet, all rights belong to the outside developer, and none to residents, who can be surrounded on all four sides for years at a time with 72 hours a week of construction noise.

There has been excessive construction noise in south Walton for about 20 years ever since real estate speculators decided to destroy the communities along 30-A, the county road that fronts the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida panhandle. This was paper company land, and the paper company held on to it. Consequently, there was little development and miles of open beach with nothing but sand dunes and sea turtle nests. Birds galore. A person could walk the beach for miles and not see anyone.

Hurricane insurance was inexpensive, because there were relatively few dwellings, and thereby little exposure, and many were inexpensive one-story block houses low to the ground. Today hurricane insurance alone can drive out residents, but is an insignificant cost to vacation rental houses bringing in five figures weekly. The hurricane insurance rates go up with the rents, adding to the departure of residents.

The paper company threw in the towel. It was either the environmental harassment over the stench of the paper mill at Port St. Joe or it was Wall Street prodding the company with the threat of financing a takeover to capitalize on the development of its real estate assets, which are considerable.

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