Will Wilkinson cites research that finds "some disasters can boost GDP by forcing upgrades in technology and infrastructure, and offering the opportunity for critical reappraisal of ingrained modes of economic activity, leading to a higher level of productivity and, eventually, to net gains in growth." Alas, the research doesn't apply to earthquakes:
There is every reason to believe Japan will eventually fully recover economically. Eventually. I highlight the last sentence in the passage above to emphasize that the return to trend economic growth does not compensate for the direct human and economic loss created by the disaster. In the case of Japan, the final toll will be immense. The unofficial death toll is up to 10,000, and more than 15,000 people remain unaccounted for. Economists at Barclays have estimated the loss at 15 trillion yen, or about $186 billionabout 3% of Japanese GDP. And the costs of the ongoing knock-on disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant remain unclear. This is horrific pure loss at a sickening scale. There is no silver lining in this.
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