Everest Congestion Proves That Competition Really Does Kill

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It’s a standard assertion of those who would plan our lives for us that the chaos of simple market competition kills people. That’s why we can’t have competition in the NHS, or electricity, or, in fact, anywhere the planners would like to claim personal power. The thing is, they’re right too, as this story about congestion on the summit of Everest shows.

Hundreds of climbers hoping to make it to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain were forced to queue for hours in freezing temperatures at high altitude this week as congestion built up on Mount Everest. The delays have been linked to the deaths of at least three people on the mountain, according to local media. An American man and an Indian man and a woman all died as they descended, various sources said.

Hanging around for any period of time above 8,000 metres is injurious to health. That there’s a queue on Everest at that height – a significant queue, of hundreds of people – is going to harm some people.

The photograph is extraordinary – and also copyright, so see it here.

And yes, it’s competition which causes this:

The number of climbers has skyrocketed in recent years due to the competition between expedition organisers which caused costs to plummet, NDTV reported.

Before the planners get too carried away with this we should point out that cheaper only sometimes kills. But competition always makes things cheaper. So, why not have competition in health care, electricity and the rest? We can always deal with that small subset of deathly things later, once they’ve been made cheap, right?

There are of course those who deeply misunderstand this, like the Senior Lecturer at Islington Technical College:

I saw this picture in the Guardian this morning. Yes, that is the queue to the top of Everest. This is staggering. And it’s deeply selfish. Call it neoliberal consumption gone mad, if you wish. And it’s about as antithetical to the Green New Deal as it gets.

Firstly he steals the property of Getty Images which does rather sound like the Green New Deal. Then he tells us that going for a walk up a hill is neoliberalism. As opposed to that new and diverse life we should all be embracing by having experiences rather than things.

It is possible to think that the expansion of the universities wasn’t all that great an idea.

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