It turns out that trains derail more often than you hear about, but golly! There seem to be a lot lately! The derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio, has a lot of folks worried for a number of reasons. While no one died in the accident on February 3rd, the train was transporting a variety of goods, including the chemical, vinyl chloride. To prevent a possible explosion, authorities set several tanks ablaze, creating a massive toxic cloud. It is still unknown how far the toxins will travel, or their exact composition. 

The area was evacuated during the blast and in the immediate aftermath, but residents are not convinced it is safe to return home, despite EPA assurances. Five separate negligence lawsuits have already been filed. Local journalists expressed frustration with federal agencies for keeping them in the dark about air quality and contamination of the water supply. 

Transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg (speaking of train wrecks..), has been blasted for failing to address the disaster until days later. Mayor Pete seems to be more preoccupied with reducing “whiteness” in construction crews and uprooting the racism that is “physically built in to highways”. There are a lot of moving parts (no pun intended) which make up the transportation system, but after computer glitches brought air travel to a halt recently and a near miss at JFK, it is worthwhile to question whether Mr. Buttigieg really does have safety as his “North star”

Last week, during one of his podcasts, Al Mohler pointed out that there is a link between the morality of a culture and how it builds things. Mohler was speaking about the tragedy unfolding in Turkey and Syria, in the aftermath of that terrible earthquake. Years of corruption and shabby regulatory standards led to poorer quality buildings, meaning they were less able to withstand the shock, contributing to an unthinkable death toll. A similar story could be told about the failure of South Africa’s power grid which is failing due to the refusal of leaders to stamp out systemic corruption and corporate greed. 

Dr Mohler is exactly right. Moral choices can have far-reaching affects. Norfolk Southern has a long history of taking safety shortcuts, firing whistleblowers to maixmize profits for shareholders. The choices made by company directors may have impacted the health of thousands.

Yet the preoccupation of elites with diversity as a goal is just another way to fall. If the job criteria only take stock of skin color, sexual identity or where we were born rather than trying to find the person who could do it best, people’s lives could well be at stake. We may not live in a straight-up kleptocracy, but we are stealing from ourselves when we fail to let our brightest to do their best. If we follow Mr Buttieg’s logic, bridges should be built by sexual and ethnic minorities, women and every other underrepresented group. But would that result in a good bridge? 

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