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Ivan Stankevich: The end of the world in New York or the story of how the "market" didn't solve

At the end of the seventies New York City plunged into total darkness for a whole day: lightning struck the suburban substation, the damage was repaired only the next night. Blackout was accompanied by massive arson and looting, which became a symbol of that terrible night.

It all started long before the accident. The main reason for this was the decentralisation of the US power supply system, where the US was divided into several parts between competing private companies, and the condition of the networks was far from ideal. The danger of such a system was the poor interconnection of the networks - in case of an accident one company had a hard time redirecting the current from another company.


A prerequisite for the unprecedented looting had been the impoverishment of the population and widespread unemployment (about half of the poor at the time were unemployed). Without that, the situation was not so bright in the literal sense of the hot summer and the serial killer in New York City at the time under the pseudonym "Son of Sam".

That night, New York City seemed like a giant set for a Hollywood blockbuster: the city stood in traffic jams, the streets were filled with people who do not understand what to do and where to run. But marauders quickly found their way through the streets. The pogroms began with the ghetto, which was mostly black (the Bronx and Harlem) and quickly spread to the entire city. Just an hour after the crash, the streets were packed with jubilant crowds. The marauders had nothing to be ashamed of: many of them were unemployed, and the night was perceived as a message from above. "It's Christmas Day, it's Christmas Day," the belligerents chanted.

The robbers took everything they could: TVs, alcohol, cars, guns, furniture. Thus, even all the tuxedos stored in the warehouse were taken out of one store. Even the heavy bars that were used to take away some of the windows were not rescued - the robbers tied a rope to them and pulled them out with the help of trucks. Shopkeepers immediately realized that there was no point in waiting for help from the authorities. Those who possessed weapons defended their property, but were unarmed only to observe the anarchy that prevailed in the city.

In "Little Italy" shops guarded by young Italian immigrants with baseball bats and fittings, in the Jamaican quarter of Queens came out to protect the shops with machetes. A couple of hours later, hospitals were overwhelmed with injured people. Surprisingly, there were few people with gunshot wounds, all coming in mostly with knife wounds and glass cuts.


On behalf of Mayor Abraham Beene, all victims of robberies of traffickers relied on loans to rebuild their businesses at minimal interest, but the traffickers vowed never to open shops near the ghetto again.

Mindful of the events of that night, the U.S. Department of Energy was established in 1977. Almost immediately after that day, ideas emerged about the need to reform the energy system, but the final decision came only 15 years later. In 1992, the U.S. government passed a law dividing the unified energy system into three groups of companies: generation, transmission and distribution. The new players were expected to compete with each other, which would lead to lower prices and higher investments.

The irony is that this did not help solve the problem, but only created new ones: large consumers turned to remote power plants to save money. This resulted in a significantly increased strain on the grid, resulting in the effect of so-called "islandisation". (islanding), the energy system was divided into separate parts (islands), the transfer of energy between which was almost impossible.

Decades after 1977, the United States experienced many more large-scale blackouts. At the moment, energy companies have failed to find the most efficient energy supply system, and Russia, which has a centralized system in place, is not an exception

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