Friday, September 02, 2005

a bleak outlook for liberty

I am not going to address the current tragic circumstances of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. We all realize that it is a terrible situation, that people need our help (through manpower/contributions/etc), and that recovery is going to be extremely difficult. This post concerns Katrina's political ramifications.

After I kept seeing over and over the horror at the Superdome, I began to wonder what the libertarian response would be. Even for me, it was hard to fathom how classical liberalist ideas could have made things better. My thoughts around mid-week were basically along the lines of, "It's clear the government of New Orleans is in peril and can do little. Where the hell is the federal government?"

From there I began to analyze present events in order to look into the future. These events have been horrific. The federal government has failed in this situation. President Bush arrived late and appeared unrealistically optimistic. This is a complete PR disaster (not to take away from the more meaningful suffering) and those in power are going to pay at the ballot box. Future leaders are going to insist on more government power and spending. If people get in their way, they are going to be told that they have a lack of sympathy and will be rebuked with the emotion of Katrina. You don't want to use tax dollars to better protect Miami and other coastal cities from hurricane devastation? You must not remember Katrina...

I have to admit that I was initially disappointed in the libertarian response to this storm. I could not find anything on or, what I consider to be the two mainstream libertarian websites. Fortunately, many of my questions were answered and some of my thoughts were echoed in a article by Lew Rockwell. I can't say anything except that it is a great article.

I feel better about getting these thoughts off my mind. I'm currently at school, having cancelled a trip to see my girlfriend this weekend because of two major assignments here at school. Many thoughts are swirling around my mind, I had to let go of a few.

I hope all of your friends and family are safe and sound after everything...



Blogger See Jay run said...

I echo your thoughts Brandon. I have waited myself for analytical commentary on this situation from the regular sources; little has been forthcoming. I anticipate, as you mention, a strong backlash against the Executive and particularly against Bush, although I highly doubt that he is really to blame. I am not sure that more could have been done after the levee system broke.

I understand from some snippets of reporting from cable news, as well as the Rockwell article you mention, that there was prior knowledge of the potentiality for a disaster of this scope to occur. With this in mind many will claim that the Fed failed to plan and respond adequately, which is true, but not in the way most people mean it. As Rockwell points out, the levee system itself was the major culprit in this mass catastrophe and I think it should have been improved, strengthened, modified, sustainable, etc.

The thrust of the Rockwell article, citing the inferior quality of the levee system, proceeds to claim that the private sector would have done at least a much better job in the provision of necessary infrastructure. While the failure of the levees does seem to be the common sense cause of this situation, Rockwell's claim concerning the private sector is very unsubstantiated. Let me say that my inclination lies with her claim, and it does seem as if gross negligence on at least the part of FEMA is to blame for the unnecessary destruction. However, my inclination and her claims are not enough to change many people's minds without a more clear factual basis.

My questions are this: would the private market have indeed provided the remedies for this situation? how do we know? where are there examples that suggest this, or refute this claim? what are the relationships that she mentions between insurance companies, investors, and risk management and what is their operation in regards to the public sector on the one hand and the private on the other? lastly, has this ever happened before (remember that this area has been inhabited for centuries).

Hopefully some of the professors can help out on this one.

Good luck on your tests!

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the libertarian perspective to the relief efforts after hurricane Katrina? What would be the libertarian response to a crisis of this magnitude?

9:40 PM  
Blogger Priscillia said...

Hey all,

I've finally made it to my temporary settlement in AZ. On my way from Atlanta to Dallas, I drove through northern Mississippi (which looks worse off than most of Louisiana btw) & Louisiana.

CJ- You asked about prior examples of how this type of thing is better handled privately, I think if you look at Florida last yr (when they had 4 hurricanes), they never once called for federal assistance to rescue people. Why? Because the governor and mayors of potentially-affected towns communicated with one another & with the people. Granted, Florida communities are much more used to hurricanes and potential problems. But make no mistake about it...the federal gov't does not have the local know-how to quickly organize & effectively communicate plans with the people. (and that's not what it's designed for) federalism,federalism,federalism
We've got folks from Florida---what's your take on how people got ready for your hurricanes vs. Louisiana?

Plus, people of New Orleans often spoke of what would happen should the levees break, so this isn't a big mystery to most of them. But, they didn't WANT to leave. They still don't. People in Louisiana have a specific culture & that's why, in my opinion of course, the local/state gov't failed their people. But they're human, so it can happen & the mayor has done a hell of job taking responsibility. I think he's a pretty cool guy actually.

If people want to blame Bush, they need to be specific about what he is at fault for, or this will happen all over again with a different president.

p.s. CJ- Boston (& San Francisco & Austin,TX) are my favorite cities in the US. BostonU is in a great location & a great school, but heeeelllla expensive so if that's an issue for you, like it is for most students, then you made a good choice not going. If you have an opportunity to go Boston though, it's a beautiful city with parks, cute streets, local pubs, clubs, diverse'd like it.
I'll end up in England at the univ of warwick by the end of september to do a PhD in economics. Come visit & we'll paint the town pink!:)

1:00 PM  
Blogger See Jay run said...

Oh Priscillia, a trip to the U. of Warwick sounds wonderful. I think it's really cool that you are heading over there. And since I have family in England, somewhere, there is actually a chance that during the long course of your Ph.D. studies I may be over there, ready and willing to do painting of all stripes and colors!

And thanks for the info on those fabulous cities that I'll miss now that I am stuck in Claremont. Oh, if only I had received some money from Boston, or even been accepted to UT Austin, what a different world that would have been. Oh well. Maybe next life.

5:45 PM  

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