The lonely libertarian has been a bit preoccupied this week with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Rather than wasting time linking here, there and everywhere, I just figured I'd comment on a few aspects of Katrina and the Katrina reaction.
1) The mainstream media did the job it's supposed to do. The major news networks were all over the most important story, and that was the human tragedy in New Orleans. The media made the nation aware of the situation, and no doubt saved countless lives.
2) I heard Trent Lott this morning lamenting the lack of media attention that Mississippi, Alabama, and the rest of the affected areas are receiving. Actually, back on Monday, there actually was some media coverage of the other impacted areas. But when it became clear that New Orleans was the epicenter of a human tragedy that was growing steadily worse, New Orleans became the center of media focus. In the long run, rebuilding Biloxi Mississippi and some of the other impacted areas may be just as arduous a process, but for the past week, the media has quite rightly been focused on averting what could have been the death of tens of thousands in New Orleans.
3) Why is it that disasters tend to make all the nut cases come out of the woodwork? I'm not sure what's worse, blaming the disaster on the gay community and casting New Orleans as a modern day Sodom or Gomorrah, or blaming the disaster on global warming and the nation's failure to sign the Kyoto Accords.
4) I'm a bit tired of the blame game, especially at this early stage. At this point, does anyone really have any information as to what any government agency actually did wrong, or what mistakes were made? It's easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but no one has any clue what was really going on earlier this week, when the first decisions of this crisis were being made.
5) If anyone deserves any blame, it's the leadership in Louisiana and New Orleans that never had a handle on the situation. But to be fair, perhaps expecting that much is just unrealistic. I can't imagine any state really being prepared for such a disaster, nor able to fully handle the aftermath on its own. What I don't understand is why it was never made clear that federal help was needed immediately, and why this was not made a military operation much sooner than it actually was. As soon as the levies broke, and the realization was made that the city would need to be completely evacuated, the federal government, with all its military resources should have been called in. But once again, to be fair, this is not the sort of situation anyone was prepared for.
6) And as to those who would politicize the tragedy, shame on you. I was amazed at the number of postings blaming everything on George Bush over at Democratic Underground. And I'm surprised any libertarian or small government type would make this tragedy an indictment of government in general. I can't imagine tens (possibly hundreds?) of thousands of people being evacuated in a matter of days by anyone other than the U.S. military. Everyone in this country has become so comfortable that when we come across adversity of this magnitude, when a city is literally destroyed by the forces of nature, we are baffled as to why everything is not handled "better." Evacuating a devastated major city in a matter of days is nothing to sneer at.
7) I've noticed a number of commentators pointing to newspaper articles and government reports about the dangers of hurricanes and flooding in New Orleans. Thanks for pointing this out now, but it would have been a little more helpful say last weekend. For all the "obvious" dangers, I don't seem to recall anyone warning of the impending disaster last weekend. See my previous remarks about Monday morning quarterbacks.
8) There are already commentators on the news shows debating what should be done about the future of New Orleans. I'm sorry, but there is no debate. Regardless of the economic or practical arguments against it, New Orleans will be rebuilt into the same sort of city as it was before. That's just what we do as a civilized society. And I may cringe at the dollar cost, but as I just said, there is no debate. New Orleans will be rebuilt, with far greater care given to protection from Mother Nature. If you think anything different is really going to happen, you're living on another planet.
9) And finally, thank God gas prices are going up. And no, I'm not crazy. But given what Katrina has done to our refining capacity, the only way prices wouldn't rise would be if they were being artificially limited. And price controls and rationing would mean gas lines, gas lines, and more gas lines. Just remember that prices are the markets way of allocating scarce resources. When a resource highly in demand becomes more scarce, the price rises. Gas prices will come down eventually, relievednow, just be releived in the fact that higher gas prices now show us that the market is in fact working.