Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Effects of Katrina

Perhaps it's just my predictable anarcho-libertarian reflexes, but, for the life of me, I can not understand the now apparently chic calls for more government in the wake of Katrina. Are the Fareed Zacharia's and Barak Obama's of the world really serious?? Well, I know where the disintguished Senator from the state of Illinois is coming from, but it's the voice of those like Fareed that are a real cause for concern. Please, someone explain to me why Katrina and the subsequent abominable blunders of the local, state and federal governments should serve as a platform for abandoning limited government in favor of a "more robust and active federal government" ---- &%$!?@! -- excuse me, I was choking on a bone of disbelief. In one sense, I suppose this should be expected. Afterall, the state has always used the occasion of "emergencies" and "times of crises" to expand its reach, power, and intrusiveness - with the full support of a cheering citizenry to boot. Remember the Civil War, the New Deal, 9-11...? But Katrina is vastly different from the aforementioned occurrences in that the hurricane and the events that followed highlighted the sheer ineptness and miserable failures of an already "robust" and over-"active" government. Today, there is no void to be filled by growth - indeed, we live amidst an unparalleled super-state as it is. That being said, I cannot begin to understand why so many people refuse to accept that the model is broken. It was doomed from the get go and like all the pet-projects that the government supports and subsidizes, it has been propped up and artificially sustained through monopolistic coercion for far too long. Anyway, for my money, Colby Cosh's summary of events paints a perfect picture of the government, as seen through the lens of Katrina:

So let's just recap briefly, shall we? We've got a million or so human beings living in a low-lying area created in the first place by government engineers. The local government of New Orleans, apprised of an approaching storm, summarily orders everybody out of the city about 36 hours too late without lifting a finger to provide the means to do so. At the last minute it occurs to somebody to herd those left behind into a large government-built structure, the Superdome; no supplies are on hand for its inhabitants, and the structure itself is rendered--according to the government's assessment--permanently useless. Even though the storm misses the city, government-built levees fail in unforeseen and catastrophic ways. Many of the New Orleans cops opportunistically quit their jobs, many more simply fail to show up for work, others take the lead in looting supplies from storm-stricken neighborhoods, and just a few have the notable good grace to shoot themselves in the head. The federal government announces that assistance is on its way, sometime; local and state authorities--who have the clear-cut burden of "first response" under federal guidelines nobody seems to have read--beg for the feds to hurry up while (a) engaging in bureaucratic pissing-matches behind the scenes and (b) making life difficult for the private agencies who are beating the feds to the scene. Eventually the federal government shows up with the National Guard, and to the uniform indignation and surprise of those who have been screaming for it, the Guard turns out to have a troubling tendency to point weapons in the general direction of civilians and reporters. I'm not real clear on who starts doing what around mid-week, but the various hydra-heads of government start developing amusing hobbies; confiscating guns from civilians, demanding that photographers stop documenting the aftermath of America's worst natural disaster in a century, enforcing this demand by seizing cameras at gunpoint, shutting down low-power broadcasting stations in shelters, and stealing supplies from relief agencies and private citizens. In the wake of all this, there is probably no single provision of the U.S. Constitution left untrampled, the Posse Comitatus Act appears destined for a necktie party, and the 49% of Americans who have been complaining for five years about George W. Bush being a dictator are now vexed to the point of utter incoherence because for the last fortnight he has failed to do a sufficiently convincing impression of a dictator.

Well said. Taking up my own rhetorical bait from above, I think that the calls for more government involvement are primarily based on two powerful motives. First, I believe that many of the statist cheerleaders are likely acting out of sincere selflessness and human compassion, which they, unfortunately, extend from the personal realm to forcibly implement upon the rest of society through government coercion - forced charity, regulation, redistribution, etc. as only the government can enforce. Secondly, I believe that the sheer arrogance of the statist-planners prevents them from accepting their inability to successfully plan their way to utopia. I am perpetually baffled by their uncanny ability to ignore the countless lessons of the previous century and the resulting utter failures that accompany EVERY single statist experiment that their destructive ilk were somehow allowed to perpetrate on the backs of mankind? Good intentions, sociological case studies, and doctoral degrees in urban planning will never, ever, no matter how many fingers you cross, match the efficiency, innovation and informational disbursement of a complex market. As such, the state, comprised of human planners, will forever fall well short of the market's sucesses and superiority.