August 31, 2006

Structural Failure


Robert Tracinski strikes again with his latest editorial at Real Clear Politics: The Real Lesson of Katrina.

The left is correct on one point: the story is all about federal spending and the welfare state -- but not in the way that they think. ...

[T]he disaster in New Orleans was caused, not by too little welfare spending, but by too much. Four decades of dependence on government left people without the resources -- economic, intellectual, or moral -- to plan ahead and provide for themselves in an emergency. I stated the lesson at the time:

What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face.

They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. And they don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men…. People living in piles of their own trash, while petulantly complaining that other people aren't doing enough to take care of them and then shooting at those who come to rescue them—this is not just a description of the chaos at the Superdome. It is a perfect summary of the 40-year history of the welfare state and its public housing projects. ...

Yes, this is about a failure of government, all right. It's about the failure of big government and the welfare state and the whole philosophy behind them. It is about the vital necessity to move away from government handouts and toward personal responsibility and private initiative. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the moral difference between self-reliance and dependence on government is ultimately the difference between life and death.

UPDATE -- Sept. 1: A similar sentiment found in The New York Times: Getting Past Katrina by Juan Willaims. (via TIA Daily)

The will to create innovative programs [addressing poverty] is missing because of a national consensus few people dare to say out loud: Americans believe that the poor can help themselves.

A Pew Research Center poll (conducted the week after Hurricane Katrina) found that two-thirds of black Americans and three-quarters of white Americans believe that too many poor people are overly dependent on government aid. Inside those numbers is the sense that welfare programs meant to help the poor create a dependency on handouts, draining people of the confidence, will to work and values that are crucial to success. ...

The crisis in New Orleans has now been reduced to a matter of government financing for rebuilding homes while reviving the business community. But the real rebuilding project on the Gulf Coast requires bringing new energy to confronting the poverty of spirit. Because that’s what was tearing down the city, long before Hurricane Katrina.

Posted by Forkum at August 31, 2006 07:10 PM