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September 8, 2005, 07:57 AM

An Unnatural Disaster: A Hurricane Exposes the Man-Made Disaster of the Welfare State

An Objectivist Review

by Robert Tracinski | The Intellectual Activist

September 2, 2005

It has taken four long days for state and federal officials to figure out how to deal with the disaster in New Orleans. I can't blame them, because it has also taken me four long days to figure out what is going on there. The reason is that the events there make no sense if you think that we are confronting a natural disaster.

If this is just a natural disaster, the response for public officials is obvious: you bring in food, water, and doctors; you send transportation to evacuate refugees to temporary shelters; you send engineers to stop the flooding and rebuild the city's infrastructure. For journalists, natural disasters also have a familiar pattern: the heroism of ordinary people pulling together to survive; the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and rescue workers; the steps being taken to clean up and rebuild.

Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists--myself included--did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.

But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.

The man-made disaster is not an inadequate or incompetent response by federal relief agencies, and it was not directly caused by Hurricane Katrina. This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.

The man-made disaster we are now witnessing in New Orleans did not happen over the past four days. It happened over the past four decades. Hurricane Katrina merely exposed it to public view.

The man-made disaster is the welfare state.

For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency--indeed, they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country.

When confronted with a disaster, people usually rise to the occasion. They work together to rescue people in danger, and they spontaneously organize to keep order and solve problems. This is especially true in America. We are an enterprising people, used to relying on our own initiative rather than waiting around for the government to take care of us. I have seen this a hundred times, in small examples (a small town whose main traffic light had gone out, causing ordinary citizens to get out of their cars and serve as impromptu traffic cops, directing cars through the intersection) and large ones (the spontaneous response of New Yorkers to September 11).

So what explains the chaos in New Orleans?

To give you an idea of the magnitude of what is going on, here is a description from a Washington Times story:

"Storm victims are raped and beaten; fights erupt with flying fists, knives and guns; fires are breaking out; corpses litter the streets; and police and rescue helicopters are repeatedly fired on.

"The plea from Mayor C. Ray Nagin came even as National Guardsmen poured in to restore order and stop the looting, carjackings and gunfire....

"Last night, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said 300 Iraq-hardened Arkansas National Guard members were inside New Orleans with shoot-to-kill orders.

"'These troops are...under my orders to restore order in the streets,' she said. 'They have M-16s, and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.' "

The reference to Iraq is eerie. The photo that accompanies this article shows National Guard troops, with rifles and armored vests, riding on an armored vehicle through trash-strewn streets lined by a rabble of squalid, listless people, one of whom appears to be yelling at them. It looks exactly like a scene from Sadr City in Baghdad.

What explains bands of thugs using a natural disaster as an excuse for an orgy of looting, armed robbery, and rape? What causes unruly mobs to storm the very buses that have arrived to evacuate them, causing the drivers to drive away, frightened for their lives? What causes people to attack the doctors trying to treat patients at the Super Dome?

Why are people responding to natural destruction by causing further destruction? Why are they attacking the people who are trying to help them?

My wife, Sherri, figured it out first, and she figured it out on a sense-of-life level. While watching the coverage last night on Fox News Channel, she told me that she was getting a familiar feeling. She studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Chicago, which is located in the South Side of Chicago just blocks away from the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the largest high-rise public housing projects in America. "The projects," as they were known, were infamous for uncontrollable crime and irremediable squalor. (They have since, mercifully, been demolished.)

What Sherri was getting from last night's television coverage was a whiff of the sense of life of "the projects." Then the "crawl"--the informational phrases flashed at the bottom of the screen on most news channels--gave some vital statistics to confirm this sense: 75% of the residents of New Orleans had already evacuated before the hurricane, and of the 300,000 or so who remained, a large number were from the city's public housing projects. Jack Wakeland then gave me an additional, crucial fact: early reports from CNN and Fox indicated that the city had no plan for evacuating all of the prisoners in the city's jails--so they just let many of them loose. There is no doubt a significant overlap between these two populations--that is, a large number of people in the jails used to live in the housing projects, and vice versa.

There were many decent, innocent people trapped in New Orleans when the deluge hit--but they were trapped alongside large numbers of people from two groups: criminals--and wards of the welfare state, people selected, over decades, for their lack of initiative and self-induced helplessness. The welfare wards were a mass of sheep--on whom the incompetent administration of New Orleans unleashed a pack of wolves.

All of this is related, incidentally, to the apparent incompetence of the city government, which failed to plan for a total evacuation of the city, despite the knowledge that this might be necessary. But in a city corrupted by the welfare state, the job of city officials is to ensure the flow of handouts to welfare recipients and patronage to political supporters--not to ensure a lawful, orderly evacuation in case of emergency.

No one has really reported this story, as far as I can tell. In fact, some are already actively distorting it, blaming President Bush, for example, for failing to personally ensure that the Mayor of New Orleans had drafted an adequate evacuation plan. The worst example is an execrable piece from the Toronto Globe and Mail, by a supercilious Canadian who blames the chaos on American "individualism." But the truth is precisely the opposite: the chaos was caused by a system that was the exact opposite of individualism.

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. They don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

But what about criminals and welfare parasites? Do they worry about saving their houses and property? They don't, because they don't own anything. Do they worry about what is going to happen to their businesses or how they are going to make a living? They never worried about those things before. Do they worry about crime and looting? But living off of stolen wealth is a way of life for them.

The welfare state--and the brutish, uncivilized mentality it sustains and encourages--is the man-made disaster that explains the moral ugliness that has swamped New Orleans. And that is the story that no one is reporting.





Source: TIA Daily -- September 2, 2005


“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
-George Orwell


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September 8, 2005, 08:11 AM

I agree. The people blaming the federal government for a lack of response should look at when the governor of New Orleans declared a State of Emergency. When a state of Emergency is declared that allows the Federal Government to allocate resources and funding to the area. It happened after the storm hit. It is difficult to mobilize the resources into an area that had its transportation infrastructure demolished. Many roads and railways were impassable. I think the response and current support there is and was pretty good. Support would've been better if the state had implemented a better plan. They were paid by the Federal Government to upgrade the plan that was in place back in 2001. No upgrades were made. Support also would've arrived much quicker if the local "looters" were not shooting at helicopters and personnel attemting to provide supplies and rescue the evacuees.



Federal law enforcement officers detailed to the disaster relief area: 2,514

Department of Justice: 811
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: 184
    Drug Enforcement Administration: 150
    Federal Bureau of Investigation: 206
    United States Marshals Service: 204
    Bureau of Prisons: 67 (52 of which are uniformed Public Health Service)

Department of Homeland Security: 1,703
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Federal Protective Service: 692
    Federal Air Marshal Service: 501
    Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol: 510

DOD Support
  • 60,407 Active Duty and National Guard personnel are on the ground or aboard ships supporting relief operations
    17,417 Active Duty
    42,990 National Guard.

Twenty-one U.S. Navy ships are in or sailing to the Gulf region.

Total aviation support includes Active Duty and National Guard aircraft.
355 helicopters (175 Active Duty & 180 National Guard).
93 airplanes (70 Active Duty & 23 National Guard).


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September 8, 2005, 08:51 AM

Seems to be right on point! Nice artical.


God Speed Jeff! You'll never be forgotten.

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September 8, 2005, 08:53 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnySpeed954
Seems to be right on point! Nice artical.
Nice spelling!


"Riding a race bike is an art - a thing that you do because you feel something inside."

"I don't like being famous - it is like a prison. And driving for Ferrari would make it far worse."

"I race to win. If I am on the bike or in a car it will always be the same."

"I'm Valentino Rossi. And I want to be a person, not an icon."

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September 8, 2005, 10:32 AM

You know, I actually overheard someone say, "It is a Biblical cleansing". Hmmm... funny how there are still hardcore bible thumpers out there with no compassion.
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September 8, 2005, 01:45 PM

its a shame how states want to be more independent for some issues, yet everytime there is a dissater they come to mommy to bail them out.
the government knew of the levis situation and did nothing to spend some money for their infrustraction.
they mostlikely said "screw it, if they fail then the feds will have to build new ones for us at no cost to our state". what a lack of responsability of the people of new orleans.
1st, they know that the infrastructure needs to be kept at a safe level and they fail and then the people are dumb enough to build in an area that even a 5 year old knows that when an area is declared a flood zone it will some day flood.
like Einstein said 10% of the population is the brain of a Nation!


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September 8, 2005, 02:32 PM

Dude, good article... although it has a pretty conservative slant on it, but at least it's not the same view that has the finger poiting at the federal governmant.

My father was a GS 15 for FEMA before he retured 2 years ago... I asked his opinion on how messed up it was down there...
BASICALLY, here's how it works...
FEMA follows a chain of command just like every other governmental entity, whether it's military or civilian. It' is NOT FEMA's reponsibility to "check in" with state or local authorities to see of they're properly prepared for a potential disaster. It was the mayor's resposibility to take care of the city, AND ask the governor for help... The governor screwed up by not declaring a state of emergency, and it's not the federal government's job to do it for them. That would be too much power (for lack of a better term) for any one goverment agency...

Good find, mang!


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September 8, 2005, 02:49 PM

I do disaster planning and recovery as well as Continuity of operations planning in Dept. of State. You would not believe how ill-prepared the government agencies are, not to mention state governments. You do have to submit a Disaster readiness plan to FEMA but there is no audit shcedule of any kind. You could put in "and then enters superman to whirlwind the hurricane back" and no one would say a thing, cause no one read it. They just submitted it, thats all that matters, cover your own ass.


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September 8, 2005, 03:14 PM

That was one of the best reads I've had in a while.


RIP Greg Walker, I will never forget you

If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening
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September 8, 2005, 03:26 PM

good read!


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September 8, 2005, 03:49 PM

I agree on many of the points. But the whole levy system is a very expensive system. I was hearing onthe order of many billions of dollars to upgrade it....and something like 15-20 years.

There is a fiction book called The Rift that delves into the whole mississippi river and levy system...and how dangerous it is in the face of a natural catastrophe. It is very, very scary how close the book came to describing what happened in New Orleans.


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