Big Government + Hurricane Katrina = Disaster

Hurricane Katrina hammered and shattered the Gulf coast. Big Government made it worse. A disaster.

If the New Orleans levees and pumps were privately owned, they may have been upgraded and fortified to deal with the city's worsening flood risk.

Instead they are owned, maintained, and funded by the city and other government agencies. In typical Big Government fashion, politicians stumbled and delayed. They left New Orleans residents in harm's way despite clear warnings of danger.

Now the government owned and operated pumps aren't – operating. Private oil companies have hundreds of pumps on platforms in hazardous and unstable seas. The North Sea. Caribbean. Atlantic Ocean. Pacific Ocean. Their privately-owned and operated pumps are working. Pumping billions of gallons of oil every day.

Some claimed that upgrading New Orleans levees and pumps would have cost upwards of $10 billion. But that's an inflated Big Government price. Private enterprise might well do the job better for a fraction of the Big Government estimates.

Consider the high price of NASA's multi-billion dollar space adventures versus the $10 million free-market SpaceShipOne which flew into space on October 4, 2004.

Or consider Seattle's bungled, multi-billion dollar transit projects. Or Boston's Big Dig, which has cost $14.6 billion – so far – for just twelve miles of new roadway. Worse, its two tunnels are so structurally flawed that they sprung hundreds of leaks shortly after opening to traffic. No one knows how much those twelve miles will cost in the end.

Big Government destroys the important influence of free market property insurance. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grows bigger, and bails out more and more property owners located in dangerous areas, it undermines the incentive to build smart. A free insurance market would deter unsafe and inadequately insured building construction.

Big Government prohibitions also encourage unsafe building construction.

Mississippi bans casinos, forcing them offshore. As a result, large casinos in Biloxi were built as floating mammoths along the coast, vulnerable to storm surge. Without the casino "prohibition," they would have been built on solid ground. Many would be built further inland where they would be less vulnerable to hurricane damage. They would be open for business today – rather than reduced to a pile of rubble.

Big Government not only makes hurricanes worse. It wastes even more money attempting to mitigate the damage.

Silly things like price controls under the guise of preventing "gouging" will damage the already reeling economy and discourage free market solutions.

Politicians will spend billions on Big Government Programs for temporary housing that will not be needed. If it quits preempting this market, more free market solutions will be available – at no cost to the taxpayer.

There's already mechanisms in place doing the job. As one example, postings at Craig's List demonstrate how many Americans are generously opening their homes to Katrina's victims.

If someone would just get word to the victims crammed into miserable Big Government-sponsored shelters and stadiums, they could have a comfortable and friendly place to stay while they sort out their lives.

The list of Big Government interventions that undermine personal responsibility, gouge taxpayers, and make disasters worse is long. FEMA. Government ownership of levees, roads, and land. Government-granted utility monopolies. Government-funded stadiums. Building codes. Permitting processes. Price controls. Gambling prohibitions. Homeland "security."

No doubt readers of this column can identify many other ways that Big Government compounds the damage of nature's force.

The cumulative effect of these Big Government Programs is now costing hundreds of lives and tens of billions of dollars.

Perhaps most damaging of all is the myth promoted by politicians and the mainstream media that Big Government is our savior in times of need – rather than the cause of untold death and destruction.

September 3, 2005

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