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Tyrannies Big and Small in New Orleans

After I thought it could not get any worse, it did. Granted, one has grown to expect the unexpected from the various state agencies. Yet the news coming out of the Big Easy are just getting more and more absurd. But before we embark on that pleasure cruise, let’s take a briefly moment to recap some of the most juicy atrocities so far.

The first that comes to mind is the calling of a mandatory evacuation. How can this be enforced without surrendering one’s right to be in one’s home? Going beyond rights, does a mandatory evacuation mean that, if you do not have the means to leave, that the city must under all circumstances provide you with the means to leave? If so, it failed. And if not, then how can it be mandatory to begin with?

Then of course is the FEMA debacle. Not only did FEMA have a slow initial response, but it also blocked water and fuel supplies from coming into New Orleans. FEMA prevented private rescuers from helping and would not let people leave the downtown area.

Then there was the gun confiscation. “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,” said Edwin Compass, former police superintendent. There you have it. Straight from the anti-life mouth. In Algiers, a neighborhood in the west bank area of town, people had organized themselves into a makeshift patrol which was successful in repelling looters. So let’s see. The police are unable to do their job (flooding, logistical problems, desertion, corruption, low numbers), therefore increasing the probability of crime. But then they confiscate legal firearms from law-abiding citizens, exacerbating the possibility of loss of live and property. Wasn’t government supposed to be on our side? A few days later, a judge issued a restraining order. Never again.

Recent news are both ridiculous and troubling. There are worries that the number of police officers is not enough. By law, the New Orleans Police Department can only hire officers who live in the city. This residency requirement has been hotly debated for a number of years and it was never changed. Observe the results. Not only did that requirement lower the overall number of possible applicants, but it had a more nefarious effect. During and after the storm, many police officers were suffering from the same fate as everyone else. They had no homes, no food and water. This is a hard environment in which to work, particularly in law enforcement. Imagine, however, that the residency requirement had been lifted half a decade ago. New Orleans would have cops from nearby parishes and cities; some of those would not have been hit as hard. Those cops would have been able to relieve some of their fellow officers with greater personal hardship. So, once again, we see that politics plays a more important role than common sense and protecting life and property.

In other news, Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco has suspended the enforcement of lease agreements. The executive order prohibits the eviction of tenants who are unable to return to their homes and have not paid their rent. Was it not the purpose of the state to guarantee and enforce contracts? Interesting. Blanco’s order effectively nullifies private agreements between landlord and tenant. The immediate consequences are disastrous. Moldy residences are continuing to deteriorate. Owners cannot even begin to repair the damage. And, on the flip side of the coin, this is already causing a housing shortage. There are thousands of families looking for a home. By ordering the suspension of eviction procedures, Governor Blanco is making people homeless!

And last, but not least, this almost comical attempt by the New Orleans city council to extend daylight savings time. By keeping the extra hour of daylight, they claim, more work would be done to repair damaged property. Does it take the power of the government to do this? Do we need even more tampering with our clocks? If people want more work to be done, it will simply happen. Hundreds of companies are already in the area and soon more will come over the next few weeks and months. Surely if there is enough demand to work earlier in the day and later at night, it will simply happen. The council’s obsession to obtain results by using the power of the state is ridiculous and shows ignorance and contempt for the market process. We should get rid of daylight savings time once and for all.

From FEMA trailers to National Guard trucks, from curfews to confiscations: New Orleans is now the Big Uneasy. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

October 18, 2005