Lessons from Katrina on the Hudson
There are many. The most valuable one for survivors and observers may be that governments, even when optimally structured and run, cannot mitigate the Big Acts of Nature. The optimal structure for a government would have its power and influence limited to addressing the big things that are a consequence of large numbers of people interacting in a generally recognized common society. The organization and control of a military force, for example. It’s difficult to repel or defend a society from intruders with a loose association localized militia. Governments are particularly good at organizing and controlling armed forces. The pooled resources allow for the coordination of capabilities on a scale impossible to achieve by a loosely organized militia.
Micromanagement of the citizenry, on the other hand, is something that should unequivocally be outside the control or influence of governments, if for no other reason than it detracts from the organization’s ability to successfully implement the things it is good at organizing and controlling. Mandating the size of a soda drink or what kind of light bulb citizens are allowed to screw into their light sockets – clear examples of mission creep. Updating and maintaining the power gird – that’s another thing the scale and cost of which would lend itself well to government control and organization. And in the case of Big Acts of Nature, supplying and distributing the very basic necessities – food, water, shelter – for a large number of displaced citizens is another task sized for government control and organization. Instead, when events like Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy occur, we see significant failures of governments to accommodate the basic needs of the affected citizenry.
Insulating citizens from all the little decisions they make, and the consequences, leaves the perception that governments can fix the effects of Big Acts of Nature. Tragically, this also leaves the impression that governments are also prepared to deal with Big Acts of Nature. The guaranteed scenario, in the minds of the supplicating caught-unprepared post-disaster citizenry, is as follows:
The reality ends up being much more like:
So that’s the lesson. The response is to prepare for your own health and well-being when Big Acts of Nature happen. Call it, your “PFNDPA” – Personal and Family Natural Disaster Plan of Action. There are plenty of good links on Instapundit to get you started.