Saturday, 3 September 2005

What little I have to say about Katrina

Randy Barnett explaining why faith in government is a dangerous thing:

[G]overnment at all levels has obviously not lived up to its promise of being able to anticipate and react to disasters and other social calamities better than nongovernmental institutions. This should not be surprising. Governments are comprised of ordinary human beings with the same limitations of vision and self-interests as those in the private sector (and often, but not always, with far worse incentives)—that is, these human beings confront pervasive problems of knowledge, interest, and power. I have the same reaction every time there are calls for increased government oversight in the aftermath of some failure in the private sector. What gives anyone confidence that government institutions will act with any more prescience? Moreover, it seems often the case that the core functions that are most often used to justify the existence of governments—such as public safety, national defense, and public infrastructure—are often the very tasks that are given short shrift by real world politicians in search of more “elevated,” seemingly less pedestrian goals than these. This seems especially the case when the failure to provide these “essential social services” can so often be obscured from public view or, when revealed, responsibility for failure can be shifted to others.

Incidentally, anyone who can’t acknowledge that the fuck-ups that led to tens of thousands of New Orleans residents are the combined fault of a Republican-controlled federal government and Democrat-controlled state and local governments is responding in a fundamentally unserious manner. See, for example, Eric Muller and Glenn Reynolds, two smart men who (a) I didn’t previously believe were fundamentally unserious (hence why I am not calling out nitwits like Kos and Atrios—their behavior is par for the course) and (b) should know better.

Oh, and brava to Sela Ward for laying the smackdown on Kanye West’s idiotic "FEMA hates blacks" meme (speaking of the fundamentally unserious) on Larry King Live tonight.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.
[Permalink] 1. Scott wrote @ Mon, 5 Sep 2005, 8:34 am CDT:

You know, I always point out to my students that the Father of the Constitution thought that petty power grabbing among our leaders was a GOOD thing for the republic. Madison talks about how the fact that leaders will be possessive of power will prevent them from giving it up to an individual who seeks to consolidate power and dominate. All we need to do is create separate institutions that must share power in order to work and man’s lower human nature will prevent the rise of a despot.

The failings of all levels and branches of government in the wake of Katrina are a prime example of unintended consequences of design choices made in 1787 (and, incidentally, why I am against so called “strict” interpretations of the constitution…but that is another post).

Finally, while the f*ck ups were bipartisan, I think we can begin to lay blame for SPECIFIC failings at the feet of SPECIFIC individuals who bear a preponderance of the blame for that failing (I don’t think any one person can bear ALL of the blame for any one thing, even if it was in the final wash his/her single decision to make because of all of the outside considerations that go into making that decision). Some possible examples: Gov. Blanco’s failure to act more quickly; Bush Administration’s removing Corps levee rebuilding funds from the budget for items of higher POLITICAL priority; etc. Dem failure…etc. Rep failure…etc.

[Permalink] 2. Gary Farber wrote @ Tue, 6 Sep 2005, 10:23 pm CDT:

“FEMA hates blacks”

Just to be nitpicky, because it is my nature, he never mentioned FEMA at all. He said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” (while Mike Myers’ head exploded and, as we saw a moment later, Chris Tucker’s eyes bugged out) and previously referred to the way he “hate[s] they portray us in the media.”


The easiest way to lose faith in the government is go to law school and get to know the idiots planning on going into the public sector. Or go to the DMV. Seriously, when was the last time you had a good experience with a government office?

Also, what did Sela say?

Comments are now closed on this post.