Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Orleans Revisited

An editorial in today's NYT's detailing the waste and fraud which has marked the hurricane Katrina disaster relief corroborates the observations which Robert Tracinski made at the time. Be sure to re-read Rob's excellent article in its entirety, but here are his concluding paragraphs:
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. And 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.

People living in piles of their own trash, while petulantly complaining that other people aren't doing enough to take care of them and then shooting at those who come to rescue them—this is not just a description of the chaos at the Superdome. It is a perfect summary of the 40-year history of the welfare state and its public housing projects.

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.
I think that Rob's analysis helps explain why fraud after this disaster was more than 5x greater than what one expects historically in areas where the welfare state doesn't predominate. Rather than being grateful for the charity and assistance of others, many people sought to abuse the kindness, presumably thinking it was their "right" to do so. And as Rob also observed, in this case the immorality engendered by the welfare state extended beyond individual citizens to include government officials as well.

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