The Super Bowl in LA
by Jim Davies
something very peculiar about the disaster in
odd thing is that somebody built a riverside city below sea level. That's
really unusual, and I must confess that I did not know, before this week,
that the Big Easy was a case in point. Now that that Bowl has been filled,
the task of emptying it again and drying everything out may make the
city's nickname the Big Hard.
not to say that cities should always be built above sea level, though
that's what the French did when they settled the area. Seems good sense;
note where the highest tide and river levels come to, note where the
biggest storm surges have reached, and build only above that line.
at some point in the history of
the cost figures worked out well, I can buy the idea of building under the
surrounding water level. When "buying" it, though, or rather
when buying a property in the new land, I'd want (assuming a rational
society) to make sure the levees were built high enough and strong enough.
I dare say any property owner would want to make very sure about that;
wouldn't you? And if one of us loved the low-price, low-lying lot so much
that he forgot to ask that question, we can be rather sure that his
homeowner insurance company would ask it--and would press the question
very hard. Because if the right answers to those two questions are not
obtained, the next time one of the frequent regional hurricanes happens to
come ashore in
one nice thing about freedom; there's ample opportunity for profit, but it
all comes with responsibility. The possibility of failure is real. That's
why those levees would be built very high and very strong, for if they
weren't, the buildings wouldn't get built because nobody would buy
property they could not insure. Not in a free market, they wouldn't.
same is true about the decades following construction. I'm no levee
engineer, but suppose that like every other manmade structure, they need
maintenance. In fact, since a single failure could be (and this week has
been) catastrophic, they must need excellent and perhaps expensive
maintenance. If I were an insurer underwriting buildings in that Bowl, I'd
want to keep a close, constant watch on the quality of work being done to
keep them 100.0% leak-proof. Wouldn't you? My reason would be that my
financial survival would depend on it; and that's one of the strongest
motivations known to man.
something went terribly wrong, and it didn't start with the arrival of
Katrina. The day before she swept ashore, the government
"ordered" residents to evacuate (what arrogance!) because it
appeared that this unusual storm might bring water surges over the tops of
the levees. That order was a well-disguised confession that the levees had
been built too low; that there was not enough safety margin in their
height. If a private developer had done the job, the government would have
heaped blame on him for that, possibly later arresting him for multiple
manslaughter. But there was no such accusation; and that was because the
levees had been designed, built, maintained and financed by the government
a single day before the disaster, no government spokesman admitted that
perhaps the levees were not strong
enough, that they might be breached rather than over-run. From this we
know that the government is incompetent as well as negligent and
deceptive; for that's exactly what did take place. The water came terribly
close to their top, so certainly there was too little margin--but the
problem was that they gave way. They had been inadequately built, or at
least inadequately maintained.
a free society, in which all participants take their own financial risks
under clear and explicit contracts, I propose that that could not happen.
The watchfulness mentioned above, by parties with their own interests at
stake, would prevent it. Once an insurer fingered the levee owner for
inadequate maintenance, that owner would shape up or go broke--and someone
would rapidly take over his business and fix the problem. But this is not
a free society. It is a society infested by government, bemused by the
fiction that money grows on a government tree, that "someone
else" will be responsible. If a disaster happens, well, Uncle Sam
will step in and mop up and will force taxpayers everywhere to foot the
enormous bill. Uncle is not an insurance company, he is a massive thief!
Insurers get revenue only from patrons who think the company wisely run.
Uncle gets it the old fashioned way; he prints it. Result: nobody really cares,
in the literal way of taking urgent action in good time and for good
reason. So humans die, and huge numbers of others suffer massive
disruption of their lives; and the reason is that the existence of
government has prevented the operation of a free market.
are already asking whether