While Superstorm Sandy brought forth lusty cheers for big government from the likes of the New York Times editorial board, TV funnyman Jon Stewart, former sportswriter Mike Lupica, U.S. News reporter Susan Milligan, The Globe and Mail's news pages, and scores of other commentators in the media-industrial complex, there has arisen a complicating fact: Analysts have been warning the (big) governments of New York for years that they should build more robust defenses against just this type of flood. Reports the New York Times:
For nearly a decade, scientists have told city and state officials that New York faces certain peril: rising sea levels, more frequent flooding and extreme weather patterns. The alarm bells grew louder after Tropical Storm Irene last year, when the city shut down its subway system and water rushed into the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan. [...]
With an almost eerie foreshadowing, the dangers laid out by scientists as they tried to press public officials for change in recent years describes what happened this week: Subway tunnels filled with water, just as they warned. Tens of thousands of people in Manhattan lost power. The city shut down.
Comments Walter Russell Mead:
Here in New York we have a very busy government. It's worried about the kinds of fats we eat and the size of the soft drinks we buy, and there is no shortage of regulations affecting businesses, street vendors, and individuals. But in all this exciting fine tuning, nobody seems to have bothered to think about the much greater task of keeping floodwaters out of the subway system. [...]
The problem with nanny state governance isn't just that it's intrusive. It isn't just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn't just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It's that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.
Hat tip to Instapundit. I'm always wary of post-facto expertise on preventing catastrophic damage, and I can't judge whether the public policy suggestions outlined in the NYT article would be prudent. But with at least 60 people killed in the northeast, and hundreds of thousands without power in New York, it seems premature to convert understandable gratitude for local emergency response into a blanket endorsement of all storm-related government activity, let alone of big government writ large.
Related: I went on Huffington Post live on Tuesday to discuss just how monstrous Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are regarding FEMA:
And tune into tonight's Stossel on Fox Business Channel at 9 PM ET to watch me, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Ira Stoll, and other libertarian pals talk about various myths related to disaster response and elections.
Re-read Nick Gillespie on "3 Stupid Responses to Hurricane Sandy–and Every Other Disaster You Can Think Of."