Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, a group of scholars from George Mason University arrived to investigate the aftermath. They've been taking a close look at the recovery process ever since. With the 10th anniversary of the storm on the way, GMU economist Peter Boettke has posted a detailed account of what they've learned.
Here's his summary of some of the most important lessons:
1. the nested nature of the private, public and social sectors cannot be ignored;
2. initial conditions in the private, public, and social sectors determine the resiliency of the communities;
3. individuals and communities are far more robust and resilient than existing theories of cultural dependency predict;
4. commercial society provides the social space for the building of effective social capital and civil society;
5. self-governing democracies operate best when government organization follows the principle of subsidiarity and gives priority to local governance over state and national policy initiatives.
The group has been examining other disasters as well, sometimes through historical research and sometimes hitting the field right after the events happen; Boettke writes about that too. To read his full account, go here.
Bonus links: I'm not going to go through all of Reason's reporting on natural disasters, but as the Katrina anniversary approaches you might find it interesting to look at this package of pieces we published after the storm. And this column on the post-Katrina rumor mill. And this series of stories on Katrina myths. And, looking more broadly at this set of issues, my articles "Disaster Utopianism" and "Resilient Japan." And Matt Welch's "7-Step Guide to Our Idiotic Disaster-Relief Politics." And…oh, hell, just check out the archive.