Natural Disasters

Ten Years of Studying Katrina's Consequences

What have we learned from the disaster?

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Ten Years After

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.

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  1. 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.

    Why, those… those… Anarchists!

  2. “4. commercial society provides the social space for the building of effective social capital and civil society;”

    Do they realize what outlawed, horrifyingly racist, and nasty ideology that observation supports?

    That way lies capitalism! And if opposing it is wrong, then academia doesn’t want to be right.

  3. What I learned from Katrina-

    1) When you most need your guns, Federal troops come and confiscate them.
    2) When society begins to even marginally breakdown, those hired to “protect and serve” will join the looters.
    3) FEMA is useless
    4) Massive amounts of public money will be pumped in via an alphabet soup of agencies and yet nothing tangible will get fixed
    5) There’s nothing like a tragedy to be exploited by the government and media for parasitic gain
    6) People will gladly have MORE of their property taken away from them to fund useless agencies in the wake of a tragedy

    1. 3) FEMA is worse than useless

      1. FEMA writes checks. Expecting them to do any more than that is a fool’s errand.

        1. No no no. They also block corporations from donating badly needed fresh water to areas where there is no water at all. Block as in have armed men blockade the road in front of tractor-trailer rigs filled with donated bottled water.

          See, they do at least one thing efficiently.

      2. Some years ago, I was reading an article about the making of The Day After (1983) and that some people in the production/direction roles were confabbing with FEMA to try and make the movie more authentic etc. When they were done, they were shaken by the level of stupidity and incompetence they observed.

    2. The wealth of a society is certainly positively correlated with that society’s ability to help the victims of natural disasters, and the reason so few people died in the aftermath of Katrina and so many died in the aftermath of the Hati earthquake had something to do with their relative wealth.

      God bless capitalism and its ability to create the wealth necessary to help make natural disasters less deadly for the poor and to help make sure poor people survive the aftermath of natural disasters.

      1. Haiti has a market economy too.

        1. You don’t talk to too many Haitians, do you?

        2. Hati is/was among the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere, and that is not unrelated to their lack of economic freedom.

          The Hati earthquake happened in January of 2010. According the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, Hati ranked 147th–behind almost every other country in the Western hemisphere save Cuba.

          http://dailysignal.com/2009/01…..c-freedom/

          Do you ever think about what you write before you write it?

          1. Well I never imply that capitalism alone is sufficient to create a decent and wealthy society, so I’m not that dumb at least.

            1. I’m more interested in your ability to make statements both with confidence and without any knowledge or defense to facts.

              I suspect you imagine that everyone will believe what you say just because you say it–probably because you believe what certain other people say just because they say it.

              I also suspect you imagine that everyone is just as ignorant of the facts as you are, and that they’re also as lazy as you and won’t bother to google it.

              Your insusceptibility to embarrassment for being exposed as an ignoramus is astounding. Don’t you ever get tired of being proven wrong by the first link on a google search you could have done yourself?

  4. Here’s his summary of some of the most important lessons:

    From the “Gee, no shit” files.

    1. I know he’s talking about how society can function without a lot of government direction, but those lessons read like a sociologist word salad. There should be a simpler way of writing that crap (no shit conclusions as you say).

  5. Of course, Jesse, you wouldn’t mention that science is learning that the link between climate change and current increased storm strength is more clear everyday. Here, a new study from Beijing Normal University, one of China’s most prestigious universities in the sciences:

    “The study points to a gradual increase of Katrina-like events. The warming experienced over the 20th century doubled the number of such debilitating storms. But the ongoing warming of the planet into the 21st century could increase the frequency of the worst kinds of storms by 700 percent, threatening coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean with multiple Category 5 storms every year.”

    But then, maybe you haven’t learned that …yet.

      1. It should also be noted that what happened in Katrina wasn’t simply caused by a hurricane.

        Katrina represented a monumental failure of government.

        “The hurricane surge protection failures in New Orleans are considered the worst civil engineering disaster in U.S. history[5] and prompted a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the designers and builders of the levee system as mandated by the Flood Control Act of 1965. Responsibility for the failures and flooding was laid squarely on the Army Corps in January 2008 by Judge Stanwood Duval, U.S. District Court,[6] but the federal agency could not be held financially liable because of sovereign immunity in the Flood Control Act of 1928. There was also an investigation of the responses from federal, state and local governments, resulting in the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown, and of New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Eddie Compass.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina

        New Orleans may well survive twice as many hurricanes, but I’m not sure it could survive another government created failure like that.

    1. Lol. Joe arrives just in time to parody himself.

    2. “Of course, Jesse, you wouldn’t mention that science is learning that the link between climate change and current increased storm strength is more clear everyday.”

      You make science sound like it’s something that God reveals to prophets.

      Every day Jesus teaches us a little more about what we already knew to be true?

      If that’s what you mean by “science”, you should find a new word.

    3. I think the more pertinent thing to have learned would be don’t live at the bottom of a pumped out lake with the only thing between my being dry and very, very wet is a government designed levee.

      1. Was cousin Eddie a libertarian?

        Eddie: I don’t know if I oughta go sailin’ down no hill with nothin’ between the ground and my brains but a piece of government plastic.

  6. 1. Don’t build a city in an area susceptible to hurricanes that is 20 feet below sea level.

    1. Nope, it’s that we need to ban coal according to JackandAce apparently.

  7. individuals and communities are far more robust and resilient than existing theories of cultural dependency predict;



    That’s just crazy talk.

  8. If you can’t believe National Geographic, who can you believe?
    It were our Addikshun to COAL whut done it!

  9. Wasn’t Katrina only a cat 3 hurricane when it hit land and most of the devastation was due to the fact that the levees broke and N.O. being in a fucking bowl basically?

    I also seem to remember that people down there went batshit insane and only added to their own misery by doing really stupid shit.

    I am asking these questions in reference to JackAss’s assertion that Katrina was the worst hurricane in the history of the world. A true Category 1,000,000,000,000 beast that killed all of us but sucked us into the matrix so we think we are still alive.

    1. You are correct. Also government corruption on Levee boards didn’t help things.

      Galveston in 1905 (?) was probably the worse and must have been due to all the model Ts belching CO2 in Texas at the time.

    2. Katrina had just been downgraded from Category 4 to 3, so it was a strong Cat 3.

      I remember the day after the storm that news reporters were saying New Orleans weathered the storm easily and there was little damage. The next day, however, the city was flooded.

      And hurricanes only go up to Cat 5? Cat 5 hurricanes are defined as storms with winds in excessive of 155 mph.

    3. Yes – Biloxi was hit by Katrina too (harder than N.O., IIRC), but you didn’t see near the level of catastrophe there, because it’s not below sea level.

  10. We saw this with Tuscaloosa vs Joplin too

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB…..0933715082

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