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Objectivist Response To Katrina

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How would an Objectivist government(at the federal, state, and local level) have dealt with the massive rescue and subsequent funding of the pumping/rebuilding/etc. ?

FEMA estimates the damage to exceed $25B.

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The "who would pay" question is actually the easiest one: insurance companies would pay to the extent property was insured; owners would "pay" in the form of loss if the property was uninsured. Even in the current set-up, a huge amount of the loss will be paid for by insurance companies.

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The "who would pay" question is actually the easiest one: insurance companies would pay to the extent property was insured; owners would "pay" in the form of loss if the property was uninsured. Even in the current set-up, a huge amount of the loss will be paid for by insurance companies.

Definitely true. I don't really mean the property loss - I mean the pumping water out, the first emergency response. Would it be the government of New Orleans/Louisiana?

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Relief funds are cool to, in as much as the people who pay in aren't doing so out of some "social obligation" but because of some financial or personal interest.

If I owned an eastern travel company for instance, I would be investing at least moderately in the relief effort with New Orleans being the travel destination it is.

As for the tax money that's been extorted from me, I'm sad that I will pay for, at least in part, a house in Mississippi that I will never see.

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Definitely true. I don't really mean the property loss - I mean the pumping water out, the first emergency response. Would it be the government of New Orleans/Louisiana?

Yes, to the extent that it is necessary to restore order and security to the situation. After that point, private organizations can continue with the recovery.

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Relief funds are cool to, in as much as the people who pay in aren't doing so out of some "social obligation" but because of some financial or personal interest.

If I owned an eastern travel company for instance, I would be investing at least moderately in the relief effort with New Orleans being the travel destination it is.

As for the tax money that's been extorted from me, I'm sad that I will pay for, at least in part, a house in Mississippi that I will never see.

For any community there are going to be disaster scenarios beyond its ability to prepare for, and since these disasters are highly unlikely, it would be a misuse of resources to prepare for them.

Every community is vulnerable to some sort of super-disaster beyond its resources. It happened to New Orleans this time, but it could just as much have happened to any of our communities.

This *is* precisely one of the reasons that communities gather together into larger units (nations). This allows all to pool resources to help out in the super-disasters, this is part of the implicit contract between communities participating in nations.

Thus since all American communities participate in *America*, they have an obligation to provide assistance to a disaster-area of this scale occurring in any other member community.

Think of it as a contractual obligation rather than a moral obligation.

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Every community is vulnerable to some sort of super-disaster beyond its resources. ... This *is* precisely one of the reasons that communities gather together into larger units (nations).  This allows all to pool resources to help out in the super-disasters, this is part of the implicit contract between communities participating in nations.
I disagree.

This is exactly what insurance is all about. You make the case for insurance firms, not for a nation.

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...implicit contract between communities participating in nations.

A nation is nothing more or less than the individuals that comprise it. Contracts, in the legal sense, are between individuals or groups thereof and are always explicit if they are to serve as an enforcable contract. An 'implicit contract' is a contradiction in terms.

You are simply renaming the vague altruistic concept of "social obligation."

Sure, there are truly and infinite number of things that would be without any group's means to recover from. This risk of 'the ultimate disaster' is something we all face (i.e. a huge "planet killer" meteor) but if a disaster strikes one can only do what one can with the resources at hand.

'Need' is not a means by which resources can be acquired. A contract with an insurance company is.

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Thus since all American communities participate in *America*, they have an obligation to provide assistance to a disaster-area of this scale occurring in any other member community.

The talk show host Niel Boortz had something interesting to say about this (but it wasn't dealing with Katrina; I heard him talk about this a long time ago).

He basically said that the people living in that area are aware of the risk of natural disasters when they move there. Therefore, by living in a hurricane susceptible area, you accept the risk of losing your property from a hurricane. "America" as such owes those people nothing.

I know it sounds cold but I think he's right. The people knew what they were getting in to when they moved there in the first place. Of course, there is nothing wrong with people voluntarily helping out the victims. But as Boortz said, other people don't owe them their help.

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I know it sounds cold but I think he's right.  The people knew what they were getting in to when they moved there in the first place.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with people voluntarily helping out the victims.  But as Boortz said, other people don't owe them their help.

Not everyone moved there, many were born and grew up there and never left (for a variety of reason). That doesn't mean that they aren't responsible for what happens to their property, of course.

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I do believe the government has a massive fund insurance "slush fund" of sorts for people who live in flood-prone areas that "cannot afford private insurance" (i.e. the market price is "too high for the public to afford"). The first I read of it was in John Stossel's book Give Me a Break and according to him it's the government's biggest fund; about $700 billion is property is insured under this government program. If anyone knows about this fund and would kind enough to post information about it that would be great.

All I found was FEMA's website about the program and Stossel's piece on it.

Private insurance companies were reluctant to sell insurance to those of us who build on the edges of oceans, and were they to offer it, they'd charge an arm and a leg to cover the risk. But this wasn't a problem for me, because you offered to insure my house. I know you didn't do it personally, but you, as a taxpayer, are the guarantee behind federal flood insurance. Should a big storm wipe out half the coast, you'll cover our losses up to a quarter-million dollars. Thanks we appreciate it but what a dumb policy.

The subsidized insurance goes to affluent homeowners on both coasts from Malibu Beach, where movie stars live, to Kennebunkport where the Bush family has a vacation home, to Hyannisport, where the Kennedy family has a summer home, to the Hamptons, where I bought my house.

The insurance premiums were a bargain. The most I ever paid was a few hundred dollars. Federal actuaries say if the insurance were realistically priced, it would cost thousands of dollars. Why should the government guarantee water's-edge insurance? Why should the government be in this business at all?

What should we do about the disaster? First, why would we operate on the altruist-collectivist ethics? If you would like to do something no one should stop you, but don't force me to donate energy to the crisis. The fact is we generally would give to help folks in dire need.. what's $10 from my pocket? But, the government appropriated $10 billion this morning which is, in essence, $33 dollars from every American taxpaying or not. Furthermore, charities are not permitted to operate without regulations, prices are raising because of government (mis-)management of environmental polices and I have no idea where my money is going if I were going to donate.

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As Scott said in this post, people who live in areas that are at extemely high-risk for floods cannot usually get private insurance. Instead, the Feds cover most of these properties.

I'm guessing it is the FEMA-run program (link) that people are referring to.

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Not everyone moved there, many were born and grew up there and never left (for a variety of reason). That doesn't mean that they aren't responsible for what happens to their property, of course.

You are correct, but if that is the case then they still accepted the risk by staying.

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...  I mean the pumping water out, the first emergency response. Would it be the government of New Orleans/Louisiana?

My feeling is that living below sea-level is crazy.

I suggest that they forget about pumping out the water. Just leave it as a lake. The people should move elsewhere.

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For immediate dire emergencies, we have the police, fire fighters and even the military if needed. After that, private companies can take care of things.

Also, if you are living in a place where private insurance companies won't insure you, it's probably a dangerous place.

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I disagree.

This is exactly what insurance is all about. You make the case for insurance firms, not for a nation.

Number 1:

Insurance has *nothing* to do with search and rescue and providing for displaced people in the time it takes for the insurance industry to formulate an adequate response.

What good is insurance going to do someone starving to death on an overpass?

Number 2:

A sufficiently large disaster will bankrupt the insurance industry. A insurer has only so much liquid assets to respond with.

The *only* way insurance can deal with this is to cap responses and say outright that if the disaster is too large it falls outside the scope of the insurance. That is realistically the insurance industry *must* say that if the disaster is too bad...tough luck.

The *only* reason this isn't the case now is that the insurance industry can expect government assistence in such a scenario.

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The talk show host Niel Boortz had something interesting to say about this (but it wasn't dealing with Katrina; I heard him talk about this a long time ago).

He basically said that the people living in that area are aware of the risk of natural disasters when they move there.  Therefore, by living in a hurricane susceptible area, you accept the risk of losing your property from a hurricane.  "America" as such owes those people nothing.

I know it sounds cold but I think he's right.  The people knew what they were getting in to when they moved there in the first place.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with people voluntarily helping out the victims.  But as Boortz said, other people don't owe them their help.

Let's see, so everyone should move away from disaster-prone areas...

So we should abandon the gulf coast because of hurricanes.

I guess they could move to california...oh wait there are earthquakes there. I guess we should insist people abandon california as well.

I guess they could move to the pacific northwest...oh wait there are volcanos and a nast fault line off the coast. I guess we should insist people abandon the pacific northwest as well.

I guess they could move to the southern atlantic coast...oh wait there are hurricanes there too. Too bad. I guess we should insist people abandon the southern atlantic coast as well.

I guess they could move to the north east. I don't know enough about there. Maybe there aren't disasters there.

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A nation is nothing more or less than the individuals that comprise it. Contracts, in the legal sense, are between individuals or groups thereof and are always explicit if they are to serve as an enforcable contract. An 'implicit contract' is a contradiction in terms.

You are simply renaming the vague altruistic concept of "social obligation."

Sure, there are truly and infinite number of things that would be without any group's means to recover from. This risk of 'the ultimate disaster' is something we all face (i.e. a huge "planet killer" meteor) but if a disaster strikes one can only do what one can with the resources at hand.

'Need' is not a means by which resources can be acquired. A contract with an insurance company is.

I believe Ayn Rand indicated that different rules *do* apply in arguable "lifeboat" scenarios.

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Let's see, so everyone should move away from disaster-prone areas...

So we should abandon the gulf coast because of hurricanes.

I guess they could move to california...oh wait there are earthquakes there.  I guess we should insist people abandon california as well.

I guess they could move to the pacific northwest...oh wait there are volcanos and a nast fault line off the coast.  I guess we should insist people abandon the pacific northwest as well.

I guess they could move to the southern atlantic coast...oh wait there are hurricanes there too.  Too bad.  I guess we should insist people abandon the southern atlantic coast as well.

I guess they could move to the north east.  I don't know enough about there.  Maybe there aren't disasters there.

You clearly missed the entire point of my post. If people choose to live there, feel free to. They just need to understand that by living there, they accept an increased risk of losing their belongings. If they accept that risk, great! Feel free to live there. Just don't expect me to bail you out when things go bad.

My grandfather has a house down there. He has accepted the risk of owning property in that area. If his house is destroyed in a hurricane, well then that's that. But you know what? There is a way he can responsibly protect his investment: insurance. If his house gets blown away, it will eventually be rebuilt. But he still accepts the risk of being without his house for a period of time.

It sounds like what you are saying is that people should not be held accountable for their choices. Why should I be forced to pay for the poor choices of other people? Can you answer that one for me? If I were in a huge disaster, I would not expect people to come help me. I wouldn't think that they owe it to me. But if they volunteer to help me, I will certainly welcome it. And I am not against helping other people who were in such a disaster. But I certainly do not owe them anything.

People accept certain risks with every decision they make. Choosing to live in a high-risk area is just one such decision.

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I believe Ayn Rand indicated that different rules *do* apply in arguable "lifeboat" scenarios.

Which is why I'm not going to start "tilting windmills" over this issue and instead going to support the relief effort to a reasonable degree. Accepting that we don't have the ideal system, it would be cruel to ignore the plight of these Americans while helping other nations recover from their natural disasters.

(Of course, politically as a very strict Constitutionalist, I wish the federal government limited their role, let the State's handle protecting from national disasters like this in the future and letting private organizations lead the relief effort, but, alas, I don't expect any of that to ever happen :) )

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(Of course, politically as a very strict Constitutionalist, I wish the federal government limited their role, let the State's handle protecting from national disasters like this in the future and letting private organizations lead the relief effort, but, alas, I don't expect any of that to ever happen :) )

I doubt that Louisiana is capable of handling natural disasters. Given the fact that New Orleans was evacuated only after Bush told them to (Link), I doubt they had any plan ready. If they had they would have been working after the hurricane instead of whining for federal aid.

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I doubt that Louisiana is capable of handling natural disasters. Given the fact that New Orleans was evacuated only after Bush told them to (Link), I doubt they had any plan ready. If they had they would have been working after the hurricane instead of whining for federal aid.

I agree with you, I think the Governor totally dropped the ball and failed the people of the State. I also think it's appropriate for the federal government to come in and restore order, as well. But I hate the notion that the federal government has to be responsible for maintaining the levees and preparing for every disaster in every part of the nation. The reason we have a federal system is to allow local government to take care of that, and allow the national government to focus on its proper sphere (defense and commerce).

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My feeling is that living below sea-level is crazy.
For example, there are tens of millions of crazy Netherlanders. Also, Arizona and New Mexico are basically deserts, and it's crazy to live in the desert because of the possibility that the water source might fail. It's crazy to live in Southern California, which is a veritable tinderbox. It's crazy to live in the Arctic -- have you ever felt -60 degrees? It's crazy to live in Sicily -- nothing but rock. In short, it's just crazy to even consider living.

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