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Objectivist Response To Katrina

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

As much as the federal/state/local government has the ability, they should save lives, but not if it calls on making others suffer for the efforts.

They are not 'rules' and are not really different. Emergency situaitons and actions during are still based on rational value judgements, but the value judgments include weighing the saving of life against the risk to one's own life.

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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.

It's crazy to live anywhere, if the conditions are such that you aren't prepared to rationally handle known, constant threats to the existence of your property and your life. That would classify New Orleans as plenty crazy.

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It's crazy to live anywhere, if the conditions are such that you aren't prepared to rationally handle known, constant threats to the existence of your property and your life. That would classify New Orleans as plenty crazy.
Well, I think I'd say that some people in New Orleans are plenty crazy. Most people did do the rational thing, at least AFAIK.

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Well, I think I'd say that some people in New Orleans are plenty crazy. Most people did do the rational thing, at least AFAIK.

This is from John McPhee's book The Control of Nature, which somebody typed up on Slashdot.org. Looks like an interesting book generally - this part is specifically about New Orleans. I'll only paste 2 paragraphs here, but below is part of the reason why I think *everybody* living there is nuts:

Many houses are built on slabs that firmly rest on pilings. As the turf around a house gradually subsides, the slab seems to rise. Where the driveway was once flush with the foor of the carport, a bump appears. The front walk sags like a hammock. The sidewalk sags. The bump up to the carport, growing, becomes high enough to knock the front wheels out of alignment. Sakrete appears, like putty beside a windowpane, to ease the bump. The property sinks another foot. The house stays where it is, on its slab and pilings. A ramp is built to get the car into the carport. The ramp rises three feet. But the yard, before long, has subsided four. The carport becomes a porch, with hanging plants and steep wooden steps. A carport that is not firmly anchored may dangle from the side of a house like a third of a drop-leaf table. Under the house, daylight appears. You can see under the slab and out the other side. More landfill or more concrete is packed around the edges to hide the ugly scene. A gas main, broken by the settling earth, leaks below the slab. The sealed cavity fills with gas. The house blows sky high.

[...]

Among the five hundred miles of levee deficiencies now calling for attention along the Mississippi River, the most serious happen to be in New Orleans. Among other factors, the freeboard -- the amount of levee that reaches above flood levels -- has to be higher in New Orleans to combat the waves of ships. Elsewhere, the deficiencies are averaging between one and two feet with respect to the computed high-water flow line, which goes on rising as runoffs continue to speed up and waters are increasingly confined. Not only is the water higher. The levees tend to sink as well. They press down on the mucks beneath them and squirt materials out to the sides. Their crowns have to be built up. "You put five feet on and three feet sink," a Corps engineer remarked to me one day. This is especially true of the levees that frame the Atchafalaya swamp, so the Corps has given up trying to fight the subsidence there with earth movers alone, and has built concrete floodwalls along the tops of the levees, causing the largest river swamp in North America to appear to be the world's largest prison. It keeps in not only water, of course, but silt. Gradually, the swamp elevations are building up. The people of Acadiana say that the swamp would be the safest place in which to seek refuge in a major flood, because the swamp is higher than the land outside the levees.

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I thought I'd share my perspective on this. My family and I live/lived in Biloxi. What is left of our home will be unfit for habitation for months, and most of the possessions left inside are gone or destroyed.

What response do I expect?

From the government, we expect the services we've paid for.

The government (through its police, firemen, first responders, etc) should make reasonable efforts to continue doing what they're in place to do, help those still in danger, prevent looting, etc. Where they are unfit or lack the numbers, as seems to be the case now, I am glad to see the national guard and military being employed. It cannot be denied that this use of the military is directly in the interests of Americans, and in my opinion, this falls within the proper role of government.

Beyond this, there are the extra things the government will pay for (someone mentioned some FEMA supplemental flood insurance program, for instance). I think this goes beyond the proper function of the government in an ideal society. However, while my family has insurance and probably won't qualify, I can't begrudge anyone who does seek this aid. Unfortunately, this is the society and mixed economy we live in, where we (all Americans) are forced to pay for these programs, and many of us are forced to rely on them in cases like these. Perhaps if people didn't have to pay for all these extra programs, they might have been able to afford more insurance, or at least would have had the opportunity to invest the money for a little extra financial security in case of an emergency. At least we can derrive some comfort from the fact that the money is going where it was intended.

From fellow American's, I could not ask of anything. Our misfortune does not place obligations on the rest of the nation. That said, it is touching to see the compassion and voluntary contributions from individuals across the nation.

Edited by Jahandar

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

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

Actually, there is a disaster here in the northeast: Government. While the folks down south are losing homes to hurricanes, the people in the midwest to tornados, the people on the left coast to earthquakes, here in the NE, people are losing homes to tax foreclosures. A man-made disaster.

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Actually, there is a disaster here in the northeast: Government. While the folks down south are losing homes to hurricanes, the people in the midwest to tornados, the people on the left coast to earthquakes, here in the NE, people are losing homes to tax foreclosures. A man-made disaster.

That just irks me. Hell, it doesn't even have to be for taxes. Someone could just decide that giving your land to someone else (an apartment developer, for instance) would provide greater "public benefit" than you selfishly using your land for your own home.

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That just irks me. Hell, it doesn't even have to be for taxes. Someone could just decide that giving your land to someone else (an apartment developer, for instance) would provide greater "public benefit" than you selfishly using your land for your own home.

Why does this remind me of Wal-Mart? :)

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Has anyone else noticed that the Red Cross is making an active effort to prevent other charity organizations from getting involved in this? I actually heard one spokesman say "This is not the time for private charity."

No. This is the time to make a demonstrably corrupt and incompetant organization even wealthier than it already is so it can cash in on whatever happens to happen. Obviously.

Jerks.

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... even before the worst of Rita's weather arrived, a levee protecting the low-lying ninth ward of the city broke in three places, sending vast quantities of water gushing back into a city still one third flooded.

I told you so.

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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I like Steve Forbes's suggestion about how to help New Orleans: turn it into a free-enterprize zone. An Objectivist would mean something different from what Mr. Forbes means, but it's a good point. The way the government is going to respond is to pour money from other states into New Orleans. Much of the money will be give via people with "pull". Instead, give the area a tax-break and a break from various stifling laws, let the schools and hospitals and colleges be free of tax-money, and see the place flourish and become a model the rest of the country will follow.

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The way the government is going to respond is to pour money from other states into New Orleans. Much of the money will be give via people with "pull".
Exactly. This is looting on a scale no "private looter" can even dream of achieving.

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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.

Neal is dead-on correct in his assessment. New Orleans is located in a depression, surrounded by dikes and levies to keep the Gulf out, and is situated near the Gulf Coast in a region historically rife with hurricane activity. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that there are definate risks with living there and owning property in that region. Evidently to them, the benifits of living in that area outweighed the inherent risks, and since they made that choice it is incumbant upon them, as it is for all people, to accept the consequences of that choice.

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I just read in our local paper that our town of New Milford, CT is, without consent of the taxpayers, donating $30,000 of tax funds to Katrina victims. I, and at least one other New Milford resident, am outraged by this.

We cry about not having enough tax dollars to fund our schools, but look what they do!

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I just read in our local paper that our town of New Milford, CT is, without consent of the taxpayers, donating $30,000 of tax funds to Katrina victims.

What do you mean "without consent"? If you mean without your consent, then that's the nature of taxes. They're ALWAYS spent without your personal consent, but at the discretion of elected officials. Do you mean in some way you weren't represented by this decision?

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Actually, there is a disaster here in the northeast: Government. While the folks down south are losing homes to hurricanes, the people in the midwest to tornados, the people on the left coast to earthquakes, here in the NE, people are losing homes to tax foreclosures. A man-made disaster.

That and Nor'easters. Nothing like 5 feet of snow in a 24 hour period to make the day (hey, at least its a day off from work.) All in all, it wouldn't be horrible, but even a light dusting makes CT roads unable to be driven on. They seriously need to take a lesson from NH, VT, ME and the northern Midwest states on how to plow roads. I feel safe only because I have a 4 wheel drive F-250, and even that won't save me all the time.

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That and Nor'easters. Nothing like 5 feet of snow in a 24 hour period to make the day (hey, at least its a day off from work.) All in all, it wouldn't be horrible, but even a light dusting makes CT roads unable to be driven on. They seriously need to take a lesson from NH, VT, ME and the northern Midwest states on how to plow roads. I feel safe only because I have a 4 wheel drive F-250, and even that won't save me all the time.

At least with snow, you can choose not to drive. I live on one of the highest points in CT and all the roads leading up here are treacherous. One hill is a 40º incline and at the bottom, are a bunch of big boulders across the road. A friend of mine visited me once and only once--he crashed his car at the bottom of that hill because he drove too fast and overheated his brakes trying to slow down. Ended up totalling his car and refuses to visit me here anymore! :D

As for freezing and snow, if you have a generator (a requirement if you live where I do) you'll be fine. And stay out of buldings with large, flat roofs.

We have it good up here in CT, with regard to weather. There are no surprise tornadoes, hurricanes or massive floods, especially if you are on a mountaintop. Disasters are localized, like a house fire, or a mudslide that occured downtown 23 years ago. The only thing I could conceive of causing disaster on a massive scale would be a meteor colliding with earth in this region. Other than that, all disasters here seem to be man-made (government).

What do you mean "without consent"? If you mean without your consent, then that's the nature of taxes. They're ALWAYS spent without your personal consent, but at the discretion of elected officials. Do you mean in some way you weren't represented by this decision?

Without mine and those of 15,000 other residents. I was alerted to this unapproved expenditure by a newspaper editorial written by another taxpayer. I realize $30,000 is not much, but the thing is that ostensibly we taxpayers expect that our money will be used to repair OUR roads and fund OUR schools, not be sent to another part of the world as aid.

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