Search This Blog


Katrina exposes populism/liberalism's legacy: flooding and looting

Earlier this week, first when Hurricane Katrina damage looked tractable, then when it became anything but, I posted some questions about how, operationally, things were handled leading up to and after the event, with their long-term consequences. Now it’s time to come to grips with the political ideology that has aggravated this whole unfortunate situation.

In some ways, we have brought this on ourselves by permitting and tolerating a political culture that endorses the ideas that there are free lunches, that’s it’s easier to get power by being entertaining and taking care of your friends rather than by pursuing ethical, efficient policies, and that you always can blame your shortcomings on someone or something else (the “wealthy,” “big business,” insert your favorite racial/ethnic and/or religious slur here, etc.) rather than taking responsibility for your own affairs and failures.

While in a global sense we associate these attitudes with political liberalism, more specifically in Louisiana we see its variant populism. And where liberalism/populism deserves blame in all of this is in measures taken before this disaster that were supposed to mitigate it, and in the things that have happened since this horror.

We’ve known for decades that the lack of emphasis on efficiency and/or the outright corruption that so often afflicts public works projects in Louisiana may have contributed to road and bridge collapses, pump failures, and levee breaks that caused the vast majority of damage in the greater New Orleans area. We know that the state would rather spend funds on favored constituencies and slush funds than to use them more wisely, one aspect of which could have been better preparation for something like this. We know that aggressive state taxation and overburdening regulatory policy have been punitive towards exactly those whose energy and activities precisely could bring a change to these inferior sets of attitudes. We know that patronage and preferments run rampant in policy-making.

Nowhere have these attitudes flourished more than in New Orleans, leading to waste, inefficiency and corruption, most egregiously in its police forces. As a result, school achievement sank (when the public schools were not being abandoned), business fled followed by people, and the city began to take on a Third World aspect with burgeoning underemployment, an increasing number of squalid neighborhoods whose people lived in fear lacking confidence in the city and police, and whose industries congregated in the categories of industrial and entertainment and tourism – two of the lower growth, lower value sectors.

And at present the city gets to demonstrate these attitudes further with an unacceptably-large portion of its population now devoted to looting (which is itself another sign of their stupidity; everybody has to leave the city, you can’t take your stolen guns, appliances, cars, even apparel, with you, and they may well be ruined by the disaster’s aftermath or confiscated while you’re gone, so what’s the point?). These thugs have learned the lessons of liberalism all too well, its call for class warfare encouraging these people to think they are oppressed and thus deserve to help themselves to things that they have not earned because they have not contributed enough to society, and its preaching that moral precepts supported by religion be removed from the public square and thus prompt their elimination as a concern in our daily comportment.

Certainly no politician in Louisiana must have wished any of this on the affected area and people. But the fact is, the majority of our statewide officials and legislators, and particularly those in Orleans Parish, are political liberals who share the same basic attitude on this subject of wealth redistribution and religious belief’s relationship to government as do the looters. They must look at themselves in the mirror and come to grips with the fact that, while they prefer to use government to correct what they see as “unfairness,” that looters use direct means, with violence if necessary, to accomplish the same purpose. They need to understand this is how, in the real world, their core ideological beliefs translate into action and consequence.

That realization, along with the complex of liberal attitudes which encourage envy, selfishness, and meanness as part of public policy, should be sobering and encourage these officials to abandon these and instead to pursue policy that lets people keep what is theirs, that provides incentives for productivity, that allows people to live with minimal government interference, and that supports efforts to encourage moral behavior. Others both nationally and internationally don’t get it; let’s hope that our Louisiana politicians do.


Anonymous said...

dude, you dont have a fucking clue, do you?

Anonymous said...

Recognizing the simple facts from a political position could make this an opportunity for those few in power in New Orleans and the rest of the state. While we are sorry for such destruction and the lose of life, we need to remember that the politicans getting their pictures taken by the media used the poor people to get elected in this state. Those same politicans today are asking that those of us who work, "the politically disadvantaged", to help reconstruct their political power base. While these are hard words to be saying during these times for the people of lower New Orleans, its time to place conditions on the financial help.

Many good productive people lost everything they had "WORKED" for a long time to acquire. Many hearts are heavy today, but we must remember that this area of nonproductive people have placed a burden on the rest of us and the politicans showing great emotion for the people must worry about their future political base.

If New Orleans is to rise from floodwaters the levee system must be taken out of the hands of the local politicans. It's like Shreveport instead of fixing the sewerage lift stations and prevent pollution of the bayou, they spend our money on projects that are failing throughout the United States such as convention centers and hotels. If we had a major spill of sewerage which caused major health problems, everyone here would want the rest of the state and the federal goverment to pay the price to fix the problem. Our sewerage problem is man made and not weather related.

With regards to the first comment. I thought the mayor of New Orleans should have been sleeping instead of writing such a comment. I wish there was no such thing as "anonymous".

Jimmy Couvillion

Anonymous said...

One might just as easily argue that the complacent self-satisfaction of this blogger is a product of the same culture. Anonymous's comment seems right on target.

John V said...

Take good care of the UNO students, the Privateers will rise again.

For details of our odyssey see my blog after about 5. See Susan on CNN's 6 pm show (Thu).

Thanks for your concern,

Jeff Sadow said...

Neither of our "anonymous" commenters get it. There is no complacency or self-satisfaction. There is instead exasperation that those suffering now in New Orleans, and those not there who lost much or all of what they had (and not all of it to floodwaters) in part have had to endure the looting and destruction because political elites in this state and particularly in New Orleans follow this failed ideology -- a belief system whose core beliefs provide inspiration for the looters and excuses the shoddiness on government's part that contributed to the situation that created the looting and destruction. Those who cling to this bankrupt ideology need to open their eyes to the destruction of people, both in body and spirit, it invites, and this unfortunate episode should make it obvious to them. Will they learn and grow from it? Maybe not our anonymous commentators, but I hope enough of our citizens and political leaders do.