Sunday, 4 September 2005

Marines, Welfare, Gouging & Benevolence: More news & views on the tragedy in New Orleans

More news and opininion on the tragedy in New Orleans. Both news and opinion is that of others. First, The Marines are there, and Mark--in downtown New Orleans and reporting at The Interdictor LiveJournal--reports, "The city is starting to feel more secure now. Much larger military and Homeland Security presence and many fewer civilians left. Of course with this added security comes additional dangers like hyper-suspicious, armed authorities." Two steps forward, one step back.

Robert Tracinscki from The Intellectual Activist has a theory about what we have seen happen in New Orleans, and why the military presence is needed:
It has taken four long days for state and federal officials to figure out how to deal with the disaster in New Orleans. I can't blame them, because it has also taken me four long days to figure out what is going on there. The reason is that the events there make no sense if you think that we are confronting a natural disaster....Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists--myself included--did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.
But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.
Read on here to see what he suggests caused it, or at least what perhaps exacerbated the natural disaster. Meanwhile, Julian Sanchez has got heartily sick and tired of "this spate of tiresome ruminations on how the hurricane is some sort of ultimate gotcha to deploy against the idea of small government."
This is all profoundly stupid. There is no deep overarching ideological point here, because for pretty much everyone short of the anarchists, preventing the collapse of civilization into a
huge Hobbesian clusterfuck makes the list—whether yours is short or long—of
things governments are supposed to do—state governments when feasible (assuming
adequate preparation on the ground is better than airlifts later), federal
government when it isn't...The real problem here sure looks like nothing more or less than a staggering display of ineptitude, which as the anti-matter doppelganger of mom, apple pie, and puppies, is pretty easy to oppose across ideological lines. By all means, let's hold officials at all levels accountable for how this has gone down, but spare us the pretended insights into the merits of mohair subsidies we're supposed to draw from all this.
And some more thoughts on price-gouging here from Steven Druckenmiller, to go with the thoughts I'd posted previously here in the discussions on petrol rationing. All make good economic sense -- Price Gouging Saves Lives argues David M. Brown for example, and so it can -- but sadly all fail to mention how the principle of benevolence might sometimes necessarily temper that hard sense, something Ruth argues for here. [Hat tip SOLO for some of these links.]


  1. As Rob said - if you think selling a 50c bag of ice for $10 is moral and benevolent then fuck you. It isn't.

    You have all these people - students most of them, who have leeched off the state for years posturing about humanity. You pay the state over $50K PA in tax and I WILL LISTEN TO YOU. Arnold Kling said something about economists having kind hearts - something a lot of these people don't have.

    I am glad I have dissassociated myself from this group of people. A pox on their houses. As Rob said - if you think like that I want NOTHING to do with you.

  2. I have just read the stuff on SOLO, as has a friend of mine. I am literally in tears at the inhumanity.

  3. Oooh don't be in tears Ruth. Buck up! Please don't misunderstand.

    I haven't read Drunkenmiller's jaz but I'm sure it's only the same old Classical economics "we" know. It's all the same under the sun, only the names will change.

    To be perfectly blunt: In a crisis goods are revalued, things aren't the same anymore. When people are willing to fork out huge amounts for what they want, what they need, what they DEMAND- it's a relief to them that somebody can supply it. By the majesty of this trader culture we unleash a powerful incentive force to mobalise in the service of those who have the the power and the needy demand. This kind of aid, this disaster relief is full of dignity and takes an unnessasary burden off the over-burdened charitable relief.

    And that charity relief that comes (eventually), apart from being spared the full magnatude of the crisis, is in no way retarded or subtracted from by those who manage to trade their way out of the hole they find themselves in.

    Dry your eyes and cool your heals lass, you've met with a new idea in economics.

  4. Preying on someone's misery and justifying it with economic theory is about as shallow as I can imagine. By "shallow" I mean lacking in the full complement of emotions, and it's rather akin to the morality of dealing smack.
    Rick's comments are so bizarre and naive I have doubts his sincerity.

  5. Sorry Rick, economical psychobabble like yours is shallow. And pure, egregious claptrap. That you would defend gouging of any type during a disaster of such magnitude speaks volumes of your character.

  6. I am glad you posted the Intellectual Activist, because what he says is true : what we are seeing isnt just an exercise in the lower forms of economics, but a blatant flushing out of the welfare state that does nothing but erode economic health.

  7. None of this is half as bad as Jesse Jackson claiming New Orleans is being neglected because it is mostly black.

  8. I meant economic psychobabble. There's nothing economical about Rick's stance.

  9. Au contraire, mon ami!

    From the Physiocrats 'til the modern day a tradition proclaims my very sentiments. What I've said is the application of what is taught in all our high schools and universities, it is what the Reserve Bank knows, it is what public policy is advised according to, it is what Nobel Prizes are awarded for. Market theory. The 'invisible hand'.

    Please. This is not shallow nor naive. On the contrary the basics of 'commodification' runs deep through our entire way of life and it's what pulled us out of our impoverished past and into the most amazing standard of living we enjoy today. Queen Elizabeth never had it so good as a low-income family has it these days.

    Please, do you intend to dismiss the above out of hand? If so please mark that you have done so because this is not the last you'll feel Adam Smith's presence and maybe next time what goes around comes around you'll begin to see this is a genuine and legitimate tradition and body of doctrine- which Marx has yet to extinguish.

    Stick around this blog. It will come up again and again and again.

    That you would defend gouging of any type during a disaster of such magnitude speaks volumes of your character.

    Thankyou. I made it myself.

  10. Yer welcome, but it wasn't a compliment.


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