Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina, Leviathan, and Human Stupidity

Like the rest of America my heart and wallet go out to those unfortunate victims of Hurricane Katrina who are languishing in the subhuman conditions prevalent along the Gulf Coast. Enough has been written already by writers more proficient than I on specific instances of the State’s pitiful ineptitude in coping with this disaster; allow me, however to make a few observations of my own.

1. This isn’t an isolated historical event; wasn’t anyone paying attention? Only someone from another planet or the brain-dead attached to a life support system could possibly imagine that hurricanes of category three and above are a remote possibility along the Gulf Coast. The last two years alone have produced more horrific hurricanes impacting the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico than in most of the last century, something that meteorologists have been warning us about for at least the last decade. I mean, come on now, did anyone really need anymore convincing after Hurricane Ivan tore through Florida last year? Is our collective memory and attention span so short that we can’t see a pattern in the weather over the last few years and draw something resembling a clue from it? It’s enough to make me think that Mother Nature was trying to do the universe a favor by erasing a piece of human civilization that clearly wasn’t smart or concerned enough to adapt to the changing conditions around it (maybe we can call this concept “meteorological Darwinism”). Add to this the fact that New Orleans alone has managed over the last two hundred years to sink from an elevation of a couple of dozen feet above sea level to the same distance below (something almost impossible without deliberate human intervention), and you can’t help but wonder what cerebral roadblock prevented anyone from seeing all of this coming. I can’t wait to hear from Walter Block, a native of the region, for his views on this whole fiasco.

2. I’m still searching in vain for the constitutional clause delegating to Leviathan all of this power to provide humanitarian aid. Actually I think my biggest concern isn’t so much the flagrant lawlessness of Leviathan’s response to the crisis, but rather the breathtaking ineptitude of its execution that will probably kill more people than Katrina ever would have. Watching the TV news coverage that shows most of the Gulf Coast under six-plus feet of toxic water, people being housed in emergency shelters without electricity, running water, or sanitation; poor refugees having their civil rights violated while trying to seek shelter, and looters running rampant throughout the region in full view of the State’s armed enforcers who’ve suddenly grown cold feet in the face of others armed as they are, I can’t help but believe that the Founders were more prescient than we give them credit for. Surely Jefferson, Madison, et al., knew that an institution so far removed from the people and with so few practical resources at its disposal would never be an effective agent for providing (as opposed to promoting) the “general welfare.” I also have to imagine that were these gentlemen brought back from the dead and could see how far we’ve advanced technologically, economically, and socially since the Republic’s founding, they would no doubt declare that anyone lacking the moral fibre and personal responsibility to provide for their own safety when given sufficient advanced warning (as everyone in this case was) probably doesn’t deserve to be saved except through the mercy of friends and family and certainly not at the public’s expense.

While we’re on the subject of Leviathan’s trampling of the Constitution here, let me ask the question that is on many libertarian minds right now, one that I wish to God some prominent spineless media toady would ask Il Duce Americano, point-blank: When will National Guard troops be called back from the Iraq quagmire to which they were illegally and unconstitutionally dispatched so that the various state governors, at their discretion, can use them to provide humanitarian aid to the folks here at home (not to be appropriated directly by Leviathan itself, which flies in the face of federalism)? Also, how many is will be called back, and will the various governors of the affected states be consulted so that they can summon the quantity and type of assistance that they need to restore public order? Note that the nature of the question is not is Bush going to do this, but when? If Katrina provided us with any benefit at all, it was to give us a stark and much-needed example of the destructive idiocy of the Bush regime’s military policy (see Paul Craig Roberts for a much better analysis of the situation). I can just hear the neocons/liberventionists howling at the very mention of this possibility, but now is as good a time as any for reality to rub itself like sandpaper in these people’s faces.

3. When are Americans going to grow brains and stop building permanent structures on coastal flood plains? I wonder if anyone has ever stopped to wonder why civilizations far older than ours, particularly in the Asia/Pacific region that are subject to equally severe seasonal weather, didn’t and still for the most part don’t build cities along coastal regions at or below sea level. While there are some exceptions (Bangladesh being the most prominent), you will no doubt notice that most coastal cities in the Asia/Pacific portion of the globe are built either on hills or plateaus several hundred feet above sea level or are sufficiently far inland as to not be located directly in the tidal path of coastal flood patterns. While last September’s tsunami caused unprecedented damage to India, Thailand, Burma, and other southwest Asian nations due to its unusual force, meteorologists and seismologists have estimated that the damage would have been much more catastrophic had India’s cities, in particular, been built at or below sea level.

There have been ample lessons to be learned about the inhabitability of coastal regions and the damage that is done to them at certain clearly identifiable times of the year. One of the factors preventing Americans from exercising common sense is that among its other extra-constitutional depredations, Leviathan offers what amounts to premium-free flood insurance to those who exercise recklessly poor judgment, subsidized by you and me. While the feds claim, year after year, that they are going to slap severe restrictions on or eliminate compensation to those who choose to deliberately build on flood plains, such legislation mysteriously never seems to make its way out of congressional committees staffed by politicos whose own summer vacation homes are often built on these very same flood plains. Indeed, only a fool would believe that these people who can’t be responsible enough to balance their own personal checkbooks (let alone the nation’s) are ever going to assume fiduciary responsibility for their own lives and property.

So for those who live in areas subject to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, I offer the following free advice: pay attention and be prepared. Keep emergency supplies on hand, including a few extra gallons of gas to be used in the event that you have to make a quick exit from your home to some remote location, and be sure to designate a vehicle, if you own more than one, that is to be used for emergency getaways. Beginning in June, pack up an emergency travel bag full of extra clothes and supplies that you can grab at the spur of the moment in the event of a storm warning or evacuation order. Consider alternate locations, either in some other part of your home state or out of state to where you can relocate in time of emergency. Do you have friends or relatives on whom you can impose yourself for a few days or weeks? If so, ask them if they can be prepared to host you in an emergency for a few days or weeks. Offer to compensate them for food or other expenses incurred by your presence. Are you dependant on life-saving medication such as insulin or heart medicine? Ask your doctor about ways to keep emergency supplies on hand for contingency situations or if there are ways to extend prescriptions if you can’t get contact the doctor under emergency conditions. Finally, always –ALWAYS—keep a plentiful supply of bottled potable water at home, to be used only in case of emergency.

It’s just common sense, folks; the kind that seemed to sustain our self-reliant ancestors during the early years of the Republic when technology and population disbursal patterns gave little warning of impending natural disasters. If they could ensure their own survival, we certainly have no excuse today to not do so. It's time to get past the "somebody else is responsible for my well-being" attitude and start taking charge of your own life and safety, particularly given the State's abominable track record in this area.