All-Around Government Failure

By: Mr. Wilson on September 2, 2005
The more I think about the failures of various levels of government in Katrina's wake, the angrier I get. For a long time I wasn't able to pin down exactly what I thought the failures were. Then I realized: the failures were the most basic failures a government could possibly make. People create governments to protect three things:
  • Life
  • Liberty
  • Property
The protection of those three things is at the core of our government's responsibilities. All we ask of our government is that they keep us alive, let us be free, and prevent others from taking or harming our property. In post-Katrina New Orleans, local, state, and federal governments have failed on all three counts. If we cannot trust our government to do the only three things it really has to do, what can we trust them to do? That New Orleans has descended into anarchy is not surprising. The government violated its contract with the people, so the people severed the contract. I don't blame them. That's not to say I excuse their actions -- just because the government fails you doesn't give you the right to infringe upon the rights of your fellow citizens -- but I can at least, on a very basic level, empathize with their fury. So many levels of government have failed so miserably at such basic tasks, that I can only hope that the reaction nationwide is a strong cynicism toward government in general. Americans have over-trusted their government for too long, in the process forfeiting far too many liberties. Do I actually think Americans will use this unfortunate situation as a catalyst for a general government contraction? No. But a guy can hope.


See what your friends and neighbors have to say about this.

Mr. T
September 2, 2005 at 4:48PM

I agree that its been a massive failure of government on all levels, and heads will roll for both elected and appointed officials and rightfully so. I don’t think this will spark a move for “general government” contraction. What are you arguing for? Dept of Homeland Security was, theoretically, a contraction in the sense that it was supposed to streamline and centralize the alphabet soup of federal agencies possibly involved in disaster response. Well it didn’t seem to work here - although in concept I think its a good idea. I think what I find shocking on a policy level is that 4 years after 9/11 all we’ve heard about is planning and money for preparation, preparation, preparation, and then something like this happens. And to add insult to injury this particular flooding/nightmare scenario in New Orleans has been written all over the walls for years (not to forget that the entire region was creamed beyond New Orleans).

Sure I understand that this was a once in a 500 year occurence, and that things are hopefully going well elsewhere that are not being picked up by the broadcast media. But on an operational level - why is the first major national guard presence only arriving in New Orleans last night and today? Did they not know that this sort of chaos would happen in a major city?

But I do agree that this should spark new calls for criticism and accountability of government at all levels - some good, some arguably bad (ie term limits).

On a side note, I saw an interview with someone saying that years ago (like in the 90s), there was a plan in existence - which state and local officials and engineering experts agreed on - to build up sea walls outside the delta area that would have prevented what we are seeing today, but it had a a $14 billion price tag. The state didnt have that kind of money and LAs congressional delegation sought federal funds in congress, but were unsuccesful. Don’t know how much credence to put into a single TV interview, but thats what was reported.

Mr. Wilson
September 2, 2005 at 5:04PM

I guess by “contraction” I mean a greater emphasis on the things government is *supposed* to be doing (protecting life, liberty, property) and a lesser emphasis on the things they *shouldn’t* be doing (regulating the crap out of everything that moves, and most of the stuff that doesn’t). It’s like dealing with kids: you can’t have dessert until you finish your dinner. It is in part because our various local, state, and federal governments have been chomping down on brownies and ice cream that we see the massive clusterfuck down in NOLA today.

Mr. T
September 3, 2005 at 2:02AM

Got your point and agree. This was a total failure of our government on all levels, both before, and after the hurricane. I think Bush’s response has been horrible, both operationally and symbolically as our president. I don’t blame bush for all that has happened, but juxtaposing his immediate reaction to 9/11 to what he has done (or not done) in the past few days is pretty shocking to me. It says A LOT to the rest of the nation when he flies in for one day for his misery tour/photo ops, and then leaves a few hours later. At the same time, the state and local leaders have also failed miserably. Why the state of LA didnt get its national guard fully mobilized by Sunday evening truly boggles the mind.

Sadly, I agree with your conclusion too. Although this SHOULD spark a wave of calls for government accountability, will it truly happen with realistic results? Doubtful.

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