Limits Of Libertarianism

September 3, 2005

I believe, as Libertarians do, that the State should be small. But we part company when they say “the (Brit) State that is not your friend.

The State does have some resemblance to a protection racket – if you don’t pay your taxes its agents forcibly seize you, lock you up and take your belongings. However there’s nothing wrong with a democratically controlled protection racket, as Katrina demonstrates.

Immediately after what was effectively an area bombing of New Orleans, the State evaporated. There was heroism:

Some are characterizing the young, first-time bus driver’s act as “looting.” But the bus that Jabbar Gibson “commandeered” had been abandoned on a New Orleans street. He took it upon himself to rescue dozens of families–grandmothers, young parents, toddlers, and an 8-day-old infant. That is not “looting.”

But a dark side emerged:

NEW ORLEANS September 2 – New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday, as corpses lay abandoned in street medians, fights and fires broke out and storm survivors battled for seats on the buses that would carry them away from the chaos.

“We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten,” Compass said. “Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon.”

This is a lefty AP report, so don’t bet the farm on it – but it’s clear things were pretty bad.

Now the State is
back:

Texas game wardens watch over people who were caught using a mail truck to try to escape New Orleans. They were freed but forced to continue on foot. Reuters.

A detachment of 300 National Guard troops have landed in anarchic New Orleans with the authorization to shoot and kill “hoodlums”, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco says.

Thousands of troops have struggled to counter armed looters and help tens of thousands of refugees flee New Orleans, where chaos reigns three days after Hurricane Katrina.

Top officials have confirmed that the storm killed thousands of people and have made a desperate plea for help to restore order to New Orleans and the surrounding region.

“Three hundred of the Arkansas National Guard have landed in the city of New Orleans,” Ms Blanco said.

“These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle-tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets. They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded.
These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.”

Colonel Henry Whitehorn of the Louisiana State Police said the law and order situation in the city was “bad”.

But he said anarchic conditions around the Superdome stadium and central business district where up to 20,000 refugees had been sheltering were “stabilizing”.

He admitted that a number of police officers who had lost everything in flooding after Hurricane Katrina had handed in their badges, unwilling to take the fight to looters.

There’s the limit of Libertarianism.

You (maybe) don’t need the State to look after you if you are young, strong and have a shotgun, 200 cartridges & and a one week supply of food, water & medical supplies. But if don’t have this, or you’re old, weak, a kid, a stranded tourist who was too daft to obey a mandatory evacuation, then armed thugs will prey on you. That’s where you need those cops and soldiers from the State.

This applies particularly to Brits, who have allowed their State to disarm them, so even the young, strong and well prepared will be unarmed and so victimized by armed thugs.

Bottom line: the Anglo State is your friend – just keep it small.

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Recovering From Katrina

September 3, 2005

Contrary to the Moonbat whines, the Feds have done a good job responding to Katrina. Its effects were very similar to the devastating area bombing of WW2 and the US has improvised a response that Brits and Germans took years to learn.

The Germans began their bombing of the UK with accurate daylight attacks on radar stations, airfields and munitions factories. After having the crap beaten out of them by the RAF they shifted to safer night time bombing of civilians, in London and industrial cities such as Coventry.

The best Brit mathematicians analyzed these German raids, and came to surprising conclusions. Provided the power, water, gas and road infrastructure was reasonably intact, a virtually destroyed plant was usually brought back on line within a week.

But if the bombers also destroyed infrastructure and workers’ homes, as in Coventry, plants were out of commission for many months, as people searched for their families and the power and transportation grid was painfully rebuilt.

So was invented the science of Operations Research which guided the Brit area bombing campaign against Germany. It killed almost half a million civilians.

Katrina worked like a huge area bombing raid. An area almost the size of England has lost power, phones, telecoms (including cellphones), food supplies, gasoline, clean water and essential railroads & highways. Tens of thousands of families are dispersed and essential workers are prioritizing their kin over their civic duties.

The Germans learned that to recover from area bombing you need to hold specialized recovery teams outside target areas. These self-contained units (with their own equipment, water, power and weapons) went in post-attack to fix the “bottleneck” problems and enable the progressive rebuilding the infrastructure from the outside in. Len Deighton’s book Bomber has a good fictionalized account.

Five days after the disaster, the US has proved to be a quick learner. Army Corps of Engineers teams have I believe repaired one of the two NO levee breaches and are working on the second. The army is deployed to stop looting and conducting an orderly evacuation.

The initial failures are mostly due the US Federal system. The effected states -Louisiana and Mississippi – have more autonomy within the US than, say the UK has within the EU. Unfortunately, the management of the States and the towns within them has been poor – not surprising since pols aren’t elected for their disaster-management skills (Giuliani was the exception that proves the rule).
So I’m looking for the Feds to appoint of a top-rank disaster manager. He or she will move the locals aside and send in teams to quickly patch the transportation and telecoms infrastructure, enabling the big reconstruction crews to get moving.

My guess, based on the WW2 recoveries and experiences of other US disasters, is that the economic impact will be much less than the pessimists expect. For the sake of the suffering people, I hope so. Plus it would be good to burn the folks shorting the $…