Why Does New Orleans Defy Nature at Taxpaper Expense?

WASHINGTON -- “Now that a federal court has found the United States liable for post-Katrina flooding in New Orleans, the federal government will be pouring tax money down yet another drain hole in the name of disaster relief,” writes Tom Bowden, an analyst with the Ayn Rand Center. “The court found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was grossly negligent in maintaining a vast network of levees and flood control structures that were supposed to protect New Orleans. The court-ordered damages must be paid from tax funds along with the costs of rebuilding.

“This is not a shocking development. Once Uncle Sam took on the job of flood protection for a city situated in a below-sea-level bowl, it was readily foreseeable that any negligence would increase the population’s exposure to the kind of disaster that Katrina brought. Yet despite the obvious hazards, government policy continues to be formulated as if New Orleans has an unquestionable right to continue defying nature at taxpayer expense.

“Although there’s no easy solution to the legal miasma in Louisiana, such tragic situations can be avoided in the future--if America’s policy makers are willing to question the wisdom of government programs that actively promote building and living in disaster-prone areas. Government policy makes disasters more disastrous by erecting a so-called safety net composed of government policies that actually encourage people to embrace risks they would otherwise shun--to build in defiance of historically obvious dangers, secure in the knowledge that innocent others will be forced to share the costs when the worst happens.

“The solution is not more of the market distortions and perverse incentives that have lured so many people into harm’s way. The solution is to replace the prevailing entitlement mentality with a free market in disaster prevention, insurance, and recovery.”

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