Four Years Later, New Orleans Still In Shambles

I was browsing through my thousands of articles in my Google Reader when I read a post from Rob Port over at Say Anything. He was writing about President Obama’s first visit to New Orleans. Rob asks a good question, “Why isn’t New Orleans rebuilt yet?”

The answer, which liberals don’t want to hear, is because the people in New Orleans have been waiting around for the government to rebuild things for them. They’re depending on the government to make things right, and as usual the government is letting them down.

That New Orleans is still in shambles four years after the hurricane is an argument in favor of limiting government and decreasing government dependence and increase independence and self-reliance.

Of course, the politicians hate that and label with all sorts of terms like “racist” and “selfish” and “hateful” but I wonder what is so benevolent about people being dependent on government?

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When you look at the situation, it’s important to remember how it got that way in the first place. The government was responsible for the levies. They had been warned they were inadequate. They were given money to improve them. They didn’t.

Now, four years later, the government is failing to do what they promised, and people are still waiting

The Federal Emergency Management Agency shuttered its long-term recovery office about six months later, after a squabble with the city over who would pay for the planning process. Since then, depending on whom you talk to, government at all levels has been passive and slow-moving at best, or belligerent and actively harmful at worst. Mayor Ray Nagin occasionally surfaces to advertise a big new scheme (a jazz park, a theater district), about which no one ever hears again. A new 20-year master plan and comprehensive zoning ordinance was being ironed out early this summer, but it remains subject to city-council approval. A post-Katrina master plan has been under discussion since before the floodwaters were pumped out.

Who will rebuild the city? The people will.

In the absence of strong central leadership, the rebuilding has atomized into a series of independent neighborhood projects. And this has turned New Orleans–moist, hot, with a fecund substrate that seems to allow almost anything to propagate–into something of a petri dish for ideas about housing and urban life. An assortment of foundations, church groups, academics, corporate titans, Hollywood celebrities, young people with big ideas, and architects on a mission have been working independently to rebuild the city’s neighborhoods, all wholly unconcerned about the missing master plan. It’s at once exhilarating and frightening to behold.

“If you look at the way ants behave when they’re gathering food, it looks like the stupidest, most irrational thing you’ve ever seen–they’re zigzagging all over the place, they’re bumping into other ants. You think, ‘What a mess! This is never going to amount to anything,’” says Michael Mehaffy, the head of the Sustasis Foundation, which studies urban life and sustainability and has worked with neighborhood organizations here. “So it’s easy to look at New Orleans at the grassroots level and wonder, What’s going on here?’ But if you step back and look at the big picture, in fact it’s the most efficient pattern possible, because all those random activities actually create a very efficient sort of discovery process.”

Rebuilding a city is more complicated than a central planner from a central government could handle. How can anyone think they could handle organizing all the systems, people and organizations in the health care system into a more efficient manner?

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