Thursday, September 01, 2005

Sympathy Rationing

I have the utmost sympathy for most victims of Hurricane Katrina. But my sympathy is limited, so I’m withholding it from the following groups:

1. People looting anything other than basic necessities and survival gear. (Also, people looting basic necessities and survival gear when the proper owner is present and objecting.)

2. People who had cars (or friends or family with cars), knew the worst storm in recorded history was headed right for them, and chose to stick around because they didn’t want to sit in traffic.

3. People who chose not to take shelter in the SuperDome because the lines to get in were too long.

Truthfully, I’m perplexed by most of those who stayed. I know many of them were (and are) dreadfully poor, and that limited their means of escape. Still, I think if I had $50 to my name and a working pair of legs (yes, I realize some people don’t), I’d have found a way out. But I suppose that’s easy for me to say from this distance, so I’ll withhold my sympathy only from those in categories 1-3 above.

(Backsliding a little: Okay, maybe I don’t have zero sympathy for people in categories 2 and 3, but they still won’t get as much as everyone else. I can imagine being excessively optimistic and thinking I could ride the storm out. But I’d think again after the authorities recommended a complete evacuation.)


Gil said...

Yes, and I have little sympathy for those who plan to rebuild in the same dangerous area.

I have even less sympathy for people who will demand that I subsidize that.

Gil said...

And what I was saying was not that relief should be rationed according to any scheme other than what will do the most good for victims.

But, there are separate questions about the wisdom of rebuilding there, and who should assume financial responsibility for it.

If people rebuild there, and there's another disaster, I'll contribute to voluntary relief-efforts again. The children certainly won't deserve the harm that befalls them, and while the adults will deserve some blame/responsibility I'll still prefer to help them than to have them die for their mistakes.

Gil said...

If the geographical advantages of commerce in the New Orleans flood plain justify the costs of protecting it from damage, then those who wish to benefit from those advantages should have no problem affording the costs.

If there are powerful public goods arguments for others to want to contribute to subsidizing this development more than competing projects then, again, it should be possible to raise those funds voluntarily.

But, if the only way to pay for this development is to put a gun to the heads of me and millions of others, then to me that indicates prima facie evidence that those claims are false and the arguments are actually much weaker than the claimants would like us to believe.