When natural disasters strike, so do the statists. That’s when we hear the familiar refrain that the job of recovery is simply too big for private efforts, that the federal government must come to the rescue, even though whatever the government spends is money that it must take—now or later—from private efforts.
What we hear less often are stories of heroic, private initiatives in the face of disaster. FEE has published such stories in the past. Here are a few of them:
- “Government and Disaster Relief”
- “Disaster Relief Then and Now”
- “Saying No to Federal Disaster Relief”
- “Lessons from the Chicago Fire”
- “Man at His Best”
That’s just a sample from the extensive, online archives of articles FEE has published in The Freeman and other venues. For a more extensive roster, just key the words “disaster relief” into the search engine at FEE.org and you’ll find many more.
There’s another side of the disaster relief story that deserves more attention as well, and that’s the part about government failure—of waste and incompetence, of obstruction of private aid, of callous indifference to the losses of the victims. Anybody who thinks that government disaster relief is nothing but good intentions and good results should ponder this small selection of stories in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeastern United States in late October 2012:
- Government demolishes home without consent and throws away personal contents
- FEMA stops private donations but lots came in before the bureaucrats could act
- FEMA workers in New Jersey sat idle in days after Sandy
- FEMA forgets Staten Island victims, new private relief efforts organized
- Government tells some homeowners to demolish their homes or get fined
- Housing shortage blamed on FEMA mismanagement
- Camp “Freedom” is like a prison
- Throwing money into the ocean
- Bureaucratic red tape blocking aid
- Government power company screws up big time
And of course, who can forget the federal fiasco of Hurricane Katrina, just seven years ago, neatly summarized here by the Cato Institute’s David Boaz, and encapsulated in the saga of the ice-that-never-made-it as explained here in The New York Times?
Keep this handy. There’ll be another Sandy. And when it hits, the statists will twit, “More government will be just dandy.”
Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. (Thanks to Chesterton Cobb, a 2012 FEE summer intern, for his research assistance in the preparation of this piece.)