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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Sandy’s Wake: Stories Statists Need to Explain

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:



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 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:



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.)

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is