Monday, October 10, 2005

Anybody want to hold your breath...

...waiting for the right approach?

Virginia Postrel in the New York Times on rebuilding New Orleans :
The more flexibility businesses and individuals have, the more adaptable they can be and the faster recovery can take place. That is one reason money helps more than in-kind gifts. Donors, Professor Horwich said, "can only guess what recipients want most" and often provide gifts of clothes or food in forms that are hard to use.

The same principle applies to the rebuilding commitments now being made in Washington. The final cost of Katrina relief is widely expected to top $100 billion...

...With $100 billion, the government could give every man, woman and child from New Orleans a check for $200,000. Expanding these payments to the entire metropolitan area would allow a generous $75,000 per resident.

Yet nobody expects the displaced residents of New Orleans to see anything close to those potentially life-changing amounts. Federal spending is aimed not at "rebuilding lives" but at "rebuilding communities," primarily by spending a lot of money on construction projects and on government services.
Postrel mentions the experience of Kobe, Japan after the big earthquake there: things bounced back in a hurry.

The Japanese are so statist my teeth hurt. Why can't we do as well?

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