Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I wrote a post earlier today (which I pulled after about ten minutes because I thought it went too far) about how, just from what I've seen on TV these past few days, my confidence in government is a bit shaken. I wrote a few weeks ago about how I was okay with the New York subway bag searches in part because I trust that the government knows what it's doing, and that if they thought that the searches were necessary, they know more about how to stop terrorism than I do, and so I trust them. Watching the hurricane coverage, I start to doubt some of that. I have no idea how government could have responded better. Maybe the magnitude of the disaster is such that with so many people to rescue from the roof of their houses, with so many people to evacuate, with so much devastation, that it was simply impossible to do more. Maybe the response was as good as it could have possibly been. But it certainly hasn't looked that way, and it certainly seems like there should have been a better plan than to put people in the Convention Center and the Superdome without food and water for four days. Even if everyone was trying his and her best, it feels like something was relatively incompetent about this. I don't know if that's the fault of local government or federal government and it doesn't much matter to me. This is what we have government for, isn't it? I mean, if there was no government, there's a lot that the private sector can handle. We can pay people to pick up our trash and deliver our mail and educate children. I'm not trying to advocate that we privatize that stuff -- that's not my point, I'm just saying that there are places the private sector could fill in government gaps if it needs to. But coordinating the response to a disaster, helping the people who didn't have the ability to get out in time, whether because they didn't have a car or didn't have any money, or had nowhere to go, or whatever. And making sure that if events can be foreseen, that the right level of care is taken to prevent these kinds of disasters. I don't know what it's reasonable to expect government to do. But watching the scenes on TV made me feel very sad if this is the best we can do, in this country. If with all of our resources, we could do no better. Anyway, all pretty shocking.

Here's an article from a London paper that talks about this a bit. I don't know enough to know if it's legitimate to blame President Bush for this stuff. I'm not even sure if it's better if President Bush is in fact to blame or if the truth is just that these things are disasters and they happen and as much as we want to feel like there should be a way to do better than what's been on TV all week, that there just isn't when a disaster is this large. I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in between, but I'm also sure that others know a lot more than I do about it.

Although one thing that struck me, when the head of FEMA said yesterday he thought things were going well, I couldn't help but try to imagine what he thought it would look like if things weren't going well. I guess if they decided that New Orleans was beyond hope and used explosives to demolish the city while the people were still inside the Superdome and the Convention Center, then, yes, that would be an example of how this could be going worse. If they broke down the remaining levees to let more water flow into the city, then, yes, that would be an example of how this could be going worse. I guess there are ways it could have been going worse. I hope there's not a disaster subsequent that lets us see them though.