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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Who Rescued More Katrina Victims, Big Government or the "Thousand Points of Light?"

U.S. Coast Guard helicopters rescuing people trapped on the roofs of flooded homes in New Orleans makes dramatic television, but has the media given the public an inaccurate impression?

Donald Devine, who headed the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President Reagan and now is editor of the American Conservative Union Foundation's "Battleline Online" magazine, sees a different picture:

"The armed forces, Coast Guard and the rest of the national government were helpful but only claimed to have rescued 8,500 people in the first few weeks. Yet, only 3,000 were federal troops and 30,000 were state National Guardsmen, who also were there much earlier.
"More important, first responders in general officially rescued 27,000 in New Orleans; that is, six times more people were rescued by non-military, non-Federal, mostly local personnel.
"Little St. Bernard Parish officials alone rescued 8,000. But most rescues reported by the media were made by private parties, rescuing people with their own boats and resources."

Devine goes on to note how the MSM and iberal politicos are gleefully citing Hurricane Katrina to justify handing even more power and resources to the Washington Leviathan. If Devine is right, and I believe he is, it's hard not to conclude that Hurricane Katrina's worst long-term impact may yet prove to be the boost it is giving to those who want Washington bureaucrats telling the rest of us how to live our lives.

FULL DISCLOSURE: It was my privilege to serve in the Reagan administration as Devine's Assistant Director for Public Affairs at OPM from November 1982 to June 1985.


Anne Applebaum comes at the same issue from a little more personalized perspective and arrives at the same conclusion as Devine. The Big Bungles were by Big Government:

"Listen, for example, to volunteers who prepared 92 boats to help evacuate people from the rooftops of New Orleans. They were ultimately kept out by Federal Emergency Management Agency bureaucrats because, among other things, they didn't have life preservers.
"Or listen to the volunteers who organized 100 doctors to treat 400 sick people at a converted Baton Rouge warehouse -- until they, too, were told by the government to shut down, reopen and then shut down again.
"Or to the hundreds of firefighters who, according to The New York Times, responded to a nationwide call for help and were then 'held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment,' while women were raped and lives were lost in New Orleans."

Go here for the complete Applebaum take.


CNET's Declan McCullough says private groups organizing via the net sprung into effective action much more quickly than the bureaucrats:

"The point is not to slam President Bush ... Rather, it's to recognize the inefficiency of top-down systems such as the federal government compared with the rapid, efficient and effective organizing that individuals can accomplish on their own.
"This is what the late Austrian economist F.A. Hayek called 'spontaneous order,' referring to the marvel that happens every day when people work together and agree on transactions, voluntarily, without a central authority dictating what happens."