Znet Commentary: How the Free Market Killed New Orleans
The free market played a crucial role in the destruction of New Orleans and the death of thousands of its residents.
The tendency to ascribe to the market economy the characteristics of being something other than the events caused by the choices and actions of individuals is incorrect. The market arises as a result of the willingness of individuals to interact. Every development in the market is the outcome of purposive actions on the part of individuals who are seeking to improve their own state of affairs.
- Thomas C. Taylor
Michael Parenti has fallen for the classic mistake. Does the author think a highly entrenched system of taxation, regulation, personal behavior codes, legal prohibitions, free exchange-distorting incentives, and other state intervention constitutes a free market? They certainly do not
It was not until Day Three that the relatively affluent telecasters began to realize that tens of thousands of people had failed to flee because they had nowhere to go and no means of getting there. With hardly any cash at hand or no motor vehicle to call their own, they had to sit tight and hope for the best. In the end, the free market did not work so well for them.
Government-as-benign-singular-entity is as idiotic an analytical tool as free-market-as-coldhearted-creature. These are fucking abstractions
, man. No "market" ever did shit for me; it was always, ultimately, myself and someone else.
Many of these people were low-income African Americans, along with fewer numbers of poor whites. It should be remembered that most of them had jobs before Katrina's lethal visit. That's what most poor people do in this country: they work, usually quite hard at dismally paying jobs, sometimes more than one job at a time. They are poor not because they're lazy but because they have a hard time surviving on poverty wages while burdened by high prices, high rents, and regressive taxes.
STOP THE FREAKIN' PRESSES! REWRITE THAT HEADLINE! CHANGE IT TO:
Black Folks Work, Have Jobs
Mr. Parenti just admitted the absence of a free market in labor, wages, spending, and business: taxation. If he knew anything about cause and effect and economics, he'd understand at least one reason why inflation is a problem: the existence of government manipulation of the nation's currency...another
suspended free market. The reasons to continue paying attention to him drop by the sentence.
The free market played a role in other ways. Bush's agenda is to cut government services to the bone and make people rely on the private sector for the things they might need.
Does Mr. Parenti think a federal budget that, even excluding the Department of Defense, has grown by leaps and bounds, constitutes "cut[ting] government services to the bone"? If this were the case, there wouldn't be
a FEMA, EPA, or most of the alphabet soup federal agencies. The Bone of government services is a justice system of law enforcement and national defense. The United States Federal Government is much more than that.
Bush took to the airways ("Good Morning America" 1 September 2005) and said "I don't think anyone anticipated that breach of the levees." Just another untruth tumbling from his lips.
In their campaign to starve out the public sector, the Bushite reactionaries also allowed developers to drain vast areas of wetlands. Again, that old invisible hand of the free market would take care of things. The developers, pursuing their own private profit, would devise outcomes that would benefit us all.
But wetlands served as a natural absorbent and barrier between New Orleans and the storms riding in from across the sea. And for some years now, the wetlands have been disappearing at a frightening pace on the Gulf coast. All this was of no concern to the reactionaries in the White House.
Bush and his government are fools. Only someone with a dramatically distorted concept of the free market and a desire to smear it would equate it with those bastards. They are not and have never been friends of free trade, free association, or private property. At the most
, they tend to somewhat maybe stand on the side of kinda weaker restrictions on some matters of regulation. More often, they funnel government resources to protect and enrich favored businesses. That ain't free trade.
Looks like Michael Parenti has once again admitted the absence of a free market in, this time, land! For, if the feds "allowed" the development to occur, then it certainly wasn't in the hands of private individuals to do with as they pleased, a critical factor for any free market to emerge. The government reserves the right to step in and dictate what's to be done. Let's also not forget the incentive-destroying actions it takes by offering, for example, flood insurance below market rates that encourages such destructive growth.
Naw...blame something that doesn't exist!
As for the rescue operation, the free-marketeers like to say that relief to the more unfortunate among us should be left to private charity. It was a favorite preachment of President Ronald Reagan that "private charity can do the job." And for the first few days that indeed seemed to be the policy with the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The federal government was nowhere in sight but the Red Cross went into action. Its message: "Don't send food or blankets; send money." The Salvation Army also began to muster up its aging troops. Meanwhile Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network---taking a moment off from God's work of pushing John Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court---called for donations and announced "Operation Blessing" which consisted of a highly-publicized but totally inadequate shipment of canned goods and bibles.
By Day Three even the myopic media began to realize the immense failure of the rescue operation. People were dying because relief had not arrived.
Michael Parenti misleadingly conflates the rescue and relief efforts of the charities with those of local, state, and federal agencies. The two are different and this should be made clear. The government's celebrated "social contract" with us is supposed to provide for our safety and security...yet time and time again we see how empty those promises are. It always falls to the individuals on the ground, breaking the "rules" in order to do the real work. Once you place one of your most important responsibilities - your safety - into the hands of the state, you've delegated something crucial to those that are generally the least
competent to handle it.
Take a few minutes for yourself and see just how often and to what degree the various levels of government attempted to or successfully got in the way of private charity from reaching those who needed it. It is one reason why the first days were so bad; another would also be the sheer breadth and depth of the devastation. Though I have no doubt private organizations can be and are up to the task of rescue and aid, they are not gawdlike and cannot all and always move like lightning.
More important, if one charity fails, it isn't as if they all fail. They "compete" in this manner through their reputations and results. If one sucks, it loses donations and requests and those donors and requestees turn to other sources. But you don't get that with the government.
Questions arose that the free market seem incapable of answering: Who was in charge of the rescue operation? Why so few helicopters and just a scattering of Coast Guard rescuers? Why did it take helicopters five hours to lift six people out of one hospital? When would the rescue operation gather some steam? Where were the feds? The state troopers? The National Guard? Where were the buses and trucks? the shelters and portable toilets? The medical supplies and water?
And where was Homeland Security?
Mr. Parenti makes clear how little
he understands the difference between a free market and a government with this. Hardly anything
he questions in that paragraph has to do with private businesses, self-organized individuals, and professional aid/relief organizations. Those failures belong to the state's agents. Where was Homeland Security, indeed
? Fucking around like bureaucracies always do!
freeman and Kevin Carson weigh in as well.