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New Orleans, State-Planning, and the Free Market

September 1, 2005

Michael Barnett, son of William Barnett II, is sticking it out in New Orleans. He's keeping a livejournal blog about what's going on, and Mises.org is running a live feed of his webcam. As someone who's friends with Michael, I know him to be a great person, and a hard-core Austrian, a supporter of the free market and libertarianism. Right now, he's exposing the fraud of State-management, and of State "protection" of private property.

So, what is Michael Barnett & co. doing in New Orleans? Business! He and his associates run directNICHeroically, they're continuing to serve customers, helping people out:

A local company called us because they heard we still had the datacenter operating. They asked for our help. We went to their office and brought back their most critical server. We are in the process of transferring 40 gigs of data from their most critical server at this time. Of course we have no experience with Macs so this will be interesting. While at their facility we noticed that they had 5 drums of water with 5 gallons each. With their permission we took the 25 gallons of water and their cleaning supplies to our office.

Michael has noted an enormous amount of looting going on, some of it by police officers themselves, in New Orleans:

The police are looting. This has been confirmed by several independent sources. Some of the looting might be "legitimate" in as much as that word has any meaning in this context. They have broken into ATMs and safes: confirmed. We have eyewitnesses to this. They have taken dozens of SUVs from dealerships ostensibly for official use. They have also looted gun stores and pawn shops for all the small arms, supposedly to prevent "criminals" from doing so. But who knows their true intentions.

So much for the myth of the police protecting private property. Meanwhile, it seems like every criminal or marginal criminal has surfaced in New Orleans, with massive looting of private property occuring. It is one thing to homestead goods that are going to be destroyed by the increasing water-levels, or food which is going to rot if not used -- this is salvaging -- but it is quite another to steal something that is in no threat of being destroyed, or that is indestructable (e.g., any precious metals). Furthermore, some of these crooks are stealing items of the most personal nature -- people's personal and emotional belongings, left in their homes. Apparently, it's Christmas for Crooks:

These people were absolutely nuts rammed trucks(stolen I'm sure) in to jewelry stores stealing items, they were tearing apart Wal-Mart carrying out TV's, Playstations, DVD players, etc. One lady was wheeling out an entire rack of merchandise, not sure what it was but sure wasn't clothes for food. They were all laughing and carrying on like it's freaking Christmas.

Amazingly, very few have mentioned how this entire episode is a giant example of State failure at every level and every point. It was well known for years that if a category 4 or 5 hurricane hit New Orleans, the levees wouldn't suffice:

[van Heerden] predicted that floodwaters would overcome the levee system, fill the low-lying areas of the city and then remain trapped there well after the storm passed -- creating a giant, stagnant pool contaminated with debris, sewage and other hazardous materials.

Van Heerden and other experts put some of the blame on the Mississippi River levees themselves, because they channel silt directly into the Gulf of Mexico that otherwise would stabilize land along the riverside and slow the sinking of the coastline.

Despite warnings from experts, the levees may also have contributed to an unwarranted sense of security among residents.

But that wasn't the end of State-failure. Central planners also stuffed thousands of people in a football stadium, a great plan for disaster if there's any weakness in the building, which there was. Look for increased calls for regulation, due to this episode of State-planning gone awry being blamed on the free market. Of course, there's also the looting, which police officers aren't stopping, and are even engaging in themselves. Furthermore, this kind of looting is the result of forced integration and various welfare policies, which destroys values.

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