Three Cheers for the "Cajun Navy"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kevin Boyd of the Foundation for Economic Education tells a tale that needs a much wider audience: That of the role of the "Cajun Navy" and many other private parties in providing fast, effective relief to victims of the recent inundation of Louisiana:

Instead of waiting for the government to come rescue them, the people of Louisiana used their own privately-owned boats to save their neighbors. This "Cajun Navy" drew its ranks and fleet from Louisiana's large numbers of sportsmen. People who needed rescue contacted a Facebook group and the boats used smartphone apps such as the GPS app Glympse and the walkie talkie app Zello to coordinate. The "Cajun Navy" was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Louisianians and their pets and livestock.

The people of Louisiana also distributed immediate relief to their displaced neighbors much more efficiently than the government was able to. One of the best examples of this was the conversion of a movie studio into a shelter housing over 2,000 people. The Celtic Media Centre is one of Louisiana's premier film production studios located in Baton Rouge, which was one of the cities hardest hit by the flooding. The studio's executive director, Patrick Mulhearn, saw how devastated his neighbors were by the high water and decided to open up Celtic as an emergency shelter. [links in original]
One group who would do well to contemplate this story would be anyone (particularly any conservative) who has called for President Obama to cut a vacation short to visit the area, and not just because one man's misfortune does not mean another must cease enjoying his life. Rather than try to score cheap, meaningless political points, we should take this opportunity to question the whole idea that the government should be providing comprehensive disaster relief in the first place. Furthermore, it is heartening that we needn't look back a century to see Americans responding to a disaster like adults, rather than wards of the state, as many did during and after Hurricane Katrina.

-- CAV



Added clause to end of last sentence. 


Dinwar said...

What springs to mind is Ayn Rand's statement that there is no difference between the moral and the practical.

Disasters are, in the words of one geologist, giant swirling balls of entropy. Attempts at top-down solutions simply don't work, because the conditions by definition disrupt the things that make top-down systems function--disasters cut communication, disrupt transportation routes, and so on. In contrast, individuals acting to help themselves and each other can respond far more effectively, because they have no command and control structures to disrupt. You can't cut the lines of communication to people who have no (or few) formal lines of communication, and individuals are free to use whatever means present themselves to solve the problems. It's a chaotic solution, but with disasters a chaotic solution is VASTLY superior to a formal solution that never materializes.

When I was a kid I remember a town being wiped out where I grew up, due to a tornado. No one was harmed, but the only structures left standing were the church and grain elevator. Within a year you couldn't tell that the town had been damaged. Everyone relied on their own means--savings, insurance, etc--and helped each other to rebuild. Compare that to the damage from Hurricane Sandy, which still isn't completely repaired! (That's another issue entirely: it was NOT a "superstorm", but a fairly typical 500 year storm, as evidenced by the sedimentological record in the area. But try telling that to a climate change True Believer...)

Gus Van Horn said...


I would go so far as to say that disasters merely underscore the impracticality of top-down planning, which is also ineffective under normal economic circumstances. The incomplete recovery, years after Sandy, exemplifies this. Indeed, the moral hazard this creates impedes response and recovery, as we also saw with Katrina.