Monday, August 29, 2011

Walmart vs. FEMA in hurricane relief

That picture shows Hurricane Irene poised to assault the US Eastern Seaboard. The cleanup is ongoing at the time of this posting. The destruction, while bad enough, is not as bad as it might have been. Warnings came from POTUS Obama himself, from various State Governors, and from a slew of lessor officials. As usual, private commercial television news broadcasters carried the entire event live and round-the-clock, for the benefit of casual viewers, and those directly affected by the storm. The broadcasters disseminated the official warnings and trotted out their own expert commentators providing what amounted to a free service for all concerned.
By and large the cleanup is local, as it should be, but of course Federal and State government agencies will provide some of the assistance because the political "optics" require such help, whether needed or not. The whole thing is reminiscent of a similar hurricane disaster in 2005, Katrina. That storm, which resulted in widespread destruction around New Orleans, showed just how out-of-touch a top-down federal government agency, FEMA, could be with respect to its primary purpose. FEMA has been rightly criticized for its raison d'ĂȘtre today, in the case of Irene, and for it's handling of Katrina. Steven Horwitz has an interesting perspective in this video, on the way a private company Walmart, was in many ways more effective than FEMA:

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