Thoughts on New Orleans

I’ve just spoken with my sister, who is (or was) a home- and small business-owner in New Orleans and who has found temporary refuge in Memphis, Tennesee. Soon I hope to be able to pass along some of her thoughts. In the meantime, here are mine:

A couple of weeks ago, we were posting about Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” theory. In the interval, the evidence has been piling up: History is still with us. In fact, it can seem an awful lot like we’re reliving the history of the Roman Empire, with troops returning from the farthest reaches of the empire to quell unrest at home:

The governor of Louisiana: “These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets.”

One thing that hasn’t changed in the last 2,000 years is that a regime of bread and circuses (or of their modern equivalents, public assistance and trashy TV and music) reliably produces a miserably poor and highly dangerous underclass.

There are times and places when there is simply no substitute for the decent, competent behavior that people learn by being responsible for themselves and their own families, and that they tend to lose when they think of their own basic needs as somebody else’s problem. There are situations in which the habits bred by dependency can mean people die who otherwise would live.

One of those situations is when you’re in a crowd of desperate, hungry, and dehydrated people waiting for a helicopter to land with food and water.

Our underclass has been told a lot of lies:

  • You’re poor because other people are rich; they owe you
  • Sleeping with a woman doesn’t oblige you to assume the responsibilities of a husband and a father
  • The government will always take care of you.

Telling people lies is never cost-free. Right now we’re seeing how high the cost of these particular lies can be.


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