Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mickey Kaus inadvertently demonstrates the old adage "hard cases make bad law" by arguing in favor of a total demolishment of the federal system in the light of the problems with the Katrina response. This is the same panicky paternalism which brought us the municipal governmental reform movement after the 1900 Galveston hurricane, and thus, inadvertently and indirectly, a whole phalanx of rotten Progressive ideas like direct election of senators, referenda and recall, and the elitist habit of policy-by-unelected-commission.

Policy in reaction to disaster and catastrophe is the very reason conservatives exist. There is a serious argument that the Department of Homeland Security bureaucratic reorganization driven by the reaction to the *last* catastrophe was largely responsible for the disorganized and scatterbrained FEMA response this time around. The reaction to the 1927 floods drove the construction of all the massive river levees which have helped gut the southeastern Louisiana wetlands which used to partially protect the region from this sort of disaster.

In a federal system, where one of the state elements of the system proves itself in a time of crisis to be nonfunctional, while other state elements are marginally or mostly functional and the federal element is marginally functional, the answer is not to trash the system and come up with a new idea. For one thing, the friction of politics and the dynamics of large groups guarantees that your new system will be utterly untested and half-implemented by the time of the next disaster. For another thing, you don't repair a car which has blown a tire by buying another car. You either get a new tire, or patch the punctured one.

Louisiana has always been a problem state. It's the only Napoleonic state in the Union. Its corruption is legendary. It is notably poor. Louisiana's state election dynamics during my lifetime have been notable for their "racist" versus "corrupt" dichotomies - remember "vote for the crook - it's important"? In what other state in the Union is there a viable, overtly racist electoral option? I mean, other than the Al Sharpton Dog & Pony Revue...

Anyways, the national government can't just take over a state government and install a new one. That's almost as impractical as Kaus's New Union proposal. But the people of Louisiana might want to think it over, and in a serious manner. In the 'laboratory of democracy", I'd call Louisiana's experiment a fairly instructive failure.

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