Sunday, March 29, 2009

Post No. 99: Should the Response to Natural Disasters be Left to the Private Sector?



We recently asked our readers to submit possible topics for discussion, and we received numerous responses. We've posted two of them thus far. Here is the third, which actually consists of three separate questions:

"The State of North Dakota is experiencing record flood levels. It appears that many ordinary citizens are pitching in to help, and that's admirable. However, in light of all of the discussion these days about the role of government, and what government can and should do, and what it does and does not do well, I ask the following three questions:

"Should the free market forces of capitalism be allowed to operate in connection with this event?

"Why should the citizens of other states have to foot the bill if a federal emergency declaration is sought, and have their tax dollars used to address this situation, when it does not directly affect them?

"What's the difference between bailing out people who made poor decisions regarding their mortgages, and people who decided to live near a river, which had the potential to overflow?"

59 comments:

  1. There are many who suffered the ravages of Katrina, more than three years ago, whose issues still have not been addressed. To the extent that federal tax dollars are used, should those dollars be used to continue the Katrina recovery projects prior to spending money on the North Dakota citizens?

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  2. Government should not respond to the people affected by the flooding any more than government should be involved in health care. People are generally responsible for living in the area in which they live. That's a choice.

    People are also generally responsible for their health. That's a choice. It's not the responsibility of government to bail out people who have made poor choices leading to their situation.

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  3. Sometimes, Reggie, I think we have to look at the constitution and ask ourselves whether a given federal activity is warranted based on the constitutional order. In the case of response to local natural disasters, in my opinion, it is probably not a legitimate federal activity. Remember-- limited, enumerated powers assigned to the federal government, the rest delegated to the states or the people.

    In practical terms, I think the states are much better positioned to respond.

    But if we disagree with the constitutional order, perhaps we need to amend it in some way.

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  4. Very interesting Joe. Very interesting, and rarely discussed. Good point. We'll have to think on it further. We learn something new to consider every day.

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  6. Logistician,

    This is a tough one.

    On one hand, we all dislike spending our tax dollars on natural disasters, the results of which might (or might not) have been avoidable.

    On the other hand, allowing abject opportunists disguised as capitalists to swoop in and make an absolute killing by exploiting the misfortune of others really does not seem to embody the charitable essence of our once-great nation, now does it?

    Obviously, this is an oversimplified approach to a complex situation. Indeed, the government has now set a "benchmark" of sorts by bailing out industries which allowed their own boats to founder. Right or wrong, how can we now possibly justify denying anything to anyone in distress after that display of ill-conceived largesse? I fear that this “newly-precedented” moral obligation to say "Yes!" with nonexistent taxpayer dollars will be our troubled nation's final undoing.

    Jeff Dreibus

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  7. I considered a similar debate (internally, of course) when someone brought up an earmark in the last spending bill which was something like $25 million to fight a recurring agricultural pest that affects only 4 states. I thought... "Why couldn't those states pool their resources and create a common fund to deal with the problem? Why do they turn to DC for the money?"

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  8. You're absolute right Jeff. This is a tough one. Should precedent be followed, or should we change the manner in which we respond to this when people might have expectations that the government will come to their rescue? Is this the time to draw the line and say no?

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  9. You raise a very legitimate point Douglas, with respect to earmarks. Why, in theory, should any federal funds be used for anything which does not have a national impact, or affect all states?

    Should federal elected officials be precluded from dipping into the federal till and funneling funds to their respective home states for any purpose at all?

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  10. You know what's interesting to me? I check out this blog every now and then to see what people are talking about? I usually avoid making a comment since some people feel that it is acceptable to attack someone personally, or insult their intelligence, simply because they disagree with them.

    There are some topics where there's nothing but ranting and emotional raving, and little objective analysis, and others where it is clear that people are actually thinking through issues. Sometimes it's the same people. What's funny is that it is usually an either or situation, and not a combination of both approaches.

    This is one bizarre site.

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  11. Should people not be allowed to live along the Gulf Coast, or in southern Florida, because of the possibility of hurricanes? Should people not be allowed to live in California because of the possibility of earthquake, wild fires, and mud slides? Should people not be allowed to live in the plains states because of the frequency of tornados?
    The question of would ask with regard to federal aid to disaster areas is, are the states economically able to adequately provide for the needs of persons left stranded homeless and perhaps jobless, after a natural disaster?
    I don't know the answer. Perhaps some are and some are not, depending on the number of people and businesses affected. It seems to be the case that federal aid was necessary in the case of Katrina, but that it has been badly managed. But Katrina was badly managed locally before it was badly managed federally. Where does one go from there?

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  12. Nice itemization of issues Rodak. In each instance, people are aware of the risks in their respective areas prior to settling there, or they have the option to move and not subject themselves to that particular risk.

    Should taxpayer money be used at all to address conditions of which citizen are aware before it affects them?

    What policy principle can we extract from all of this?

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  13. Log, in some cases, people are aware of the dangers of where they live. Insurance companies refusing to write policies for homes along hurricane prone coasts, for example, or making the cost of that insurance so prohibitive that few are able to afford it. Same with flood insurance. Still, they try to find a way to live there because the area is otherwise desirable (and we humans have a way of ignoring danger for selfish reasons). When disaster happens, as it usually does, they seek assistance from a "Deep Pocket" (the federal government). This was illustrated quite nicely in New Orleans. As Rodak pointed out, the problems were at the local, state, and federal levels. Some of these started well before Katrina hit (federal money for improving the dikes was diverted to other projects, for example, a decade before Katrina hit). New Orleans will eventually be as populated as it was before Katrina hit. The more years pass without another major hurricane, the less real the danger will seem.

    Do we want government to be able to dictate where we live?

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  14. Those of you who advocated that the government should not bail out the AIG, the auto companies, and those with bad mortgages, and that they should be allowed to simply fail, is that same principle applicable to the natural disaster scenario?

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  15. Logistician,

    As one of those who did not generally support the corporate bailouts, I suggest that it would have seemed less inhumane to say "No!" to disaster aid had we not first allocated huge sums to those who were drowning in their own financial muck.

    By so doing, I fear that we have now set an irrevocable moral imperative which can only lead to federal bankruptcy if honored and to anarchy if neglected.

    And the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again!

    Your thoughts?

    Jeff Dreibus

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  16. The Federal government should absolutely step in to help respond to natural disasters. When a state is dealing with something, the other states can help them out. ND residents helped when Katrina happened, and LA residents can now help us. Citizens of the US expect the government to help them in times of natural disaster.

    That being said, the government should not need to be part of the recovery efforts. Rebuilding roads and bridges? That's what our tax dollars are there for. Rebuilding your house that's in a known flood plain? That's why you have insurance.

    The government should keep us safe and protect us, but should not hand out money because you didn't use common sense. The Red River has flooded before, you should know not to build your house so close to it. New Orleans was built below sea level, you should've known that was going to go bad on you someday. The government will get you to safety, get you some food and shelter for awhile, but beyond that it's on us.

    ~Shawn K (@thattalldude)

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  17. Jeff: Inhumanity? Interesting point on which to turn the determination. In theory, in each instance, people had a choice BEFORE the governmental assistance became an issue.

    As you are aware, we think in terms of governance and systems in analyzing what to do.

    There has to be a limit to everything. Few things are infinite on Earth. Most resources can be depleted.

    We're big fans of consistency in treatment.

    We're also big fans of internal consistency in terms of reasons given for taking any action.

    This might be a good time to draw the line that needs to be drawn at some point. One might consider cutting off all government entitlement programs such as welfare, social security, MediCare and MediCaid, all at the same time, and denying federal assistance to the flood victims, along with terminating the payments to Katrina folks. It would signal a new day.

    Expectations would change dramatically. To some extent, citizens and their governments are enablers in a dysfunctional, unproductive relationship.

    Contrary to many, we do not view those receiving government assistance as shiftless and lazy, and leeches on society. They've just figured out a way to "muddle through." It's just not a lifestyle which is universally accepted. (Contrary to making money off of imaginary transactions, or gambling on whether others will fail.) Their receipt of benefits does not make them bad people as a group (although many seem to think so), and many who really need assistance get lumped in with those who do not have a legitimate need.

    However, to eliminate the underlying system distributing the entitlements would terminate the debate, and get us focused on more meaningful pursuits. It's always better to avoid having a segment of your society ostracized, if one can avoid it.

    We recognize that this is brutal. Really brutal, and definitely not humane. However, better to address a cancer when it is localized in one part of the body, before it metastasizes and engulfs the entire body and chokes the life out of it.

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  18. Very interesting points Shawn K, and welcome to the forum. Good stuff, and fertile talking points.

    What policy should we distill from all of this, with respect to responding to those who are suffering from a bad occurrence, about which they theoretically knew the potential dangers in advance?

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  19. Shawn K, we've been thinking further about your suggestion that states assist one another. Hmmmm. Maybe that is done on a case-by-case basis. Hmmhh. Something to consider. Maybe there could be regional alliances.

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  20. Back in the "olden days"--before the advent of conservative talk radio, so to speak--when a farmer's barn burned down (as barns were apt to do), the neighboring farmers pooled their resources, gathered together, packed their picnic baskets, loaded the kids into wagons, and went over to the distressed farmer's place and had a barn raising--it was considered the thing to do.
    Of course, we're smarter than that now--isn't we?

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  21. We thought of another way in which to view this scenario: the old "state's rights" versus "federal interests" model. Theoretically, with "state's rights" come "state's responsibilities." Assuming that a government responds on behalf of its citizens, should that governmental response be limited to the state and local governments where the natural disaster took place? Do you realistically think that once the federal government collects just 1 penny of the taxpayers' money, that taxpayers will be able to comprehend or accept, on a case by case basis, that the federal government has no responsibility to use its coffers to assist them?

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  22. Logistician,

    In practical terms, how workable do you believe to be the proposal which you outlined in your last response to me? If it were in fact implemented, anarchy would ensue. The resultant violence would make the French Revolution look like a peaceful protest. I believe that I would be motivated to move abroad for the “duration”.

    For good or for ill, our two most recent national elections indicate an overwhelming popular mandate to advance the nanny state, not to reduce/eliminate it. That being the case, how do you believe that your proposal would be received by a majority of your fellow citizens? As a barometer, try publishing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper which mirrors your response to me and see what type of reaction you inspire. The people want “action” from their government, which translates not-so-roughly to being showered by a blizzard of federal bucks. If that expectation should suddenly be dashed, watch out.

    No reduction, never mind elimination, of federal largesse will occur under the nation’s current leadership; indeed, it will only expand as we have recently seen. I usually try to stay within the realm of the theoretical on this blog (which is what I sense that you prefer), but the above-outlined gorilla-in-the-corner is just too big to ignore. Sometimes, practical implications unavoidably transcend the theoretical ideal.

    Jeff Dreibus

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  23. People pay taxes and they expect services in return, whether those services be for themselves or for other groups of people which they see to be requiring assistance. I don't see the problem.

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  24. Jeff: We thought it only appropriate to direct that theoretical solution, which you suggest might cause anarchy, TO YOU.

    On the front of your blog appears the following phrase:

    "Well boys, are you ready to commence the third American revolution?

    Ah hah! Now the word practical enters the discussion. You're actually correct in that once extended, it is awfully difficult to withdraw.

    But you see Jeff, you're a thinking man. You've sorted this thing out in your head. Even though the current trend goes against your principles, you recognize it for what it is and you are apparently trying to deal with it in some pragmatic manner.

    We're not quite sure that is the case with a substantial segment of the population. We get a sense that there is a pretty angry contingent out there about to explode, as long as the debate about the governance model continues.

    This really, in our opinion, is more of a culture/class clash. Think about it: the arguments about the governance model center around "how will I get want I want" and "how will I retain what I've accumulated." It's really about property rights, and those who have versus those who want.

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  25. Jeff: What about phased elimination of entitlements five years at a time, so that people have time to adjust?

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  26. Rodak: Very good point about the expectations of people once they pay taxes, and the willingness of some, perhaps not all, to have their tax dollars be used to assist others outside of their group or state.


    What if federally collected tax dollars were only designated for the military, and foreign aid, and the post office, and the patent office, and the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Coast Guard, and the FDIC, and the ...

    Jeez, we imagine that we have lots of national interests to address... Hmmm

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  27. Those who have vs. those who want doesn't interest me in the slightest.
    Those who have vs. those who need, however, does.

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  28. "One might consider cutting off all government entitlement programs such as welfare, social security, MediCare and MediCaid, all at the same time, and denying federal assistance to the flood victims, along with terminating the payments to Katrina folks. It would signal a new day.
    ******************************
    Expectations would change dramatically. To some extent, citizens and their governments are enablers in a dysfunctional, unproductive relationship." Yes! Yes! Yes! This describes our social system exactly.

    As for the first quote we will be seeing this happen with in the next decade or less as the federal government finally goes bankrupt. We have seen this happen now to several countries during this "crisis".

    Iceland was the first to go and it was considered a wealthy country. The population however was much like ours in that they had to have "stuff", all kinds of "stuff". They like us had a severe case of Affluenza with much debt and little savings.

    Russia went bankrupt in the late 1980's from the population being on the government dole. Of course the government owned much of the industry and therefore was expected to have the funds to provide for the population. The only thing that kept Russia going as long as it did was selling arms to third world countries. When that outlet dried up for a time the false economy collapsed.

    The countries who have dealings with the United States are positioning themselves now to allow the dollar to fail. The G20 conference will not go well for Obama. It was the actions of the financial institutions in the United States and lack of oversight by our Congress that got the world into this mess and they don't see what Obama is doing as getting the world out of the mess. The common belief is that a country can not spend itself out of a depression as we are trying to do. All that is being accomplished is the devaluation of the dollar in which many countries are invested. Many foreign governments have for years invested in the US dollar in an effort to prop our economy up. I believe this is about to come to an end. One, because now most can not afford to prop another country up, and two, if India or China should decide to cash in their T-Bills that would start a panic run and it would be all over for the United States.

    Then poof, no more government handouts and no more entitlements.


    One other comment and I am out of here: When Michigan led the parade and then Clinton got on board and cut the welfare rolls people did not die of starvation in the streets and the homeless rate did not go up substantially. People learned to cope and take care of themselves without the dole. BB

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  29. Oh my, here I am again. Just re-read the original topic and need to address that.

    It is not the federal governments place to respond to any natural disaster! That role should be left to the local authorities first and then to the states.

    Florida where I lived for some years has had its share of hurricanes. In fact when Katrina hit New Orleans Florida had three hurricanes one right after another. Because there is a federal government dole for natural disasters the governor always declares the state or portion of the state a natural disaster so that these funds can be applied for. But the state, local authorities and people affected takes care of what needs done.

    During Hurricane Andrew when everything for miles was totally wiped out there were no cries for The government to come in. As far as the eye could see was a total waste land! The governor called out the National Guard the same day and they left the next day to go down and set up soup kitchens, health clinics and help the local police to see that no "scalpers" were operating to take advantage of people. Then people from all over the stated volunteered their services or sent food, clothing and medical supplies. My son was in the National Guard after just getting out the Army and starting a new job when he was called out. He went down as a cook for six weeks. My neighbor was an electrician and he took his three weeks vacation time and went down to get electricity back in the areas that were just "side swiped' by the hurricane. That's just how it is done and I believe the way it should be done.

    The state later applied for the federal disaster aid to be re-inbursed for what was spent. But you know, Florida made it very well before the disaster aid from the federal government became available and it certainly could again.

    This is what is happening in North Dakota now. The people are taking care of themselves. BB

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  30. Logistician,

    Congratulations: you get it. You understand that the quote beneath my blog photo is in reality an exercise in rhetorical hyperbole, used primarily to establish a certain blog theme -- not to incite an insurrection. From previous comments which I have made on this site, you know that I genuinely don't want to see an all-out revolution begin on the morrow; it would really mess up my plans for retirement.

    Your proposal for a graduated phase-out of the nanny state sounds do-able, but I still contend that it would take politicians with unimaginable fortitude to make it happen. See how fast the 535 and 50 Congressional blind mice run when someone suggests a program to gradually phase out Socialist Security, or to make participation in the program voluntary. You would think that they had been asked to water ski naked in the Reflecting Pool!

    Jeff Dreibus

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  32. As the question was not should the Federal government respond but rather should such response be only from the private sector then my answer is NO. Of course the magnitude of the disaster has a lot to do with who will be involved and I am not saying the private sector should NOT be involved but to expect the private sector to be able to handle all natural disaters without any governmental help is daft.

    The issue has also been raised about people who put themselves in harm's way anticipating aid from the government. That is quite a different matter. It should be made very clear to those who return to an area known to be a flood zone/wildfire area/mudslide area etc that no Federal insurance will be made available to them if they build or re-build in those areas. Ye pays yer money any ye takes yer chances but don't expect the taxpayers to pay for your gamble.

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  33. Hi Jeff-You speak of Socialist Security. Do you know and have spoken at length to people who lived in the US before Social Security? Not such a golden era. I'm not speaking of the Great Depression either, I'm talking about old age before the safety net. Having grown up in the 1950's and having been one of those odd kids who loved to talk to grown-up more than to kids my own age I heard a whole lot about life and old age in an earlier era. I doubt very much that the majority of Americans would want to return to that kind of life.

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  34. June and Rodak,

    You have proven my point: if the citizenry reacts with horror at the prospect of laying the prototypical hoary old Ponzi scheme to rest, imagine the outrage of the perpetual "victim" class at the notion of doing away with all of the other service counters in the "free candy" store.

    I wouldn't worry; you won't find a Senator, Congressman or President with cojones nearly big enough to gore any of the sacred cows -- now, OR after the U.S. Treasury is finally forced to admit that it is bankrupt.

    Jeff Dreibus

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  35. It has yet to be shown that it is possible to have a society based on "free market capitalism" where the wealth does not gradually become accumulated at the top of the pyramid. To keep that from happening, capitalism has to be continuously reined in by government. Monopoly is the default effect of a well-run captialistic enterprise. By the same token, the welfare state needs constant tinkering, or it begins to sink under its own weight and becomes inefficient in serving the needs of those it is meant to serve. Without representative govrenment, and--yes--without bureaucracies, what you end up with is an oligarchical plutocracy: rule by the few (who are the rich, but not the wise.) Purists on either side are just yapping at shadows.

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  36. This article by Christopher Hitchens may shed some light on facets of this discussion:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200904/hitchens-marx

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  37. Jeff- Had our government ( under both Republican and Democratic administrations ) not raided the Social Security fund for purposes other than the designated one then it would not be in trouble. The concept of taking money from employee and employer to set aside for the future is not in itself a "Ponzi" scheme. No one is being misled.Social Security is exactly what it claims to be: A mandatory transfer payment system under which current workers are taxed on their incomes to pay benefits, with no promises of huge returns.Played out to its logical conclusion, a Ponzi scheme is unsustainable because the number of potential investors is eventually exhausted. Well unless you forsee a time where we have no more population the glove does not fit. I recognize that the Boomers are retiring and they did not have as many children as their parents but unlike Japan the US has had massivie immigration, much of it LEGAL, and those folks are helping to make up the shortfall in numbers. No, the problem with Social Security is not the design. It is a combination of the fund having been raided and the raising of life expectancy. BTW, one of the fixes is to raise the age at which people begin to collect so that the number of years they collect remain far less than the number of years they contributed. Social Security was not meant to be the sole source of income for the elderly. It was designed as a safety net to prevent homelessness and starvation. May I say your designation of people as a "victim" class speaks volumes of your view of life. It shows both a profound lack of empathy as well as a belief that you and yours could never need (not just want)a helping hand.

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  38. June,

    Whether or not it was conceived as a Ponzi scheme, it is nonetheless that into which it has evolved. And in this instance, it does not have the private sector's fingerprints anywhere upon it: proof that the government can, in some instances, screw-up royally all on its ownsome.

    I would delve more deeply into the issue, but it seems as thought we have veered acutely off-topic. Perhaps our host would like to introduce this mater as a separate discussion at some future point. Or perhaps he has examined this explosive topic long before I arrived and has no desire to again light its fuse . . .

    Jeff Dreibus

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  39. Jeff: We were only jesting about the anarchy and revolutionary stuff. All in fun. You don't strike us an extremist.

    We'll mention something which we do consider do-able. That is for the American citizens to vote out every single sitting politician in the federal government. Every single one.

    That would send a message. And we think that it can be done.

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  40. (sigh)

    " . . . seems as THOUGH . . . "

    I really must begin availing myself of the "Preview" button.

    We have "Spell-Check"; why can't we have "This-Sentence-Makes-No-Damn-Sense" check?

    Jeff Dreibus

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  41. Rodak: You are the "voice of reason" for the month. We hadn't considered the counterbalancing forces of free enterprise and government, although we recognized the tension.

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  42. June, in support of Jeff's characterization of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme, one other aspect of the scheme is that new payors subsidize the payments to old payors. Let's take a 88 year old WWII vet. If one looks at all of his contributions into the system, and adds interest, is he legitimately entitled to the amount of current value payments in relation to his contributions? We honestly do not know. However, it is an issue which needs to be addressed.

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  43. We hadn't considered the counterbalancing forces of free enterprise and government, although we recognized the tension.

    To paraphrase how Hitchens says it in the article for which I provided the link above, the fundamental locus of that tension is the point between what the miner is paid for his labor and the actual worth of his labor to the mine owner. From that point on, things get very complicated.

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  44. Someone please articulate for us why any individual citizen in this country, having reached adulthood, would theoretically require the services or benefits of a "safety net?"

    How does a "safety net" differ from a "bailout?"

    Why should one group or category of citizens receive the benefit of a "safety net," and others not?

    Shouldn't we all be required to suffer the negative consequences of our choices, and be left to fail or fend for ourselves if we make poor decisions of any sort? Won't that teach us not to make poor decisions again, and change behavior?

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  45. Douglas: You brought up an interesting point about how society addresses some risks. What if, instead of having government respond to calamities or risks that its citizens encounter, everyone was left to acquire private insurance from the private sector to address ALL risks? Would that be fair and equitable?

    Are there any complications (negative in nature) which potentially might flow from that approach? What about the positive ramifications, if any? Would it dramatically change behavior?

    If there are certain risks which we feel it is better to have the government address versus being left to the private sector, how would you describe the two different groups of risks, or possibly three or four?

    In the same way in which babies are gradually weaned off of getting their milk from a bottle or a mother's breasts, couldn't society gradually be weaned off of receiving government assistance over time?

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  46. Rodak has left a new comment on your post "Post No. 99: Should the Response to Natural Disas...":

    "Those who have vs. those who want doesn't interest me in the slightest. Those who have vs. those who need, however, does."

    You're too sharp for us Rodak. We purposedly used "want" to highlight the issue, waiting to see the response. Now that we on the issue of "need" versus "want," what percentage of government largesse in the form of entitlements, would you suspect is distributed to people who really do not "need" them, but accept them anyway? Should they, if they are loyal American patriots return the money if they really do not need it?

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  47. How does a "safety net" differ from a "bailout?"

    A safety net helps you survive a fall; a bailout helps you survive a flood. A fall is something that tends to happen to more or less isolated individuals; a flood tends to affect numerous inviduals simultaneously.
    Safety nets support individuals who, often through no fault of their own, finds themselves without sufficient income to take care of their personal and/or family NEEDS (not "wants.") The system can, of course, be "played" and there are some who spend their lives always looking foe a "git-over." But they don't live well, or happily, in my experience. Most people, offered a good job, will gratefully, even happily, take it and work it responsibly.

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  48. Brenda, regarding the bankruptcy of the federal government. We are aware of a couple of counties which have declared "bankruptcy," but not nations. Maybe we are too tied to the legal definitions of "insolvency" required to file formal bankruptcy. Doesn't a national government just keep printing money which it can not back up, thus devaluing the currency? If we are talking about formal bankruptcy, which definition of "insolvency" would you apply, the one that defines it as having more going out than coming in at a static point in time? If so, shouldn't we have declared "bankruptcy" long ago?

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  49. I used the word "bankrupt" loosely simply for communication purpose. To be specific, yes we have been insolvent actually since going off the gold standard. The point I was trying to make is that as the United States prints more and more dollars each dollar is devalued and at some point the dollar will be so devalued as to render us "bankrupt" as in "third world country" standard of living for most of the population.

    The wealthy will have moved their wealth away from the dollar into more solvent countries and investments. The world's wealthy individuals and countries are currently positioning themselves to move away from the dollar standard. IMO the next century will belong to Asia with the United States and Europe wallowing in it's increasingly degraded standard of living and equally 'degraded' citizenry. (France has already gotten there!)

    The United States (meaning the people) has lost it's vitality and it's striving for greatness which made for wealth accumulation. Not that we don't still have a large quota of vastly superior inventors because we are a free society where individuals are not forced to conform and therefore can as they say "think outside the box". However this very freedom of choice and lack of pressure to conform to a standard allows the population at large to choose the easier less stressful way. This in turn leads to a population under prepared and unwilling to use the invention. It is instead lost to other countries to develop and prosper from an American discovery. (the American verses the Japanese auto industry for a blatant example. There are so many more! Drugs are researched and "found" in the United States and developed on a successful commercial basis first in Germany and now in India. Computer technology was US invention but call Tech. Support and you are speaking to someone in India or the Philippines!)

    This is what I mean by bankruptcy. Our current President and Congress seem to be in the mood to accelerate this decline with their drive towards socialism. A system of government that has consistently failed it's adherents, and unfortunately those of us who are caught in the downward plunge regardless of our desires.

    To June and Rodak, I believe a wise government takes care of those who need and makes it possible for the rest to take care of themselves. The government we have been building since the Great Depression and the advent of Jeff's Socialist Security has been consistently putting roadblocks in the way of self-sufficiency. BB

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  50. Do population density, transportation access / infrastructure, and other geographical factors come into play with respect to the different manner in which people respond to disasters, or are there attitudinal/psychological factors which account for the differences in local response?

    Also, for those of you familiar with the major earthquakes in California, which struck San Francisco in roughly 1989, and Los Angeles in 1994, what accounted for the quick corrective response of the citizens there?

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  51. what accounted for the quick corrective response of the citizens there?

    Drills?

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  52. what accounted for the quick corrective response of the citizens there?

    Drills?

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  53. Very interesting points Shawn K, and welcome to the forum. Good stuff, and fertile talking points.

    What policy should we distill from all of this, with respect to responding to those who are suffering from a bad occurrence, about which they theoretically knew the potential dangers in advance?

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  54. The Federal government should absolutely step in to help respond to natural disasters. When a state is dealing with something, the other states can help them out. ND residents helped when Katrina happened, and LA residents can now help us. Citizens of the US expect the government to help them in times of natural disaster.

    That being said, the government should not need to be part of the recovery efforts. Rebuilding roads and bridges? That's what our tax dollars are there for. Rebuilding your house that's in a known flood plain? That's why you have insurance.

    The government should keep us safe and protect us, but should not hand out money because you didn't use common sense. The Red River has flooded before, you should know not to build your house so close to it. New Orleans was built below sea level, you should've known that was going to go bad on you someday. The government will get you to safety, get you some food and shelter for awhile, but beyond that it's on us.

    ~Shawn K (@thattalldude)

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  55. Government should not respond to the people affected by the flooding any more than government should be involved in health care. People are generally responsible for living in the area in which they live. That's a choice.

    People are also generally responsible for their health. That's a choice. It's not the responsibility of government to bail out people who have made poor choices leading to their situation.

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  56. Those who have vs. those who want doesn't interest me in the slightest.
    Those who have vs. those who need, however, does.

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  57. "One might consider cutting off all government entitlement programs such as welfare, social security, MediCare and MediCaid, all at the same time, and denying federal assistance to the flood victims, along with terminating the payments to Katrina folks. It would signal a new day.
    ******************************
    Expectations would change dramatically. To some extent, citizens and their governments are enablers in a dysfunctional, unproductive relationship." Yes! Yes! Yes! This describes our social system exactly.

    As for the first quote we will be seeing this happen with in the next decade or less as the federal government finally goes bankrupt. We have seen this happen now to several countries during this "crisis".

    Iceland was the first to go and it was considered a wealthy country. The population however was much like ours in that they had to have "stuff", all kinds of "stuff". They like us had a severe case of Affluenza with much debt and little savings.

    Russia went bankrupt in the late 1980's from the population being on the government dole. Of course the government owned much of the industry and therefore was expected to have the funds to provide for the population. The only thing that kept Russia going as long as it did was selling arms to third world countries. When that outlet dried up for a time the false economy collapsed.

    The countries who have dealings with the United States are positioning themselves now to allow the dollar to fail. The G20 conference will not go well for Obama. It was the actions of the financial institutions in the United States and lack of oversight by our Congress that got the world into this mess and they don't see what Obama is doing as getting the world out of the mess. The common belief is that a country can not spend itself out of a depression as we are trying to do. All that is being accomplished is the devaluation of the dollar in which many countries are invested. Many foreign governments have for years invested in the US dollar in an effort to prop our economy up. I believe this is about to come to an end. One, because now most can not afford to prop another country up, and two, if India or China should decide to cash in their T-Bills that would start a panic run and it would be all over for the United States.

    Then poof, no more government handouts and no more entitlements.


    One other comment and I am out of here: When Michigan led the parade and then Clinton got on board and cut the welfare rolls people did not die of starvation in the streets and the homeless rate did not go up substantially. People learned to cope and take care of themselves without the dole. BB

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