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September 5, 2005

Social Power vs. Government Failure: Doctors yes. Government no.

Hundreds of Doctors have rushed to New Orleans, but the government won’t let them inside the city. That’s crazy enough in itself, but did the government’s central planners ever plan for this non-centralized problem?

George Washington had it right from the very beginning: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. And like fire it is a dangerous servant and a horrible task master.”

The wisdom of Mr. Washington’s insight is being demonstrated daily in the streets of New Orleans. Government cannot rescue, it cannot cure, it cannot even provide law and order. But it can use force to keep help at bay.

The examples are pouring in so fast it may prove impossible to catalog them all. Consider this report of vast numbers of doctors being kept away from New Orleans by the federal government. Why? Because outside assistance might keep people from evacuating the area. Even assuming that this was a reasonable concern, which it isn’t, do the government planners have any plan for those who are too sick or hurt to evacuate?

When all of your plans are planned in one place by one entity, any mistakes in the plan become catastrophic. Whereas decentralized plans, and a decentralized response to disaster, do not fail due to any one mistake. And the problem is even worse when the centralized plan precludes all other plans. Such is the case in New Orleans.

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