In Sandy's Wake: Stories Statists Need to Explain


When natural disasters strike, so do the statists. That’s when we hear the familiar refrain that the job of recovery is simply too big for private efforts, that the federal government must come to the rescue, even though whatever the government spends is money that it must take—now or later—from private efforts.

What we hear less often are stories of heroic, private initiatives in the face of disaster. FEE has published such stories in the past. Here are a few of them:



That’s just a sample from the extensive, online archives of articles FEE has published in The Freeman and other venues. For a more extensive roster, just key the words “disaster relief” into the search engine at and you’ll find many more.

There’s another side of the disaster relief story that deserves more attention as well, and that’s the part about government failure—of waste and incompetence, of obstruction of private aid, of callous indifference to the losses of the victims. Anybody who thinks that government disaster relief is nothing but good intentions and good results should ponder this small selection of stories in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeastern United States in late October 2012:



And of course, who can forget the federal fiasco of Hurricane Katrina, just seven years ago, neatly summarized here by the Cato Institute’s David Boaz, and encapsulated in the saga of the ice-that-never-made-it as explained here in The New York Times?

Keep this handy. There’ll be another Sandy. And when it hits, the statists will twit, “More government will be just dandy.”

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. (Thanks to Chesterton Cobb, a 2012 FEE summer intern, for his research assistance in the preparation of this piece.)



Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s. Prior to becoming FEE’s president, he served for 20 years as president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan. He also taught economics full-time from 1977 to 1984 at Northwood University in Michigan and chaired its department of economics from 1982 to 1984.

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