Skip to comments.The 'compassion' racket (FreeRepublic pulls article by noted conservative Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 09/08/2004 8:05:04 AM PDT by Servant of the 9
Our hearts automatically go out to the people of Florida, who are being battered by a series of hurricanes in rapid succession. But we have brains as well as hearts -- and the time is long overdue to start using them.
Hurricanes come through Florida every year about this time. And, every year, politicians get to parade their compassion by showering the taxpayers' money on the places that have been struck.
What would happen if they didn't?
First of all, not as many people would build homes in the path of a well-known disaster that comes around like clockwork virtually every year. Those who did would buy insurance that covers the costs of the risks they choose to take.
That insurance would not be cheap -- which would provide yet another reason for people to locate out of harm's way. The net result would be fewer lives lost and less property damage. Is it not more compassionate to seek this result, even if it would deprive politicians of television time?
In ABC reporter John Stossel's witty and insightful book "Give Me A Break," he discusses how he built a beach house with only "a hundred feet of sand" between him and the ocean. It gave him a great view -- and a great chance of disaster.
His father warned him of the danger but an architect pointed out that the government would pick up the tab if anything happened to his house. A few years later, storm-driven ocean waves came in and flooded the ground floor of Stossel's home. The government paid to have it restored.
Still later, the waves came in again, and this time took out the whole house. The government paid again. Fortunately for the taxpayers, Stossel then decided that enough was enough.
In politics, throwing the taxpayers' money at disasters is supposed to show your compassion. But robbing Peter to pay Paul is not compassion. It is politics.
The crucial fact is that a society does not have one dime more money to devote to the resources available to help victims of natural disasters by sending that money through government agencies. All that it does is change the incentives in such a way as to subsidize risky behavior.
The same money can just as well come through insurance companies. Even if most insurance companies are unwilling to insure people living in particularly vulnerable areas, or living in homes that are inadequate to withstand hurricane-force winds, there are always insurers who specialize in high risks -- and who charge correspondingly higher premiums.
Lloyds of London, for example, has already been moving into the market for insurance for homes costing half a million dollars or more and located along coastal waters, whether in Florida or the Hamptons or elsewhere. If rich people want to put their mansions at risk, there is no reason why they shouldn't pay the costs, instead of forcing the taxpayers to pay those costs.
What about "the poor"? As in so many other cases, the poor are the human shields behind which big-government advocates advance. If you are seriously concerned about the poor themselves, you can always subsidize them and avoid subsidizing others by having means tests.
Means tests are anathema to the political left because that puts an end to their game of hiding behind the poor. Compassion is a laudable feeling but it can also be a political racket.
As with so many government programs that people have come to rely on, phasing out state and federal disaster relief programs would not be easy. In an election year, it is impossible.
Fortunately, there are years in between elections, in which it is at least theoretically possible to talk sense. Whether the risks are hurricanes, earthquakes, floods or forest fires, people who have gotten themselves out on a limb by taking risks in the expectation that the government will bail them out can be gradually weaned away from that expectation by phasing out disaster relief.
The alternative is to keep on forcing taxpayers to be patsies forever, while politicians bask in the glow of the compassion racket by throwing the taxpayers' money hither and yon, while the media applaud the courage of those who rebuild in the path of known disasters.
©2004 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
I have no objection to government help for the unexpected, hurricaines in California or earthquakes in Florida fall into that category.
I don't at all understand why the government should bail out people who built houses they Knew would be soon destroyed.
I lived most of my life on the Gulf Coast and during the '50s and '60s most everyone got along fine without hurricaine/flood insurance. You either built strong enough to survive, or you built cheap enough the loss was no big deal, or you found a relatively safe piece of ground, but you didn't expect to rp off your fellow citizens to repair your stupidity.
That is probably the case here, I would bet.
If they pulled it, it was probably because it was previously posted. Everyone loves Sowell around here.
Is this Breaking?!?!?!?!?
Why was this article previously pulled? It's an excellent article, and Sowell is right on, as usual.
The Russian River in California floods often, and homes are lost every time. And these people get government help and they rebuild right in the same place. Why should we pay for that?
Your mind boggles too easily. It was pulled as a duplicate.
I don't think there was anything with the content that was objectionable. I would have to guess - and guess is the only thing I can do as I'm not in any way connected with FR mgmt - it was not a content issue.
That said, Sowell rocks. I love him in print and even more so when he's on the radio. VERY smart and direct man.
It is already posted and a duplicate was pulled
I don't understand why victims of the '93 Flood weren't allowed to rebuild in known flood plains but hurricane victims are allowed to rebuild in known areas of hurricane activity.
Why the weather double standard?
How about the "dumb" that build on or near the fault lines in CA????? There is no correct answer, no good answer.
Can you please put in on this????
My apologies. ordinarily a thread pulled as a duplicate says so, and includes a link to the original thread.
You are a faster typist than I am!!!!
Another big government FReeper. Can you show me the article in the Constitution that empowers the government to do such a thing?
Any other snide remarks you wish to boggle our minds with????
Hey, So9...I get boggled sometimes myself..
I live in flood country. The government got tired of paying for homes along the Mississippi and bought up the homes and properties. Seems like an alternative to me.
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