Disaster Relief

For many people, it seems cruel to suggest that government money to help Americans in time of natural disasters is not money well spent. Yet there are important institutional limits in play that prevent these programs from being as effective as many would like. For one thing, disaster insurance necessarily and unfairly forces some Americans to pay for others to live in ways they might not otherwise choose to, such as in areas prone to be hit by earthquake or floods, which actually increases the chances of people and property being caught in the middle of a natural disaster.

Another problem comes when government tries to come in and deal with the aftermath of a disaster. Most Americans remember the bureaucratic bumbling and even inhumane treatment of innocent people that characterized the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, this is a nearly inevitable result of government management of a disaster area. As under normal conditions, the best way to encourage people to help one another in need and to rebuild what was destroyed is to allow them to cooperate in peace and freedom through their families, communities, and market institutions.

Learn more about Disaster Relief problems and solutions:

“Disaster Aid: Federal Proposal Might Help Florida but Not California”
Eli Lehrer (San Jose Mercury News) March 1, 2013

“A Government Imposed Disaster: Price Controls in the Wake of Sandy”
Benjamin W. Powell (The Huffington Post) November 5, 2012

“It’s Time to Get Rid of FEMA”
Emily C. Skarbek and David B. Skarbek (The Atlantic) September 12, 2011

“Disaster Relief as Bad Public Policy”
William F. Shughart (The Independent Review) Spring 2011

“Wal-Mart to the Rescue: Private Enterprise’s Response to Hurricane Katrina”
Steven Horwitz (The Independent Review) Spring 2009

“FEMA’s Expansion Threatens Charitable Competition”
Mary Theroux (The Beacon) September 25, 2008

“Public and Private Responses to Katrina: What Can We Learn?”
Mary L. G. Theroux (Chief Executive Organization’s Women’s Seminar) October 20, 2005

See Also:

More at the Independent Institute on Disaster Relief