Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina blame game not to be settled any time soon

Every few generations, the political boundary lines in the United States shift. The most recent shift began in the 1950's and 1960's as the conservative movement gained steam and redefined the Republican and Democratic parties. The two major political philosophies that rule the roost today are the Liberal and Conservative philosphies. When looking at each in the big picture, a few generalizations can be made. Generally speaking, Liberals believe that there are many things that people cannot do for themselves, which leads to their belief in strong central government involvement in people's lives. Conservatives, on the other hand (again, generally speaking), believe that choices, governmental decisions, and responsibility should be on the most local level possible. And given those generalities, it is easy to see the fault lines between Liberals and Conservatives on Hurricane Katrina. From the Liberal point of view, it was the Federal Government's responsibility to make sure that all was right for everyone, not that of the locals. From the Conservative point of view, the Feds have a role, but the initial response to disaster is the responsibility of the local and state governments. So until the political boundaries shift again one day, most scholarship on Katrina will fall into one camp or the other, and therefore nothing will be resolved.

Interestingly, one thing that may get over looked is the impact of political philosophies on the Katrina aftermath. If their had been Conservative/Republican government in Louisiana and Democratic leadership at the Federal level, this may have never been an issue. The conservatives at the local level would have worked locally to take care of their constituents until Federal relief could arrive. In the current situation, the state and local governments in Louisiana looked immediately to the Feds for help, assuming that the Feds could, would, and should make everything right, without taking control of the situation on the ground themselves. On the flip side, the Federal Government looked to Louisiana to take care of itself as Mississippi has tried to do while the Federal relief effort kicked into gear. The two political philosphies clashed and created a vacuum in leadership during the early days of the crisis. The Feds looked to the local Louisiana governments to take care of things in the short term, and the local Louisiana governments abdicated responsibility with the expectation that the Feds would make everything a-okay, right away. If there is a big lesson to be learned, it is probably that the philosphical differences between the local, state, and Federal governments led to everyone having different expectations of the other, and in the end, a certain paralysis setting in.

No comments: