The Political Economy of Hurricane Katrina and Community Rebound

The Political Economy of Hurricane Katrina and Community Rebound

New Thinking in Political Economy series

Edited by Emily Chamlee-Wright and Virgil Henry Storr

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina posed an unprecedented set of challenges to formal and informal systems of disaster response and recovery. Informed by the Virginia School of Political Economy, the contributors to this study critically examine the public policy environment that led to both successes and failures in the post-Katrina disaster response and long-term recovery. Building from this perspective, this book lends critical insight into the nature of the social coordination problems disasters present, the potential for public policy to play a positive role, and the inherent limitations policymakers face in overcoming the myriad challenges that are a product of catastrophic disaster.

Chapter 2: Uncertainty in the Post-Katrina Big Easy

Adam Martin

Subjects: economics and finance, austrian economics, public choice theory, public sector economics, environment, disasters, politics and public policy, public choice


Adam Martin INTRODUCTION 2.1 ‘Make levies, not war’. The slogan appeared throughout the Big Easy in the months following Katrina. T-shirts hanging in tourist shops traded in ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler’ to bear the new rallying cry of the city. Why? What has Baghdad to do with New Orleans? That levee construction and war would be so explicitly and popularly associated is striking. Was this clever play on a decades-old hippy motto simply a partisan bundling of complaints against an unpopular administration? Or was there something deeper at work? This chapter defends the latter. The sentiment contained in the prolific mantra flows naturally from the politicization of the postKatrina recovery process. Stephanie Grace’s 23 June 2006 letter to New Orleans’ The Times-Picayune, ‘A city adrift’, aptly summarizes residents’ concern: It’s become a familiar refrain over the last 10 months: There will be clarity. Just wait. Wait for the federal flood maps to come out. Wait for Congress to approve that second round of Community Development Block Grants. Wait for HUD to decide how to rebuild public housing. Wait for voters to elect a mayor and City Council to oversee the rebuilding of New Orleans during this critical stage. And, of course, wait for the neighborhood planning process to happen. Well, we waited. So where’s that clarity? Government involvement tends to complicate, rather than simplify the recovery process. Rebuilding thus drags on interminably. This chapter explicates how government efforts complicate the already thorny problem of reconstituting an entire city. Frank...

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