New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by Emily Chamlee-Wright and Virgil Henry Storr
Jeb Bleckley and Joshua Hall1 INTRODUCTION 12.1 The problems facing the city of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina have been well documented (Boettke et al. 2007; Chamlee-Wright 2007). The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 not only destroyed millions of dollars of property and killed nearly 1500 people (Maggi 2007), it caused much of the heart and the soul of the city – its people – to leave and never return. Consider that in 1840 New Orleans was the third largest US city after New York and Baltimore (Glaeser 2005). Even as late as 1960, New Orleans was in the top 15 in population (Gibson 1998). The US Census Bureau (2007b) estimates place the population of New Orleans at roughly 450 000 in July of 2005. Eleven months after Katrina the Census Bureau put the city’s population at roughly half of its original size (US Census Bureau 2007a). The subsequent two years have seen considerable rebound, and while the most recent population figures show the population of the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) at nearly 74 percent of its original size (Brookings Institution 2009), the population of the city of New Orleans is not even back to 60 percent of its July 2005 population (US Census Bureau 2009). While New Orleans is unlikely to achieve the relative stature it once had, it can be a vibrant and dynamic city again if attention is paid to improving its current political, social and economic institutions. One way bad institutions...
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