Response to Comments on Comment on Federalism and Katrina-BECKER
Lots of discussion, but mainly about capitalism, trade, and socialism. The fact is that the economic advantage of college graduates in the US over high school graduates and those with lesser education has risen sharply, not fallen, for the past 30 years or so. There is no evidence that the growth of China in international trade has reduced that advantage, nor has its growth increased the unemployment rate for the less skilled or more skilled.
But the main contentious issue I raised in my Comment is that the poor of New Orleans especially suffered in part because they have become too dependent on the government for support, and the government failed them. Several commentators and Posner in his response questioned that interpretation (I was even called a "racist" by a person obviously completely ignorant of my past writings and behavior). Someone asked for the evidence--a very appropriate question--and I wish we had more evidence on this question. However, evidence on something like a "culture of dependency" is mainly acquired from analyzing behavior, and I tried to do in an admittedly loose way in my Comment.
I do believe that the limited evidence and analysis do support my contention. Clearly, some people were too sick or weak to leave, but I do not believe they were anywhere near the majority, despite the many newspaper photos that highlighted them. One of the comments mentioned a poll that claims only about 25% of those who did not leave lacked a car or money. Since a car is not necessary--public transportation operated prior to the storm-and since the amount of money needed was minimal, these data, if accurate, hardly suggest that most of those who stayed could not leave.
The rest of those who stayed either underestimated the severity of the storm, despite various warnings on television and elsewhere- most owned television sets--or they believed they would be rescued by government actions. Both these groups fit under my criticism that an excessive dependence has developed among the poor (of all races and religions) on government help in emergencies that has replaced reliance on own initiatives. The Welfare Reform Act of the mid-1990's only slightly weakened this dependence on government.
It would take only a few dollars to have boarded a bus and rode out of the most vulnerable areas. To be sure, the very sick and mentally disturbed could not do that, but why did the vast majority of those who stayed not leave, if only in the expectation of being gone for a day or do if they did not fully believe the public warnings? There are several alternative ways to answer that question, but eventually I believe we will be forced to emphasize the government dependency interpretation.
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