Fox Business host John Stossel, formerly a mustache at ABC News, tried to make the absurd argument that because government is incompetent, people would be better off in a disaster getting help from companies like Walmart and from private charities. Ironically, he used the FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina as his justification for the incompetence of government. As usual, especially where right-wing libertarians are concerned, he’s wrong. (NOTE: RW Libertarians, like John Stossel and Senator Rand Paul, are sometimes right but for the wrong reasons. For example, Sen Paul thinks we shouldn’t be giving financial aid to Israel. But it’s not because of Israel’s well-documented human rights abuses, it’s because he doesn’t think we should be giving foreign aid to anybody, not just Israel. He’s right about aid to Israel, but for the wrong reasons.) The FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina was a disaster precisely because the person heading the agency was the wrong person for the job. It’s not that government CAN’T work, it’s that government WON’T work in the hands of conservatives (who don’t believe in government services other than police and military.) The mistake the Republicans made was putting FEMA under the authority of Homeland Security, and treating it as if it would only respond to terrorist attacks. Michael Brown had no emergency management experience and should never have been confirmed for the job. And if you think it wouldn’t have mattered who was in charge of FEMA, I say you’re wrong. I would have loved to see James Lee Witt in charge of FEMA. I’m convinced fewer people would have died had be been in charge.
Stossel believes in an idea made famous by Friedrich Hayek called Spontaneous Order. The gist is that order will emerge from chaos, but there is disagreement on whether or not this can really be applied to economic systems. Those arguments center around whether or not there is any government planning or involvement at all. But what Stossel and his mustache maintain is that in a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, private corporations and charities could give people a better response than government can (again, based on Katrina.) I couldn’t disagree more. If delivering supplies was all that was needed in a disaster, then he might be right. But FEMA does much, much more than that. FEMA prioritizes search and rescue efforts, and they move people, equipment and medical supplies where they are needed most (when it’s led by someone competent, like Mr. Witt.) Stossel’s opinion is predicated on his (false) belief that government cannot do anything competently. And it’s very easy to prove him wrong.
The reason I know John Stossel is wrong is because I have heard of John Stossel. I know who he is, and have for several decades. And the only reason I know who he is is because the government set up a system whereby people could broadcast images on certain frequencies, to be received by devices built under government guidelines (or else you’d have to have a different TV to receive broadcasts from different companies), and under certain guidelines about content where news programs were concerned. In other words, if not for the government he hates so much, not many people would have heard of John Stossel. It would be nice if he could remember that once in a while.
This is our open thread. Be spontaneous, but do it in any order you like.