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Natural Disasters And The Election: A Country In Which The President Is The Master And The People Are The Servants

04 November 2012

By Jacob G. Hornberger

Last night we were treated to a fascinating and timely talk by economics professor Daniel Smith at our Economic Liberty Lecture Series, which is cosponsored by the student-run Econ Society at George Mason University. We'll be posting his talk online within the next week.

Smith researched and compared the recovery efforts in two cities that were hit hard by tornadoes last year: Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The results in the two communities were strikingly different. In Joplin, the efforts at rebuilding have been strikingly effective, while in Tuscaloosa they have been precisely the opposite. In fact, Smith pointed out that many businesses simply decided to leave Tuscaloosa and rebuild in a neighboring community.

Why the difference?

The reason, Smith said, could not be attributed to private relief efforts. He pointed out that voluntary efforts in both communities were absolutely astounding. Church groups and other private groups came together and integrated their efforts to help people. Businesses and individuals donated millions of dollars to aid in the recovery in both cities. Businessmen who ordinarily competed against each other worked together to better serve people who were suffering.

So then, why the difference?

The reason, Smith said, was the extent of the artificial barriers placed in the way of businesses by the governments in each communities. In Joplin, government officials pretty much got out of the way and simply let businesses rebuild themselves. In Tuscaloosa, government officials decided to centrally plan the rebuilding of the city, imposing and enforcing a myriad of rules, regulations, permits, and licenses. On top of all that, Smith pointed out that Tuscaloosa officials even led businessmen to believe that there was a temporary moratorium on rebuilding in the city.

Smith's presentation provided a textbook case for the superiority of the unhampered market economy over the centrally planned economy. The thing we should keep in mind is that the unhampered market economy is not only the key to prosperity after natural disasters but also for societies which just want to improve their economic well-being. Stop the government from taking care of people and see prosperity soar.

Which brings us to today's election. In a fundamental sense, it really doesn't matter whether Romney or Obama is elected. They both share the same overall philosophy on such important issues as economics, civil liberties, the drug war, the regulated economy, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, bailouts, subsidies, the Federal Reserve, monetary policy, the overseas military empire, a vast military-industrial complex, foreign aid, sanctions, embargoes, assassination, torture, indefinite detention without trial, and kangaroo military tribunals.

In a word, Romney and Obama are both statists. They believe in statism and they embrace it enthusiastically. They were born and raised as statists. It's who they are. Nothing is going to change that.



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