Saturday, September 03, 2005

the deft use of incentives

From the Red Cross:
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

For those who haven't been following at home, I'll translate:
The top priority was to get people out of New Orleans, so the decision was made to prevent aid from entering the city. That would only have encouraged people to stay.

Perhaps the failure to provide aid wasn't merely incompetence. Perhaps it was policy. Perhaps people were dying in sewage and those in charge were more interested in providing incentives than food or water. It would be absurd if it weren't eerily reminiscent of arguments against welfare: "We shouldn't provide food, shelter, and medical care for the poor. Doing so will only encourage them to breed."

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