My friend Greg Swann chips in with an excellent compilation of the natural and man-made disaster that is New Orleans.
He does what I’ve been trying to do in everything I’ve written about it, and that’s to get to the root of it. As Robert Tracinski writes in The Intellectual Activist article cited by Greg:
For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency—indeed, they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country.
When confronted with a disaster, people usually rise to the occasion. They work together to rescue people in danger, and they spontaneously organize to keep order and solve problems. This is especially true in America. We are an enterprising people, used to relying on our own initiative rather than waiting around for the government to take care of us. I have seen this a hundred times, in small examples (a small town whose main traffic light had gone out, causing ordinary citizens to get out of their cars and serve as impromptu traffic cops, directing cars through the intersection) and large ones (the spontaneous response of New Yorkers to September 11).
So what explains the chaos in New Orleans?
Go read Greg’s post, where he excerpts some particularly good sections. But I encourage you to take the time to read the underlying articles in full, and if time is too limited, then at least do yourself the favor of reading this one.