TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: What Detirmines New Orleans Future?

What Detirmines New Orleans Future?

Meridian Magazine (
Tue, 6 Sep 2005 14:10:34 -0500

Culture Clips - Sept. 6, 2005

What determines if a city recovers from disaster?

To the water-soaked citizenry of New Orleans, short term-issues --
water, power, even surviving -- are no doubt paramount today. But
over the coming weeks, months and years, this city must come to grips
with issues that have determined whether urban areas thrive despite
tragedy, or simply decline in its wake.

Like the Mississippi itself, cities have risen and fallen through
history. Herodotus noted in his own time, the fifth century B.C., that
"human prosperity never abides long in the same place." Many of the
cities that were "great" in his time were small in the recent past, he
noted, while many leading cities of his youth had shrunk into relative
insignificance. Herodotus considered understanding the causes of this
rise and fall to be among the major callings of historians.
Identifying why a city prospers or not over time remains highly
relevant, not only for tragedy-struck New Orleans, but for virtually
all Western cities in the age of terror.

Current intellectual fashion tells us that the crisis in New Orleans
stems primarily from human mismanagement of the environment. Yet
blaming global warming or poor river management practices will not
bring the city back to its condition last month, much less return it
to the greatness that defined it in its 19th-century heyday. The key
to understanding the fate of cities lies in knowing that the greatest
long-term damage comes not from nature or foreign attacks, but often
from self-infliction. Cities are more than physical or natural
constructs; they are essentially the products of human will, faith and

A city whose residents have given up on their future or who lose
interest in it are unlikely to respond to great challenges. Decaying
cities throughout history--Rome in the fifth century, Venice in the
18th--both suffered from a decayed sense of civic purpose and prime.
In this circumstance, even civic leaders tend to seek out their own
comfortable perches within the city or choose to leave it entirely to
its poorer, less mobile residents. This has been occurring for decades
in the American rust belt -- think of Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis
-- or to the depopulated cores in old industrial regions in the
British Midlands, Germany and Russia.

Happily, urban history also contains examples of cities that have
rebounded from natural and other devastation, sometimes far worse than
that wrought on New Orleans. Carthage, purposely destroyed and planted
with salt by its Roman conquerors, later re-emerged as a prominent
urban center, becoming the home of St. Augustine, author of "City of
God." Modern times, too, offer examples which can inspire New Orleans
residents. Tokyo and London rose from near total devastation in
1945. Perhaps even more remarkable, albeit on a smaller scale, has
been the successful rebuilding of Hiroshima into an industrial
powerhouse and one of Japan's most pleasant seaside cities.

Joel Kotkin
Opinion Journal

Imagining the Unimaginable

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour called the damage wrought by Hurricane
Katrina "unimaginable." We no longer have to imagine the death and
destruction; We are seeing the unimaginable become tragic reality 24/7
on our TV screens. The challenge now facing Congress and Gulf-State
legislatures is to imagine the unimaginable future -- while doing
everything possible to assist people recover from the current
emergency -- to prepare for future emergencies, reform and restructure
government, which clearly failed catastrophically at all levels during
the last week, and incentivize and empower private ownership and
private enterprise.

The huge calamity of Katrina and the need to rebuild the Gulf Coast
provides Congress and state legislatures with the opportunity to
implement big ideas that could begin to transform America in the first
decade of the 21st century. We have a golden opportunity to "green
line" the Delta and Gulf Coast with government policies that
facilitate and empower the private sector and private citizens.

Out of the tragedies of the U.S. Civil War and World War II,
Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt imagined an unimaginable future.
They created transformative programs that helped define the American
dream of ownership and economic empowerment. Lincoln's Homesteading
Act empowered people with title to 160 acres of land, free, and
Roosevelt's Federal Housing Authority and GI Bill of Rights offered
ways for capital-less people to own a house and to receive higher

As we think about the government's role in assisting people get back
on their feet after Katrina, we should be thinking about how to expand
private property rights, business ownership and create rational
incentives to build a new Gulf Coast and Delta Region unencumbered by
bureaucratic rules and strictures. We have an enormous opportunity to
replace outmoded government programs and bureaucracies with
public-private partnerships and new private institutions that are
built upon the foundation of individual ownership, private property
rights, personal responsibility and social justice that an ownership
society brings.

Jack Kemp

Copyright 2005 Meridian Magazine.

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