proposals and administration decisions include waiving all Environmental
Protection Agency regulations for the rebuilding, dropping affirmative-action
rules for government contractors, setting aside restrictions
on truck drivers' hours, and letting government money follow
children displaced by the storm to any school they choose. What
a radical idea! Government might actually let free people make
their own choices.
Many politicians want Americans to believe that we can't do
anything individually without Washington's help. But Washington
can't do anything well. I'll pay you $100 if you can name one
thing the government does more efficiently than the private
FEMA was only established in 1979, under President Carter. What
did Americans do before that? In 1871, when downtown Chicago
was destroyed in a fire, private charity came to the rescue.
The Chicago Aid and Relief Society coordinated assistance for
a year and a half. According to the Foundation for Economic
Education, the charity workers strove to avoid giving more than
minimal food and clothing to those who could earn their own
way. They helped restart businesses, equipping medical offices,
stocking stores, and buying sewing machines. Government mainly
stuck to keeping order.
Yet now, after Katrina led government to once again demonstrate
its incompetence, politicians demand government rebuild New
Orleans? The most remarkable thing about the president's proposal
is his recognition of the obvious fact: "It is entrepreneurship
that creates jobs and opportunity."
can't we have a little experiment? Suspend labor laws and licensing
laws, reduce taxes and establish school vouchers in one small
place. If it is a bad idea, as the unions and lovers of big
government contend, that will be clear soon enough. I suspect
they really fear success: Schools will improve, business will
recover, a thousand ideas will bloom. Then everyone hemmed in
by bureaucracy's suffocating rules will want Louisiana's freedom,
The president has already suspended the "prevailing wage law"
in areas affected by Katrina. The screaming! Union bosses accused
the president of pushing an "antiworker agenda" that will deny
people "fair wages." Nonsense. We never needed a law to force
employers to pay prevailing wages. If a wage is "prevailing,"
it will just happen; if it's unfair, no one will take it.
The current "prevailing wage" law requires businesses carrying
out government contracts to pay a wage set, not by supply and
demand, but by collusion between unions and politicians who
are eager keep their constituents happy. They make sure the
wage is high even for unskilled work. In real life, of course,
this strangles opportunity. Employers want to get as much productivity
for their dollar as the law allows, so they hire only the most
experienced workers. If you are a young beginner who wants to
help, and learn, "prevailing wage" laws mean you're out of luck.
those rules suspended, an unemployed flood victim may actually
get a job on a federal project. New Orleans has a long history
of poverty, and Katrina made the problem worse. Fewer stupid
rules would help.
It's time to give New Orleans an emergency dose of freedom.