As we sit in the comfort of our living rooms and watch the tragedy that has befallen the people of New Orleans and see talking heads, a hand wringing Governor and maddening mayor complaining about the relief agencies and federal forces being too slow in responding, we are reminded how inefficient that a bloated and lumbering bureaucracy can be. It's true that this lumbering behemoth known as the federal government does well in fighting wars, ensuring and providing domestic security as well as collecting taxes (I'd prefer them to collect less but you get my point) but sometimes disastrous like these require the ingenuity and logistical skills of the private sector who don't have to abide by red-tape and the quirky federal work rules of hiring and payments - see the Bacon-Davis Act. In today's edition of the Wall Street Journal, the ever so perceptive deputy op/ed editor, Daniel Henninger, noted in his column that the US could have managed this disaster much easier if the had pre-established contracts with the giants of the private world to provide these much needed needs in a more timely/efficient manner. Just look what Henninger had to say:
But we ought to at least recognize that our increasingly tough First World problems--terrorism, viruses, the rising incidence of powerful natural disasters--are being addressed by a public sector that too often is coming to resemble a Third World that can't execute.Let's just say that Henninger knocks the nail dead on the head by noting the slow and inefficient nature of the federal government. (Now this fact can also be noted about the squeaky wheel of bureaucracy in the State of LA under Gov. Blanco and the sloth and incompetence of the City of New Orleans under Mayor Ray Nagin prior to the storm hitting the city.) Now it's been awesome to watch the eight mile convoy of National Guardsmen rolling in to New Orleans to provide order as well as the buses coming to take the hot, tired and devastated people to better and dryer ground in Texas. Aside from the much needed security, naval ships as well as helicopters, does anyone doubt that the private sector could have delivered the much needed water/food/housing much quicker. People can try to lay the blame at the President's feet but one shouldn't expect him to make miracles with the sloth like bureaucracy that he has to work with. So the lesson here is that we need less government and more of the private sector in our life.
I'll go further. We should consider outsourcing some of these functions, for profit, to the private sector. In recent days, offers of help have come from such companies as Anheuser-Busch and Culligan (water), Lilly, Merck and Wyeth (pharmaceuticals), Nissan and GM (cars and trucks), Sprint, Nextel and Qwest (communications gear and phone cards), Johnson & Johnson (toiletries and first aid), Home Depot and Lowe's (manpower). Give contract authority to organize these resources to a project-management firm like Bechtel. Use the bureaucracies as infantry.
A public role is unavoidable and political leadership is necessary. But if we're going to live with First World threats, such as the destruction of a major port city, let's deploy the most imaginative First World brains--in the private sector and academia--to mitigate those threats. Laughably implausible? Look at your TV screen. The status quo isn't funny.
This also goes for the various charities that you choose to give to during this time of need in the region. While the national media and the cable networks have urged you donate money to organizations like the American Red Cross or The Salvation Army, I'd suggest you focus on sending your money to various local charities in LA as well as the many private sector and religious charities that give aid directly to the people in need rather than gobbling it up via the organization's operation budgets. If you want it to help the ones in need then look beyond the lumbering bureaucratic giants like the American Red Cross and seek out the private sector. Here's a few to think about:
Catholic Charities USA
Episcopal Relief and Development
Mennonite Disaster Service
United Jewish Communities
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
The Mercy Corps
Hugh Hewitt, radio host/Law professor/writer has recommended that people send money to Canal Street Presbyterian Church of New Orleans because they know the area real well.
Their address is:
Canal Street Presbyterian Church
4302 Canal St.
New Orleans, LA 70119
Phones when they are up and going: (504) 482-1135
Also, check out this piece over at National Review Online on principled giving by Karen Woods of the Acton Institute. She makes some very interesting points.