Friday, October 31, 2008

Recovering from Disasters with Different Mindsets

Last night my wife and I watched the Weather Channel's "When Weather Changed History." This particular episode focused on the Great Chicago Fire. I was struck by the mentality of the people following the disaster. Instead of wallowing, they immediately went back to work to make Chicago a better city than it was before the fire. City father, William Ogden, at the age of 67, dedicated himself to fixing the problems that fed the flames. This despite his own home and belongings being destroyed, as well as the business that earned him his wealth which was destroyed in a similar fire storm in Wisconsin. Many of the residents returned to their burned down properties to clean the debris and immediately begin rebuilding. Young architect Louis Sullivan, saw an opportunity to establish himself and came to Chicago. He ended up designing numerous famous structures and earned himself the title "Father of Modernism." Chicago ended up rising from the literal ashes, all without the help of FEMA.

Contrast this with the attitudes which came out of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The focus was not on what the people of New Orleans could do to make their city better, but on what the federal government was going to do to solve their problems. Many people who could have provided needed services were turned away because they did not have proper FEMA credentials. Many New Orleans' residents, instead of going home and beginning to rebuild, were responsible for widespread looting. Many were also provided trailers (by FEMA of course), to give them temporary shelter until their homes were rebuilt. Most of these trailers are still being used homes, now nearly three years later.

Why mention this? This presidential election campaign has brought the argument from Senator Obama that capitalism and the desire to earn profits is evil and seeks to take advantage of the needy, while the government is good and desires to help people. Louis Sullivan, instead of being hailed as a hero for helping rebuild Chicago, would be denigrated today as greedy capitalist. Further, he would have not been allowed to help today, because government "experts" would be utilized instead. Our economy is in a rough state right now. Which method of rebuilding would you want? Chicago's, where the city became bigger and better? Or New Orlean's, which continues to be dependent on the nipples of the federal government and refuses to take their city to another level? If you choose Chicago, the choice Tuesday is clear, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

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