Don't give away personal responsibility
Since that post went up, he and I have been debating a bit in his comments section about the following excerpt:
Congress should therefore do the right thing: Drop the plan to pay for flood insurance for those who don't have it, since that will discourage others elsewhere from taking out flood insurance.
One could argue for the moral response to New Orleans’ unique situation: levees built by the federal government did not perform “as advertised”, thus causing the profound destruction throughout most of the city. Yet placing all the responsibility for protecting personal property on the government (imho) effectively removes all individual liability – and I can’t go there.
When one has a mortgage, the holder of the loan requires the property to be protected. Obviously, that requirement is there to minimize the risk of potential loss, which would leave the bank (or whoever) left with nothing. In the case of properties in designated flood zones, that protection necessarily includes flood insurance in addition to “usual” hazards. However, once that mortgage is paid off, the homeowner is the party at risk, and insurance – all of it – is optional.
As it happens, I totally understand how someone might end up in a position where they would drop the coverage. There is a member of my immediate family who could not afford to pay for it for a while, and even though she understood the potential risk, she dropped the hazard insurance. Ultimately, the fear of losing everything trumped some other necessities, and she paid the back premiums, thus reinstating her coverage.
One could argue that in some cases, there is nothing to “give up” to afford the insurance. That’s certainly a sad, but true, situation sometimes, yet unless the goal is dependence on the government for everything, we cannot start down this path – no matter how unique Katrina was. Furthermore, everybody who flooded in New Orleans was not poor - and I am not talking about Lakeview. The 9th Ward is actually (mostly) middle class.
Flooding has to have been expected in NOLA. I was stunned, in fact, that so little occurred in Algiers, because we used to take our canoe into the streets there after a tropical storm. However, some houses in Algiers did have some flooding – totally unrelated to the levee breaches. Did they have flood insurance? Dunno, but they should have.
I have to agree with the WaPo editorial here. If the government pays for non-insured flood damage , there’s little or no incentive for anyone to take personal responsibility for their own potential losses. Why would they?
Personally, I don’t want to live in a country where people can totally absolve themselves of personal responsibility via total dependence on a government, nor do I want a government that attempts to handle millions of cases on an individual basis.
The mind absolutely boggles at the scale of bureaucracy - the sheer size required for such a path, and if we’ve learned nothing else from FEMA’s example, we need to get this: nothing can replace individual action.