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Tuesday
Oct302012

Who Could Have Anticipated a Hurricane? Not a Politician

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, reflecting on the lessons of Hurricane Sandy, as reported by CNBC: "Going forward we are going to have to anticipate these types of extreme weather patterns."

CuomoSandyCNBC10 30 12

Who could have anticipated a hurricane significantly harming New York City? Turns out newspapers, college professors, and most people who have seen a globe.

Reminds me of articles like this and this about New Orleans, before Katrina.

We knew these damaging hurricane strikes on cities could happen. Worse, we knew it would happen. All we didn't know was the time and the severity.

Government is not good at reducing risk. Most politicians are not trained to manage risk, and have little incentive to learn, as their constituents tend to demand goods (like roads) and benefits (like food stamps), not a plan to deal with a hurricane that may not come for decades.

Furthermore, governments do not have the same incentives to protect property that private owners have. The politicians who run governments mostly hope natural disasters will occur on a successor's watch, and if they don't, well, it's not their money anyway.

Few private landowners are so cavalier about their own property.

No politician can keep a hurricane away, but few do much to plan ahead for them. When hurricanes and other natural disasters arrive, politicians tend to give meaningless speeches.

President Obama, for instance, said today, "My message to the federal government is no bureaucracy, no red tape. Get resources to where they're needed as fast as possible."

Few Americans disagree with this anti-regulatory sentiment, but if the work of federal disaster relief agencies is harmed by their red tape and bureaucracy, why did the government wait for a disaster to get rid of them?

Either the words are meaningless, or the politicians weren't planning ahead.

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