Free market is the problem

I'm writing to respond to Jeff Taylor's free market parable "Katrina's lesson: If you don't own it, let it go" in the December 1 issue.

His general premise is that property is better protected by a private owner than a public agency, and this is often true. But, to be perfectly frank, Taylor is uninformed when he condemns the city of New Orleans for allegedly "letting" its municipal and city busses "go to waste" in Katrina.

Thousands of private cars and trucks and boats were also left to "go to waste" in the same manner all over New Orleans, including many new and used cars on dealers' lots.

Why? Because most people who could followed the mayor's mandatory evacuation order on August 28, if they hadn't already left the city. The fact that the evacuation order was given on a Sunday was both a good and bad thing: good that there was less regular business traffic to contend with along the evacuation routes, but bad that some needed public employees who normally work on a Monday-Friday schedule, such as the school bus drivers, were already scattered.

It's an apparently trivial detail, but an evacuation ordered on a regular school day, when the busses were manned, would probably have been much more effective for the city's poor and disabled. Another detail of some importance for any evacuation is the fact that the storm hit at the end of the month, when many people in poor neighborhoods had virtually run out of money until their next paycheck– where can you go without money?

Yes, this was all evidence of terrible planning, but the working of market forces won't solve these problems. I'd urge Taylor to understand what actually happened in New Orleans before patronizing those who now look for effective government action on several fronts as part of the long-term solution.

Under the best circumstances, next steps in New Orleans will be very difficult, and the situation has been made more so by free market ideologues like Taylor who have been undermining government for the past 25 years.