The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A New South

The rebuilding of New Orleans is in doubt; as it should be. The question of what to rebuild, and where, has received only a tiny fraction of the attention it deserves. The best resource I can find is Mark A. R. Kleiman's weblog, where Mr. Kleiman, Michael O'Hare, and Steve Teles have begun to think about the issue. Another post by Mr. Teles addresses some practical issues. In particular:
One thing that would seem to be imperative would be to make whatever resources that are given to individuals as mobile as possible. Thus, in an area of the kind that O'Hare imagines, you at least would want to make sure that there were no disincentives to moving--such as housing subsidies that are in-kind rather than in voucher form.
Vouchers help individuals by, well, helping individuals; geographically constrained housing subsidies rob the needy of choice, sacrificing the individual good to the "Cities Are People Too" fallacy.

I do not know what forms of rebuilding will be economically practical. But conservatives who do not want government to dictate where people live, and liberals who do not want government aid used to form ghettos of the underpriveleged in undesirable locations, should be united against any government attempts to force the rebuilding of New Orleans as it was.

This will not be easy. As Mr. Kleiman notes:

I like the idea of giving money to individuals. So should anyone who believes in limited government. It's fast, it's efficient, and it's fair. But I'll bet any amount of money that's not what happens, since it would deprive those currently in office of the chance to hand out goodies on a discretionary basis and thus to accumulate chits in the favor bank.

[Update: Mr. Kleinman's trackbacks, like Kevin Drum's, are broken. The compilers of those left/right blogosphere comparisons should probably this apparent pattern into account.]