Suggesting people helping each other is a reaction to government inefficiency is ignorance of what made this nation.
After the major hurricane Harvey affected the Houston Texas area and had such a widespread and profound impact there was a change in the coverage from previous tempests. While we were served the expected media souffle of geographical destruction and stories of citizens banding together, something transpired.
The usual rubbernecking we experience at the swath of damage was soon overwhelmed by the expansive examples of the citizenry rising up higher than the ever-surging flood waters. And just as Houstonians were capturing our attention with their selflessness neighboring areas had residents arriving to lend any support needed. The stories and images became the central focus of the disaster.
Among the throngs targeting the area were a large gathering of boat owners from the Louisiana region, dubbed The Cajun Navy. This is an actual organized citizenry of domestic sailors, but the term has also been applied to the greater collection of private yachters who lend their crafts to rescue efforts and reclamation projects in the flood waters. This rescue gentry has risen in organic fashion and becomes the very picture of what we normally describe as “humanity”.
However writer Benjamin Wallace-Wells, at The New Yorker, sees the aquatic response instead as a problematic “need”, one brought on by consistent government miscue and failure. While getting the motivation for the Cajun Navy and their contemporaries completely wrong, what is more amazing is Wells using this as a springboard to call for MORE government involvement.
In looking into the inspiration for these blue-collar boatmen Wells gives a list of recent striking governmental ball-dropping:
— Failure to prepare for last year’s floods in Louisiana
— 2 chemical plant explosions in Houston are blamed on lack of regulations
— An insufficient National Flood Insurance Program
— Inadequate city planning and reservoirs in the Houston area
— The administration denying climate change
The writer then harkens back to stories during those floods of last year, a time when the Cajun Navy rose to a national level of fame for their rescue efforts.
There were hundreds of families … who felt that they owed their safety not to the distant forces of government but to a neighbor who had put himself at risk to help them. There was a social elegance in the idea that working-class families were rescued by working-class heroes in boats.
Sure, it sounds like Wells may have stumbled across a rather Libertarian ideal here, possibly accidently. But he instead tips his hand at where his real affection lies, and that is with the State.
There is a cyclic pattern to the erosion of faith in government, in which politics saps the state’s capacity to protect people, and so people put their trust in other institutions (churches; self-organizing volunteer navies), and are more inclined to support anti-government politics.
Imagine that quandary: politicians unable to act, due to…politics? As Wells bemoans his beloved statist inertia (with no introspection how this shows we should not rely on that nanny state rescue) he also manages to undermine his contention. He notes early in his piece the practice of citizens using their watercraft to rescue fellow citizens during floods of this nature has been taking place for generations. Well, that kind of sticks a pin in this being a new anti-government reactive state by these boaters. It also weakens his global-warming argument, for good measure.
This ability of America to generate a spontaneous communal support and rise up instantly to self-reliance has long been in place with this nation. It was something Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the 1800s during his famed study of America, comparing the ethic of Americans to be there in support of their communities and neighbors as a desired offshoot of liberty.
There are some nations in Europe whose inhabitants think of themselves in a sense as colonists, indifferent to the fate of the place they live in. — More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They are so divorced from their own interests that even when their own security and that of their children is finally compromised, they do not seek to avert the danger themselves but cross their arms and wait for the nation as a whole to come to their aid. — The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.
This country came into being on the very individual motivations that drives the Cajun Navy today. The British were beaten back by not a state-built army but its citizens joining forces. Contemporary anti-gun advocates always trot out the argument that the Second Amendment was scripted for the cause of a “well-regulated militia”. They are ignorant of the fact these militias were not government-created entities, but a collection of private citizens banding together, with their own personal firearms, for the protection of their community and nation.
Suggesting that the Cajun Navy, and the grassroots level community support we have witnessed is a reaction to contemporary governmental foibles is not simply a case of ignoring the strength of our citizens. It is ignorance to the fact that this was specifically what built this nation from the ground up.