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Monday, September 26, 2005

Should New Orleans Be Rebuilt?

Economists' Voice has both a column and an article about whether New Orleans should be rebuilt. Here is the abstract from the article by Edward Glaeser:

Should government rebuild New Orleans? Edward Glaeser asks whether the residents would be better off with $200,000 in their pockets than to have $200 billion spent on infrastructure: shouldn't we be insuring the people, not the place? New Orleans has been declining and its people mired in poverty for decades; its port and pipelines cannot employ a large city, and $200 billion is unlikely to change that.

But don't get your knickers in a knot over this. New Orleans is going to be rebuilt. The only relevant question is how much will be rebuilt and by whom.

My guess is that it will be rebuilt with a population of about 300,000 or so, at the most, serving the shipping, oil, and tourism businesses. And the mass exodus of the rest will cause economic and social disruptions of varying degrees throughout the south (and to a much lesser extent elsewhere).

Posted by EclectEcon on September 26, 2005 | Permalink


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» Re-Building the Future from What Future?
New Orleans was known as a city rich in culture and history. Since Hurricane Katrina, the city has changed drastically, and rebuilding it will take years, if not decades. Depending on how rebuilding goes, the city may never regain the character of its... [Read More]

Tracked on 2005-10-20 11:25:19 PM


If you view a city solely in terms of its economic value this kinda makes sense, but the greatness of New Orleans has to be measured in cultural contribution rather than in dollars. A New Orleans with 300000 boring, safe rich people will NOT be the cultural center that the city was before the hurricane, and any rebuilding effort that ignores that fact is a failure.

Posted by: Greg | 2005-09-27 10:04:15 AM

Greg I’ve stood in the back of Preservation Hall in the Latin Quatre and listened to Jazz and the Blues until the wee hours of the morning. Mostly old guys, playing because they love music. I don’t think they’ll stop doing that just because NO becomes safe and less corrupt and people get a sense of “ownership” and are less dependent on liberal welfare because NO will have hopefully been assimilated into America.

Why do you think culture only happens when there’s poverty and despair? Where’s your historical examples where those scenarios cause great cultures to thrive. The Blues is thriving – finally – because now it’s mainstream and the whole world loves it and pays to hear it. What’s wrong with that?

Posted by: nomdenet | 2005-09-27 4:03:17 PM

nomdenet, I'm glad you've been to NO and soaked up some of the culture, but have you ever been to Disney World? NO will be the Disney World of blues music if reconstruction goes as E.E. suggests it should-- completely safe, an interesting diversion, but ultimately makes no contribution but to soak up a day or two. A NO based on oil, shipping and tourism wouldn't be any more culturally rich than Calgary or Houston. The blues won't go away, but nothing new would happen either, and if you ask me that's a huge loss.

I'm not sure why great culture comes from poverty, but that certainly seems to have been the case over the past century. Jazz and blues, rock, punk, hip-hop, 'alternative' rock and electronic music have all thrived on the streets long before they were profitable enough to be commercially successful the way jazz, blues and rock has.

I'm not saying that we should rebuild things exactly as they were before New Orleans was destroyed-- there's a huge opportunity for development and positive change. However, I think leaving the big decisions in the hands of just the beancounters would be a great loss to New Orleans and the entire United States.

Posted by: Greg | 2005-09-27 5:43:09 PM

Greg, as a beancounter I can agree.
I wouldn’t want beancounters running this.
Don’t worry – in America the beancounters will be suitably at the back of the bus – call me racist.

So maybe we’re not that far apart.
Agreed, the Delta Blues was born out of misery.
But until it went commercial, I wouldn’t say it was “thriving.
In fact, Country, then Rock went commercial and it wasn’t until years later that we all went – oh, yeah! I guess they came from the Blues.
Moreover, just because some good things happen out of misery doesn’t mean they have to stay there to be appreciated by the rest of us. That’s the whole point. Because of the strong cultural impact of the Blues, we can avoid repeating the same mistakes these folks sing about.

Agreed, culture needs passion. It also needs money if the masses are going to get to enjoy it. The balancing act of capitalism and passion is the essence of the ubiquitous American culture and that upsets some people.

NO was a cesspool of government intervention creating a class of dependency which maz2 referred to earlier today. Now it’s time for the people to be given a chance to take hold of their own future and get off the dependency cycle –
Even Clinton could figure that out. The only part of his legacy that made sense to me was “ the end of welfare as we know it”

What really worries me is that come the Canadian election the Librano$ will turn the NO images on us. They’ll try to sell even more government intervention in Canada if we’re going to avoid the misery of NO. We need to get ready to counter with the argument that maz2 has.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2005-09-27 6:23:54 PM

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