Acton Institute Powerblog

Whining is un-American

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Jennifer Roback Morse, senior fellow in economics at the Acton Institute, examines the response to Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of Alexis de Tocqueville. Americans, de Tocqueville observed, tend not to wait around for the government to give them guidance on how to run their lives and communities. Says Roback Morse: “Meanwhile, our French friends, I mean our Louisiana politicians, are still standing there with their arms folded, tapping their feet and waiting for federal funds to rebuild the city.”

Read the full commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • M. Chandler

    Interesting view. Nagin did shoot himself in the foot by telling everyone to come back. Way premature on his part, while we’re still in the tail end of storm season. I think the mayor and the governor need some down time, a weekend in a resort, and then come back at this with fresh attitudes. There will be an inordinate amount of time to finger pointing after the recovery is done.

    It took Japan 20 years to recover after we dropped the bomb on them. Why should anyone think New Orleans USA 2005 should be any faster. How long will it take to repair or replace 250,000 homes and the associated infrastructure? Is the rest of America supposed to stop their development while we repair and replace their homes? South FL residents are still living in FEMA trailers from the 2004 hurricane season waiting for affordable housing to appear. They will be there till the end of this CY according to FEMA and then they’re Ass Out after that.

    Once again major re-shifting of a local population by mother nature, followed by local and personal economic abilities. Something not seen or experienced at this scale in the USA since the dust bowl depression of the 30’s.

    “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you even tried”

  • Dave Williams

    Bravo! I am so sick of listening to Mayor Nagin and Gov. Blanco whining, when they dithered, delayed and frankly, did little to prepare New Orleans and Louisiana for the disaster to come. Although Pres. Bush declared the region a disaster area before Katrina hit, the local politicians did almost nothing!
    Besides, FEMA is NOT a "first response" agency…The National Guard is under the command of the Governor, who had the "slows"…the schoolbusses that could have taken people to safety were never mobilized by the Mayor, and eventually abandoned, and left to rot in 5 feet of water…More money was spent by Pres. Bush’s administration on the levees that during 8 years of Clinton, but petty local politicians siphoned it off regardless. The list of local failures goes on. In short, IT IS A FAILURE OF LIBERALISM!

    My wife, who comes from SE Asia, says that when a typhoon hits there (several times a year), the families and neighbors help each other. They hold no illusions about government, knowing it is corrupt and uncaring and slow in everything except in reaching for a citizen’s wallet or purse. Like it or not, it is similar here. (Ambrose Bierce’s definition of politics applies here: "Poly, meaning many; tics meaning blood suckers.")
    Dr. Morse pinpoints the problem (summed up in my words): we are no longer self-reliant, but a nation of sluggards and those seeking entitlements. Sad, but true.

  • Glenn Goforth

    All too true. At one point the police chief or some similar official was literally crying on TV because of their plight. While we must pity their situation, his response was the most irresponsible and unmanly thing I have seen. Why didn’t he rally his men (and women) and begin doing whatever they could to serve and protect, which is what they were sworn to do. Why didn’t families start walking north until they found the many people who were willing to help rather than wait crying while they were hungry, thirsty, and victimized. A group of men with their personal weapons marching forward with protected women and children would have been met with open arms in a day or two. What has happened to us?

  • Clint Green

    Well said! The Federal Government did not build New Orleans and the Federal Government should not be the entity charged with re-building it. Private industry, private enterprise, faith in God, and faith in one another built that city and is what will resurrect it from this disaster. Besides which, I shudder to think what a monstosity would result from a governmental rebuild!

  • Alane Holm

    Certainly I am in agreement. I think, though, that we must be careful not to forget that we’ve had plenty of forewarning, plenty of evidence, that the hearts of American people have been hardened for quite some time. Does anyone watch the evening news or read the newspaper? Do we not have glimspes of this depravity before us every day? What was our response before Katrina? I echo Mr. Goforth, ‘What has happened to us?’ But I have to add- How has this happened to us? I fear that what we have witnessed in NO the past month is the exposure of only one corner of our country’s moral barrenness- it’s just live with surround-sound. Without succumbing to full blown cynicism, what would we find in our own neighborhoods, businesses, churches, local magistrate? It’s all rather humbling.

  • Robert Bennett

    Whining about politics and politicians is American. So it seems to me that the remedy for America’s whining is to de-politicize America.

    Besides, why should we believe that elections present a suitable means for choosing America’s leaders? Could Patton have ever been elected to political office? Or Grant, if he had ever sobered up?

  • Dean Morrison

    Funny that the first response of Jennifer Morse seems to be to whine about people in New Orleans – I noticed the her mention the good works of the Red Cross (headquarters and origins in French Speaking Geneva) – but doesn’t actually mention what she has has done or intend to do other than write this whining article. Oh – and I’m British by the way…

  • Dean Morrison

    .. frankly I’m ashamed to hear so many "un-Christian" comments from fellow Americans .. unless everyone is too lazy to get off their fat … and do something to help?
    Squealing obviously isn’t anti American, otherwise you wouldn’t make these comments.

  • S. O’Hara

    We do need to remember, however, that while it is not in any way the responsibility of the federal government to rebuild New Orleans, nor is it the responsibility of the federal government to protect New Orleans, FEMA was in many ways responsible for the weakness of the response. FEMA ACTIVELY PREVENTED assistance from reaching the devastated regions, and even as the situation became safe, FEMA continued to stonewall and interrupt private relief efforts. In addition, the federal government- in this case the Army Corps of Engineers- created the flood protection system in the first place, creating a dangerous situation. In these senses, one might blame the feds for the disaster.
    Having said all of this, none of these things were on the minds of the Mayor or Governor when they started whining. Those who shot at rescue workers when they arrived later than expected weren’t thinking of these things either. All of the whiners seem to want to feds to do MORE, not LESS. If the feds did less, they might actually end up protecting the citizens of New Orleans.