9.02.2005

New Orleans

I've been shocked by the anarchy in New Orleans, and I expect horror stories to come out over the next few days and weeks that will sound like something out of a Third World civil war. I also think about the contrast between now and the way New York responded after 9/11. Why did New Yorkers respond with cooperation and compassion while in New Orleans the law of the jungle took over? Are Manhattanites inherently better people than New Orleans residents? Were the circumstances more desperate for a longer period of time in New Orleans? Would New York have degenerated into New Orleans-style anarchy if neglected by authorities for a few days?

OpinionJournal on the chaos:

One frequent reaction we heard yesterday is that the disorder in New Orleans is typical of Third World countries, something that was thought could never happen in America. This happens to overlook a fair chunk of U.S. history, some of it relatively recent, including riots and violence. But it is also a sign of complacency born of prosperity and the resilience of our legal and civic institutions.

This battle of New Orleans should remind us that civic order, even in America, is more fragile than we like to think. After this week and amid the continuing threat of terrorism, our political leaders at all levels are going to have to think harder about how to maintain order in the next crisis.


UPDATE: Lorie Byrd on the comparison between 9/11 and Katrina.

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