We May Never Be the Same Once This Virus is Through With Us

We May Never Be the Same Once This Virus is Through With Us, by Robert Merry.

In 1927, the mighty Mississippi River escaped its banks and rose to its highest levels ever seen before — or ever since. From Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans, some 27,000 square miles of productive landscape, encompassing thousands of farms and hundreds of towns, were underwater. The flood killed somewhere between 250 and a thousand people. Nearly a million Americans became homeless refugees, subject to the ravages of weather, starvation, and disease. Though it only affected river communities, the rising tide was disastrous and left an oozing scar upon the body politic. …

As the lead figure in the country’s flood relief program, [Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover] embraced the view that it could all be handled through a complex matrix of volunteer efforts, all overseen and managed by himself. Major governmental initiatives weren’t needed — and contrary to the views of the Founding Fathers anyway. This was not considered an outlandish point of view. President Calvin Coolidge, Hoover’s boss, wouldn’t even visit the Southern lands devastated by the flood, nor would he raise a hand in efforts to collect private funds for victims. …

But the human devastation in the flood zone was changing public sentiment, and Hoover’s concentration on private endeavors wasn’t getting the job done. Soon the idea that the government did in fact have a responsibility for the welfare of devastated citizens took root. This paved the way for Franklin Roosevelt’s powerful New Deal coalition when, just a few years later, the Great Depression visited upon the country a devastation that was national, not just regional, in scope. …

All that contributed to one of the great political realignments in the country’s history. Though few perceived it at the time, the Great Mississippi Flood pointed the way toward a major national transformation.

That was the event that introduced the idea that national governments should bail out private people and businesses in disasters. It wasn’t always this way.

This introduced moral hazard. Why buy flood insurance if the Government will probably bail you out anyway? Why take responsibility for building a house nestled among the trees if the government will send firetrucks and water bombers to rescue your house when the trees catch fire? And so on. Access to government and ability to play the deserving victim became the traits society selected for…

hat-tip Stephen Neil