Natural disasters are a part of life. We are always hearing about floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and their devastating impact on people’s lives. If we are lucky, we will never experience these things for ourselves. The hearts and prayers of all decent people go out to those misfortunate enough to have had their homes or other property destroyed by such a disaster.
Seeing homes devastated and families left with no material possessions is enough to choke up even the hardest person. As fellow Americans, we naturally want to help them. Unfortunately, we seldom think about what would be the best way to do this.
Most of us have wondered at some time or another, why must we as taxpayers continue to bail out such people? Why must our money go to rebuilding their homes? After all, they did know when they build on a coastline or a fault line that a hurricane or earthquake was likely at some point in the future. It was a risk they assumed when they chose to live there.
Some of you are probably bemoaning my lack of compassion. How can you be so heartless, you ask? To that I say, no, I am not heartless. I believe in lending a helping hand to those in need, and would have no problem making reasonable charitable donations to aid disaster relief. But I think it should be done voluntarily, because a good deed is only truly good if it is done by your own free will.
Compassion is defined by what YOU do with your OWN money (or time, or other resource), not what you do with someone else’s money. Let’s say I pull a gun on you, and force you to give me $100. Then, let’s say I use that $100 to feed a starving person. Would that be compassionate? No, because I used your money to do it. Had I used my own money, it would have been compassionate. But since I didn’t, it would be theft. Doing a good deed with stolen money does not make your theft of that money legitimate, and it negates the good deed you did.
Why do you think that people continue to rebuild in high risk areas? The answer is simple: they know that if something goes wrong, the government will bail them out. If they had to pay their own rebuilding costs, and the high insurance rates that would normally accompany such areas, they would think twice about living in such areas.
In all likelihood, these areas would have far fewer people. They’d live in safer areas. And, as a result, far less people would be killed when a disaster did strike. It is common sense that rebuilding their homes encourages people to live in dangerous areas they probably would not otherwise live. So, in reality, not rebuilding their homes is the truly compassionate thing to do.
All this is not to say that the government should have no role in disaster relief. Certainly, the government should maintain order and protect citizens from looters and criminals. But it should not encourage people to live in dangerous areas, something that it is doing at the present.
On the other hand, I am not advocating that the government discourage people from living in such areas. People should be free to choose where they live. Left to their own devices, such incentives as high insurance rates, the hassle of disasters, and their own foresight would give most people enough incentives to avoid such areas altogether. If, under these circumstances, they still chose to live along fault lines and coastlines with a history of hurricanes, then so be it. It is their choice.
Politicians love to dispense federal aid because it gains them votes. There is little doubt that this thought has crossed the minds President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Other politicians bring home such relief to their districts just like it’s pork. We really cannot fault politicians for doing what politicians do: attempting to get votes. We can, however, fault ourselves for allowing this to happen. At the end of the day, our silence allows politicians of all parties to buy votes with our money.
When we stop allowing this, we will have a safer and far more compassionate America.