Americans are witnessing the power of private individuals and businesses to solve pressing problems stemming from Hurricane Harvey. From the boaters and monster truck drivers engaged in search and rescue operations to local stores opening their facilities to displaced families, there’s no shortage of examples of private individuals and businesses stepping in to assist Houston in its recovery.
It’s a good thing the private sector didn’t wait for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to do all the work because the government would have been unable to handle everything on its own. It’s true of many disasters. Recall the tremendous support during the Katrina disaster of 2005. The American people stood on their own as an example of endurance and generosity — even more remarkable than the federal, state and local governments’ responses.
Rather than dwell on government failure, it’s more inspiring to remember how people and communities came together during Katrina to solve pressing and immediate problems. In their 2015 book, “How We Came Back: Voices from Post-Katrina New Orleans,” Nona and Virgil Storr and Emily Chamlee-Wright detail the many ways “individuals and communities found hope and help in the immensely generous philanthropic contributions of informal networks of voluntary social action, such as religious organizations, as well as in established non-profits.”
You would think government officials might learn not to interfere with private-sector rescue efforts, regardless of the perceived motivation. Unfortunately, there’s a certain kind of help that the government is always stupidly turning away. Enterprising individuals and businesses are being warned away from helping fill supply gaps by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who finger-wagged that “the Office of the Attorney General has authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the…