Thursday, June 01, 2006

Democracy vs. the market in New Orleans

Stephen Griffin, at Balkinization, notes that Nagin and Landrieu appeared not to disagree with eachother about much during the New Orleans mayoral campaign, making an election about issues difficult. He writes:
Perhaps there is a deeper reason why the election seemed to stay on the surface. People in New Orleans have been led to believe that they live in a sort of populist democracy. Who will determine how New Orleans will be rebuilt? Why, the people of New Orleans. From this perspective, all of the major decisions will be determined democratically. There is no doubt that civic participation is up post-Katrina. People search everything their elected officials say for signs and portents of the future. They expect their officials to solve the problems of the city. But perhaps as a decider of the future, democracy is a relatively poor cousin of the market. Many in the New Orleans area have already voted with their feet – they moved across Lake Pontchartrain to higher ground. Home insurance is difficult to obtain – the major insurance companies are pulling back from the coast. The tourist industry is having difficulty restarting.

At this point, for every challenge there is still a solution. The full weight of the coming federal homeowner bailout, for example, will not be felt until late summer or the fall. People will of course feel more confident about the future if no hurricane troubles the city by November. But the market will eventually make its own judgment on New Orleans, perhaps to the deep disappointment of many residents.


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