Friday, September 09, 2005

If You Rebuild It, Will They Come?

Jack Shafer in Slate asks the unspoken question surrounding the ongoing evacuation of New Orleans. Will it ever be inhabited again? More to the point, should it ever be inhabited again?

Shafer's answer is that no, it probably shouldn't, and for a number of reasons -- mostly economic -- it probably won't. The age and dilapidated state of most of the housing stock will preclude any rehab short of bulldozing for large chunks of the city. Seeing as how most of those structures were without flood insurance to start with -- and will be unable to get flood insurance in the future -- there will be little money or incentive to rebuild on the part of the current property owners.

Shafer's guess is that the city will be rebuilt on a much smaller scale, limited mostly to higher-ground areas (such as the French Quarter) that had limited damage and have obvious economic value.

Oddly enough, I think that what may eventually be the strongest factor leading away from abandonment could be the very incompetence of the Bush Administration that has done so much to leave New Orleans in this state to begin with. By screwing up so badly they have only redoubled the scrutiny that will be given to their longer-term policies. Try floating (as Denny Hastert did) the idea of not rebuilding the city now, and just wait for the howls. I'm not even sure that Bush has balls that big.


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