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September began with Hurricane Katrina devastating one of America’s oldest, culturally rich cities, causing untold thousands of deaths and billions of dollars worth of damage. The last raindrop had yet to fall on New Orleans before the beleaguered city descended straight into the depths of hell – an anarchy that was punctuated only by a rousing game of blame between local, state and federal officials as to who was most at fault for the carnage.

Usually such disasters are a rallying point for Americans, long known for our charitable nature. In the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, as well the weeks and months that followed, we gave generously of both time and treasure to help our nation heal its wounds and prepare for the arduous task of rooting out the guilty parties.

But 9-11 was an act of war, say some critics of the comparison, and thus created a climate much more conducive to unity. Fair enough, but what about when we compare apples to apples?

The state of Florida has been buffeted with no less than six hurricanes in 13 months, causing billions in damages and putting countless families out of their homes – sometimes more than once. While none of those storms engulfed a single city the size of New Orleans, areas far larger than the land mass of the Big Easy, with millions more people, were affected.

There were reports of some looting – there are always those who seek to take advantage – but missing from the sporadic incidents of criminality were widespread stories of armed gangs roaming the streets killing and raping; corpses left to rot on streets and in alleys; rescuers being fired upon; police deserting their posts; thugs turning refugee centers into nightmarish prisons; and the creation of an every-man-for-himself environment. According to a Newsweek description, “the night was alight with fires, the pavement was alive with looters.”

A day after the storm struck, right before the order came to evacuate the refugee centers at the Louisiana Superdome and Convention Center, one police officer told CNN he “expressed concern that the situation could worsen overnight after three shootings, looting and a number of attempted carjackings during the afternoon.”

Jesse Walker, writing for Reason Magazine, noted the rarity of widespread criminality following disasters:

More than a half-century of investigation has established a fairly firm pattern: After the cataclysm, social bonds will strengthen, volunteerism will explode, violence will be rare, looting will appear only under exceptional circumstances, and the vast majority of the rescues will be accomplished by the real first responders – the victims themselves.

This obviously didn’t happen in New Orleans. All semblance of social order disintegrated as fast as the city’s earthen levees. It may be the days of strong “social bonds” are over, and we can blame a host of left-wing social experimenters and decades of their overt public policy influence for it.

For too long, we have had far too many Americans hooked on the largess of the federal government. We have too many programs which saddle a shrinking pool of working taxpayers with the burden of caring for a mass of non-working Americans that grows each year. This latter group, to be sure, was most responsible for the breakdown in social behavior in New Orleans, simply because they are not used to doing for themselves.

The fact that many of them stayed behind to get stranded by Katrina instead of evacuating in the days leading up to the storm is a case in point, one proven time and again by so many liberals in and out of government who have complained we “didn’t do enough to help” these people. The other side of the coin is they did little to help themselves. It’s not that they no longer have a sense of self-preservation, it’s more like Big Government has stripped them of their motivation to be self-reliant.

Because of that, this same group will cause the same kinds of problems we are seeing in New Orleans in other cities struck by disaster in the future. Those used to making it on their own will do their best to stay out of the way of devastation and help those who couldn’t avoid it, while the other group will do nothing but rely on others, then erupt into medieval brutality when help doesn’t come fast enough.

The welfare state has corrupted entire generations of Americans, making them capable only of taking, not giving, to society. Is it any wonder why they behaved the way they did in the Big Easy?

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