Free Market Disaster Relief is Superior

This is the transcript of episode ten of The LAVA Spurt podcast. You can listen to the audio of this Podcast episode here:



The free market saved countless lives in Louisiana the last several days while the government fiddled. This is the tenth episode of The LAVA Spurt, The Don’t Wait for Government Edition.

Louisiana finds itself yet again under water, leaving 13 dead and tens of thousands homeless. With the massive amount of people finding themselves in a precarious situation during the flooding, government and first responders were completely overwhelmed with calls to help people trapped inside their homes by the rapidly rising waters. They could not keep up with the demand.

Enter the “Cajun Navy”

Thankfully, though, Louisiana is not called the “Sportsman’s Paradise” accidentally. It gets that name because there is a very large portion of the population that loves to hunt and fish. Enter the Cajun Navy, an informal group of sportsmen who assemble their own boats and equipment to help those in need anytime a major flood hits the state. As the Times-Picayune said:

As thousands were stranded inside their homes as Louisiana floodwaters rose this weekend, social media users shared photos and thanks for the “Cajun Navy.” The term was affectionately applied to the many fishermen, hunters and leisure boaters who arrived to provide back up to official first responders backed up with emergency calls for stranded residents.

The “Cajun Navy” faced no less strenuous work, according to one such volunteer. Chris Macaluso, a Baton Rouge resident, used his own boat to help get neighbors to dry ground from his own subdivision.

“I had access to a boat I could use but, man, they got a lot of (people) in duck hunting boats riding around these neighborhoods who have no idea where they’re going, but they’re just here to help,” Macaluso said. “This is not easy work.”

Macaluso said the rising water was difficult to navigate as the current swirled around homes and cars.

“There have been several situations where the current has been so strong coming down some of these streets that it’s dangerous to try to get a boat down them,” he said. “(The volunteers) are risking a lot to help these people, and I know people in this part of Baton Rouge and all over really appreciate it.”

The way this worked was that people who needed rescue would post a message on a Facebook group and then Cajun Navy would spring into action, using smartphone apps to coordinate a response to each situation that came to them. It’s estimated that the Cajun Navy saved thousands of lives.

Other Free Market Solutions

In a time when so many people expect the government to take care of them in any situation, this is a welcome relief to see. The Cajun Navy claims that they are not a top-down organization and that they didn’t spend a dime to do what they did. That’s remarkable.

There were also many other examples of free-market voluntaryism winning the day over government in the response to help so many people. The owner of a private movie studio, when he saw how devastated his neighbors were, opened the studio as a temporary shelter housing over 2,000 people. The shelter was supplied quickly by local volunteers donating food, water, clothing, and even medical services provided by volunteer doctors and other medical personnel, many of whom were flood victims themselves.

Several churches opened themselves up as storm shelters, people used Facebook to coordinate relief efforts and locations to drop off supplies, and trucks from Wal-Mart and UPS did not stop rolling. As the Foundation for Economic Education said, “Wal-Mart, in particular, was able to use its corporate meteorologists to plan delivery routes and shift deliveries of much-needed supplies such as baby formula and water to the affected areas. UPS is able to prioritize delivery of items such as mail order prescription drugs. Companies are rushing supplies into the disaster area quicker than lethargic government agencies and the Red Cross.”

Difference from Katrina

What makes this flood so different from the floods of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where over 1,500 people lost their lives in the flood waters of New Orleans? In 2005, people tried waiting for government help. They tried to rely on the government to save them and provide for their immediate needs. While there were many stories of heroism by government agents in 2005, there were many more stories of ineffectiveness, mismanagement, inaction, and failure by the government. The people of Louisiana learned their lesson eleven years ago and refused to wait for government to act this time. They took it upon themselves to save each other and to provide for each other. They were not going to wait while, and I shit you not, the federal government wasted resources and energy to give anti-discrimination lectures to flood victims during this crisis.

Today, I close with a couple of paragraphs from the Foundation for Economic Education:

But it wasn’t just the compassion of the people of Louisiana that saved lives. Companies which were seeking profit were also responsible. Everyone from the smartphone app developers to the retailers who provided the products to sustain and save lives played a role in this. Businesses and entrepreneurs meeting the needs of customers were literally lifesavers.

As Louisiana rebuilds, the free market will play a leading role in feeding and sheltering the displaced people. Companies motivated by profit will sell building materials to help rebuild homes and others will be looking to hire displaced workers to help them do more business. The pursuit of profit is what will rebuild Louisiana, not a government.

Even in disaster relief the best thing government can do is get out of the way of the private sector.

And that about sums it up, folks. I couldn’t have said it better. Government is a deterrent from peaceful, helpful, voluntary interaction, and nothing more. This is why we need to work harder to help people learn to stop trying to rely on government, and to actively work to get the government out of the way. The best way to get the government out of the way is to stop believing in the lie that the government is here to help us and to just ignore government entirely.

Until next time… keep striking the root!

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Rodger Paxton
Rodger Paxton
Rodger, who runs the LAVA Flow Podcast, is a long-time libertarian activist and former Chairman and Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Arkansas. Rodger and his wife Jessica are Free State Project movers who unschool their children at home.