Someone asserted to me that the state was necessary for disaster relief. At the time I didn’t give much of an answer because I was dumbfounded at the assertion, and it would have taken a while to explain. I am going to use Florida hurricanes as an example. Feel free to replace it with your preferred danger: earthquakes, tornadoes, sharks, tsunamis, whatever. Here is my response.
Risks and Costs:
If you live on the coast of Florida, you are taking the risk of having your house flattened by a hurricane. This is news to very few people. However, in an anarchist society you alone will bear the costs of that decision. There is no state or federal government to come bail you out when the next hurricane traipses up the beach (There are parallels to this in many other things as well, self defense comes to mind). This exerts a pressure for people to move to safer areas where insurance costs are lower (or if they don’t have insurance; the risk of losing everything), thereby reducing the number of people hurt by the disaster, as well as reducing the total cost of recovery and rebuilding.
But how do we deal with the disaster when it does arrive? First, without a government to siphon off wealth at every opportunity, general wealth will be much higher. Among other things this means that relief supplies will be far cheaper in real terms, what may only be able to purchase 200 gallons of bottled water under the current system could easily buy 400-800 gallons in a market not struggling under the weight of parasites.
This means that humanitarian organizations and individuals who wish to donate money, goods, or time will be capable of doing far more good than they can under the current system. It also means that people in the disaster need fewer resources to purchase goods from outside the disaster area and have them shipped in.
Controlling Prices: We control what we must, because we can.
When a disaster occurs one of the first things the state does is freeze prices to prevent the horrors of “price gouging”. The reasoning for this (if you are generous enough to call it reasoning) goes something along these lines: Greedy businessmen will increase the prices to the highest that the traffic will bear, forcing people who desperately need stuff to pay through the nose for it.
Well, that is technically true, however it glosses over all the reasons why it would happen that way. Why will the traffic suddenly bear so much higher prices than it did before? It happens for one multi-faceted reason. People suddenly demand far more stuff, while at the same time the normal methods of supply are disrupted.
The results are simple, and easily predictable from the law of supply and demand. Prices shoot up causing demand to reduce until an equilibrium is reached. This reduction in demand occurs first in the most frivolous and extraneous demands. At the same time these price signals incentivize people outside the disaster area to rush to get supplies in as soon as possible.
This also applies to insurance companies which will (and currently do) pour into the area to pay advances on their customers’ policies. Why? Because people want the insurance money fast. This exerts a competitive pressure on the insurance companies to not lag behind their competitors, lest they lose not only the immediate customers but also others who hear about how the company botched the payments.
This system is self correcting. There is no need to wait for Bureaucrat #26242 to decide whether it’s really an emergency, or when an emergency has ended. By not existing the bureaucrat is unable to make the wrong decision, which is fine because he was not needed to make that decision anyway.
Mandatory Evacuations: Because if we don’t control it, Nyarlathotep will come and eat us.
When a disaster becomes bad enough, or is projected to be bad enough, the government will issue an evacuation order. This is rooted in (surprise) military situations. The basic form is: “We can’t hold this territory anymore, so we are pulling out. Protect the people (tax base) by pulling them out too.”
So, why does the state have this “right” of evacuation? Half of the reason is that it can become incredibly expensive and dangerous to effect a rescue, and so the state won’t do it after a certain point. That doesn’t answer why someone can be arrested for refusing an evacuation order. For that we have the other half of the reason. The state claims the right to protect the person from their own choices when those choices could lead to the loss of taxes, usually under the euphemism “the public welfare”.
In an anarchist society there is no state to bail you out of your choices. If you wait till the last possible minute to leave, you will bear the costs of that decision yourself, either by taking the damage or paying a steep premium to be rescued. Except, in this case you can pay to have your pets rescued as well, instead of the state ordering you to leave them behind, even if there is plenty of time to get them.
Then there are the problems that you get when Bureaucrat #26242 declares a state of emergency that applies to everyone. You get things like the Fukushima evacuation zone, where it was doubtful that any evacuation was necessary, but they evacuated people who could bear major doses of radiation without any meaningful harm (if you are already sterile being extra sterile isn’t a problem). The death toll from the evacuation is now higher than the disaster itself.
I am left with a puzzling question for the statists, “How can a statist society handle disaster relief?”
Tags: Disaster Relief