# There is a reasonable theoretical case for making flood control in the New Orleans area a federal responsibility: there is considerable flood control architecture in states upstream of the Delta, which perforce affects the flow to the Delta. As a port and petroleum production area, a dry New Orleans provides arguable interstate public goods. Any flood in New Orleans would mean, as we have seen, an impact to surrounding states from the recovery.
I've seen somewhat from environmentalists about "know your watershed". Has there been any thought about making watersheds into political units?
# Recovery from a disaster like Katrina is a proper function of the federal government. As a minarchist/public-goods libertarian willing to make peace with the entitlement state, I believe that one reason the government performed this legitimate function so poorly is because it pays so much attention to things it has no business doing.
# Folding FEMA into the DHS super-bureaucracy has been a disaster. Democratic-Party legislators, who pushed for the department’s creation before the White House had much enthusiasm for it, share the blame. Their responsibility pales beside the misfeasance of the Bush Administration, but that’s not an exoneration.
# The liberal critique of voluntarism is that it is piecemeal and inadequate to momentous tasks like flood prevention and disaster relief. The coordination problem is too large and the horizon of individual interest too limited. Only government has the size and public-spiritedness to tackle such momentous tasks. However, liberals also argue that it’s crucial to have the right people in charge of the government to achieve these things. The problem is that, in a democracy, getting those “right people” into office is itself a monumental problem of voluntary coordination and outreaching the horizon of self-interest. The track record of liberal success at this in recent decades casts doubt on the automatic superiority of government action to achieve liberal goals.
This one gets interesting--imho, part of what's going on isn't just that people have been willing to help, it's that the information infrastructure has improved so much that bottom-up organization is much more feasible.