On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, credit for New Orleans’s ongoing recovery continues to go to the grassroots, not the federal government. Grassroots had the reflexes and staying power that government did not.
There’s no question that the disaster and aftermath of Katrina lifted the veil on a dysfunctional system. Katrina revealed a city full of schools that didn’t work, corruption, weak infrastructure, and issues of race and class.
But it’s also a story of people from all kinds of backgrounds coming together to fix problems—and that’s why New Orleans is recovering.
New Orleans is a case study in grassroots initiative. That’s why James Carafano, Jennifer Marshall, and Lauren Hammond make the argument that government should create more space and rewards for faith-based community organizations to respond to emergencies like these. It was small, local, personal charities and community efforts that turned the tide during Katrina.
Government often doesn’t know how best to help. This anniversary should be a reminder to renew personal responsibility and accountability to each other and the need for putting our energy not toward the blame game but working together to create solutions to problems.
The whole episode, from the hurricane in late August 2005 to the present day, is a good illustration of the conservative principle that government is not and should not be the leader in community renewal. To read more about this, check out our recently published Seek Social Justice, a six-lesson study guide that explores the role of institutions that make strong community possible—marriage and family, church, business, etc. Government’s role is limited and should be to secure the space in which mediating institutions can flourish. As the nation reflects on Katrina, the primary call of Seek Social Justice is a call for renewed personal responsibility, which makes limited government possible.