I’m violating something of a rule of mine to post here as this isn’t a Chicago issue but a few posts on the blog regarding the recent tsunami drive me to put my own two cents in here.
First, I believe that in a perfect world, government action in areas struck by natural disaster should be limited to applying violence to criminals in areas where the rule of law is entirely absent or has significantly broken down. If you’re stealing rice or other disaster aid to make a buck and letting others die, I’m all in favor of having the US marines (or whoever is handy) put a bullet in you.
Governments do violence very well and that, ultimately is their proper job. They do it so well that an entire class of thieves has arisen who insinuate themselves in these organizations and their creatures (such as the UN) to steal while being protected by sufficient force and the custom of sovereignty that they can do so with impunity.
Still living in that ideal world, it would be best if private groups did the actual job of providing aid to bypass those government thieves. Private aid groups, at their best, are the most efficient providers of humanitarian assistance. Where failures occur, private groups are punished without much fuss as their donors simply turn elsewhere.
Moving to the real world, we would have needed to radically remake things decades ago for private aid to rule the roost in ameliorating the recent tsunami catastrophe. Since we haven’t, we go with what we’ve got and do the best we can as human beings, doctrine be damned.
Still, we do see some short term adjustments like the US’ coordinating council move to ensure that the UN’s pack of thieves don’t shift from Iraq’s oil for food to the Indian Ocean disaster relief effort. This is as it should be. Those who wish to actually influence disaster relief efforts for next time and tilt them toward fewer thieves feeding on aid and minimizing wasted overhead have two areas to concentrate on:
1. Promoting private aid starts by first counting it in the “aid totals” used as scorecards. By only counting government to government aid, private contributions are given 2nd class status. The hierarchy needs to be reversed.
2. Demanding criminal accountability for government thieves who take commissions to let aid get through, who steal out of aid warehouses, etc. Hunt down the thieves and put them in the dock. It’s not like the big scale thefts are much of a secret.
Disaster recovery is never going to run entirely smoothly. It’s always going to have some breaks in the system. The Chicago School has always had a great deal of practicality to it. We should always make it clear that critiques are for preparation for next time, that efficiency arguments are there to save lives, and that the wolves in sheep’s clothing should never have a free shot at our wallets, no matter what the circumstances.