Big Easy Breakup?

Interesting article in this month’s Forbes about how New Orleans can make a comeback: leave it to the people.

Nineteen months after the chaos of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is on its fourth official rebuilding plan, and homeowners in the Big Easy have written off the process. The current planning program is viewed as neither good nor bad. It’s simply irrelevant…

Nevertheless, you can see pockets of resilience. Hard-hit Broadmoor’s active neighborhood association has formed partnerships with corporations and non-profits. Two-thirds of this sector’s homes have been rebuilt. As early as October 2005, while Mayor Ray Nagin fiddled, the 5,000-plus parishioners of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans East were well organized and rebuilding.

These pockets of productivity are notable in that people succeeded with little if any involvement from the central government. To my colleague Peter Gordon of the University of Southern California and me, this sends an important message: Rather than try to fix a doomed political process, neighborhoods should be allowed to secede from the city.

It’s a daring proposal, if you consider the free market to be daring… but, even so, it’s got to be better than anything Ray “Floatin’ Buses in the Chocolate City” Nagin might try. I’m sure that, in some parallel universe, blaming white men in Washington for all your woes actually makes homes and infrastructure manifest out of the ether, but – sadly – such is not the reality we call home.

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