Hurricane Irma, by mere coincidence, hit the US mainland on the eve of the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks. Days earlier, Mexico experienced an 8.2 magnitude earthquake. Natural disasters and man-made calamities remind people that government has value and plays a valuable role when people have a need. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose certainly did their part to test the ability of the governments in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to respond to a crisis.
After all, nothing shows the inadequacies and unpreparedness of government than Category Four and Five Hurricanes. Conversely, nothing shows the value of government better than the ability of government to respond to a catastrophe. Those living in the US are fortunate to have a government that was able to prepare and did prepare for a worst case scenario, which was not the case in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina ravished the Gulf Coast and FEMA could not meet demand for disaster relief aid.
In today’s political climate, libertarian thinking and other anarchy-leaning political philosophies have grown popular enough to gain influence over government. The result has been increasingly dysfunctional government instead of the limited government these factions allegedly seek. The polarization created by extremes on both sides of the political spectrum have, in turn, resulted in the failure of government to play its role in society.
While even the most hardened libertarians agree the responsibility of government is to ensure national security and the general welfare of the nation in the wake of a disaster, that responsibility also extends to preparing for natural disasters and taking steps to prevent man-made disasters.
The Equifax Data Breach, which poses a threat to almost all US consumers, the US credit rating system, and the US financial system, serves as a developing example where business and government failed in their responsibilities, thereby manufacturing a man-made disaster. Another example is the Houston chemical plant that nearly exploded in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The owners of this plant successfully lobbied Congress to neglect its regulatory responsibilities.
Government must be as proactive as it is reactive when it comes to natural and man-made disasters. Government needs to seek proper regulation of industries in order to avoid massive destruction. It is also why Congress needs to foster the development of infrastructure that can withstand disasters. The simple truth is that government imposes costs on industries and citizens in the form of taxes and regulations in order to prepare the nation for crises.
No one likes taxes or regulations, yet these things are exactly what is needed to prepare a nation for a large-scale disaster. Sometimes, government must be the “bad guy” and do unpopular things in order to ensure the security and safety of its citizens. To be the head of the community, members of government must be willing to take proactive steps to safeguard the community, even if doing so is unpopular.
That said, government cannot do it all. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, community members and non-governmental community leaders must also rise to the occasion. Donating to victims, for example, can do a great deal to help those affected by disasters recover. In the long-term, greater civic engagement and support for proactive government can, however, help future victims of natural disasters.
Playing a greater role in government and advocating for a more proactive government can also help prevent man-made disasters. Government needs involved citizens to tell political leaders what they need government to do. If not, the voices of those advocating for radical political views will be heard over the voices of average people and their needs. Political leaders will, in turn, cater to those special interests.
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