"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The End of New Orleans?

Throughout the coverage of the disaster that has befallen New Orleans, it seems one thing has been assumed throughout: the rebuilding of New Orleans. Much depends on how long it will take to get rid of the water, engage in massive repair and new construction, and how much of the city's tax base sticks around.

The reality is that the entire professional class or a large portion thereof will relocate because they are unable to wait for the new city to rise. Many businesses will take a hard look at the New Orleans operation and decide they can't let resources like fallow that long. Expect a major migration of many branch offices and probably some headquarters locations.

Even the poor citizens of the town whom we have seen engaged in remarkable suffering as all rescue efforts pale before their plight may never come back to town. As many of them are long term clients of government programs, they will probably have the option to spend time in ultra-ultilitarian state and federal camps or to resettle elsewhere with the help of social workers and/or family members in other cities.

Unless someone can show me otherwise, I don't think there should be any assumption that New Orleans is going to continue as a major metropolitan area in the United States. It may just be a ghost living a marginal existence. Galveston never truly recovered from the great hurricane that leveled the town and killed so many. New Orleans may not rise even so high as the old Wall Street of the West on the Texas coast.

6 comments:

James Elliott said...

Or it might be like San Francisco in 1906, a phoenix rising from its own ashes.

Hunter Baker said...

We'll see. Capital flows to where it can find the greatest reward. I'm not sure that will be New Orleans. It is in a very strategic location, but I think of how Houston profited from Galveston's trouble and imagine the same sort of thing may happen here.

David Sae said...

I'm with Hunter. The New Orleans as we know it will be dramatically different. There will be a French Town and Mardi Gras WILL happen in 2006 (that town will always drink themselves silly). However, enterprises, including universities, will take a hard look where they should move. They can't afford the lack of revenue - nobody can. The ways hurricanes have been coming in the last 2 seasons, a reasonable and prudent decision is to move.

That said, the only way N.O. will thrive again is that Federal government pours in billions to build leeves that are cat-5 proof. But, the Fed also promised billions to NYC after 9/11; that hasn't been paid up yet. N.O. will have years to wait for that would-be promise.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Whoa, Hunter.....are you channeling Denny Hastert?

Hunter Baker said...

Yep, and we probably weigh the same. Maybe we should build a New New Orleans on higher ground. What would be really interesting would be to make individuals as whole as possible and just see what organically happens regarding the city.

Aspiring Statesman said...

We can start rebuilding sooner if we select a clear patch of land. Only a few flooded facilities are really wed to their old locations.

By abandoning vast tracts of ruins, we can then bury them at our leisure, which is easier than knocking down rotting buildings, hauling away the rubble, decontaminating etc.

By contrast, cities across much of the eastern US would pay to send barges of landfill there, eventually elevating it above sea level for some future generation to build upon.

See my full article, "Build a New New Orleans"