Dumb ideas in Vegas should stay in Vegas
From Jim Day, of the Las Vegas Review Journal.
I'll confess that I agree somewhat with this viewpoint, which seems to be a fairly common one. Some government insurance programs and bailouts do encourage people and businesses to continue to build in risky areas--flood plains, hurricane zones, the firey-mudslidey hills of Southern California, and so on. Government also has repeatedly bailed out corporations, or at least their reckless leaders, time and again for absurdly risky behavior--Lockheed, Chrysler, the airlines, the S & L's, insurance companies, etc. Where the line should be drawn between acceptable and unacceptable risk in each case is certainly debatable, as is the extent to which government should step in to help individuals or corporations.
In this case, however, what is really absurd is for someone from Las Vegas to be pointing a finger. Without taking massive amounts of water from the Colorado River, parching millions of downstream acres in Arizona, California and Mexico, and buying almost 60% of its electricity from outside sources (and the 40% generated locally comes from coal, oil and natural gas), Sin City wouldn't exist at all--and probably won't in 30 years. The Gulf Coast may be occasionally wiped out by hurricanes, but it also has abundant arable land, fresh water, and has a survivable (if a bit warm) climate year round (except for those hurricanes). Las Vegas has none of that--without massive influxes of outside energy and water (and the billions the government spent on Hoover Dam) it almost completely unlivable. That it is one of America's fastest-growing cities is totally absurd--far more than is rebuilding a house in New Orleans or Biloxi.
Here in Michigan we've got water, good farmland, and excellent transportation networks, including the Great Lakes. We've also got cold winters and the occasional tornado. There are some risks involved wherever you live, and they should probably be taken into account to some degree in public policy. But for someone in Las Friggin' Vegas to suggest that people are stupid to build homes in the Gulf Coast region--well, something about glass houses and throwing stones, I'd say.
Ted Rall captured this concept pretty well a few weeks ago: