Friday, September 23, 2005

All the king's men

There's an extraordinary op-ed in today's WSJ (unfortunately hidden behind subscription log-in) titled, "All the King's Men Cannot Save New Orleans," by Daniel Henninger, deputy op-ed page editor at the Journal. It's an eloquent condemnation of Louisiana's way of doing business (and many other things). Two paragraphs deserve particular attention:

"What is New Orleans today? It is the impoverished, lawless product of Huey Long's anti-capitalist populism, cross-fertilized with every poverty program Washington produced the past 60 years. The currently popular notion that "the country" somehow failed to notice that much of New Orleans had become a social and economic basket case is false. Every college student knows the basic storyline of "All the King's Men" if not that of former Governor Edwin Edwards (1992-96), now serving 10 years for extorting businessmen. "Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a native of Louisiana, believes a "culture of fatalism" about corruption exists that makes the possibility of reform hard. "Corruption isn't quite normal in most places," he says, "but none of that's true in Louisiana." Like other fans of the state and its famous city, he sees the period ahead as Louisiana's last best chance for joining the rest of the rising New-South economy. With characteristic mischievousness, Mr. Smith also notes that it is an open question whether Louisiana would meet the economic freedom and just-rule criteria of President Bush's Millennium Challenge grants for developing countries. "There is no hope for New Orleans unless what comes next is the opposite of the status quo before Katrina."