Hurricane Sandy and Big Government: Forget Ayn Rand, Collectivism Is Keeping New York Prepared

As Operation Sandytrap enters day two here at HQ (my apartment), darkness has overtaken the great outdoors and made hurricane viewing very boring. Hopefully we’ll be spared its full, invisible fury. Don’t worry about me. I’ve got rations for days, not including the friends and loved ones whom I’ve arranged into a cannibalism priority list. Ain’t no party like a Donner Party.

I should wait for the storm to fully pass before mentioning this, but with a landfall further south than even initially predicted, there’s a good possibility that Sandy may cause relatively little damage here in New York City. (No doubt a relief to national viewers of NY-centric news media, as well as my fellow city-dwellers.) If that happens, then this will have been the second year in a row with an apocalyptic buildup to a relatively manageable event.

The city’s emergency measures have been impressive. Still eager to make up for the bungled response to 2011’s year-opening blizzard, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has brought five-alarm readiness to bear on calamitous possibilities including major flooding and power outages. The news media, basking in a “perfect storm” of NY-centrism and sensationalism, have predictably built apocalyptic stakes into an event that may well end up leaving our fair Apple relatively unscathed.

Tempted though we may be to accuse over-cautious city officials of crying wolf, we the polity actually like seeing them fretting on TV. As with Irene last year and as with terrorism, their concern focuses our concern, vastly increasing the likelihood of everyone avoiding tragedy. Call it fear-mongering or CYA, but I appreciate the propaganda.

The caution also underscores one of the fundamental lies presented in my favorite punching bag — the novel Atlas Shrugged. In the ultra-collectivist world that Ayn Rand spun out of her own crazy cobwebs, the statists that run the gangrene society make a priority out of avoiding responsibility. Every opportunity to act decisively and rightly is fled by all except Rand’s capitalist Übermenschen. Such is the fear of speaking up in her liberal nightmare that eventually, a series of weak-kneed engineers in charge of a mountain railway allow a catastrophic accident to kill hundreds of passengers when two trains collide. If only people had embraced individualism, all those looters might have been saved.

There are a lot of baseless notions in that novel, but the idea that collectivism allows for the eschewing of duty is one of the dumber ones. If you need an idea of how responsibility looks in an ultra-liberal environment, look at New York. Bloomberg, he of the 16 oz. soda ban, has been in front of cameras nonstop since Thursday, warning his population and equipping them with city services that may in some cases prove vital. His deputies have been doing the same with their slices of the cautionary pie. If this hurricane is as merciful with its damage as Irene was, at least we knew our public services were there ust in case.

In real life, responsibility lands heavier on the appropriate sets of shoulders when more dependants are riding on them. Though directly beneath Sandy’s path, the government of Upper Township, New Jersey is almost certainly offering fewer taxpayer-funded services to its citizens than the government of New York City just two hours away. Perhaps no one will blame Bloomberg for fatalities on Rockaway Beach, but he’s prepared to assume that responsibility. Far from Atlas’s cowardly James Taggart, ConEd CEO Kevin Burke and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly are likely assuming responsibilities not even asked of them in order to insure proper response to any situation. It’s nice to see as a citizen. And should I need to have a city truck rescue me from some watery fate, the risks of statism will be far from my mind. Thank God for them.

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Lenny DeFranco

NYC resident, from Chicago, fan of culture, politics, music, lit: the good stuff.

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