Wal Mart Response to Katrina Illustrates Government’s Failure

“A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level,” was Scott’s message to his people. “Make the best decision that you can with the information that’s available to you at the time, and above all, do the right thing.” This quote from Lee Scott, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, was made to his employees shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall illustrates the mind set the company took prior to the greatest natural disaster in American history which allowed the company to succeed where the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed.
According to a new study by Steven Horwitz, an Austrian-school economist at St. Lawrence University in New York, the entrepreneurial mentality of Wal Mart’s employees allowed them to excel while indecision paralyzed their highly-paid, “expert” colleagues in the federal government. A few of the specific acts of “heroism” or at least tremendous individual initiative on the part of certain Wal Mart employees:
In Kenner, La., an employee crashed a forklift through a warehouse door to get water for a nursing home. A Marrero, La., store served as a barracks for cops whose homes had been submerged. In Waveland, Miss., an assistant manager who could not reach her superiors had a bulldozer driven through the store to retrieve disaster necessities for community use, and broke into a locked pharmacy closet to obtain medicine for the local hospital.
Among the recommendations of Horwitz’s study designed to improve the response to future natural disasters:
1. Give the private sector as much freedom as possible to provide resources for relief and recovery efforts and ensure that its role is officially recognized as part of disaster protocols.
2. Decentralize government relief to local governments and non-governmental organizations and provide that relief in the form of cash or broadly defined vouchers.
3. Move the Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) out of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
4. Reform “Good Samaritan” laws so that private-sector actors are clearly protected when they make good faith efforts to help.

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