Oh, this is beautiful!
The National Post has a story about who helped the victims the most in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It's no surprise that it wasn't the government, but liberals everywhere will be greatly dismayed to know that their favorite punching bag, Wal-Mart, was a true hero of the disaster. Take a look at some telling excerpts:
Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, gathered his subordinates and ordered a memorandum sent to every single regional and store manager in the imperiled area. His words were not especially exalted, but they ought to be mounted and framed on the wall of every chain retailer — and remembered as American business's answer to the pre-battle oratory of George S. Patton or Henry V.
“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 extraordinary delegation of authority — essentially promising unlimited support for the decision-making of employees who were earning, in many cases, less than $100,000 a year — saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos.
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.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart trucks pre-loaded with emergency supplies at regional depots were among the first on the scene wherever refugees were being gathered by officialdom. Their main challenge, in many cases, was running a gauntlet of FEMA officials who didn't want to let them through. As the president of the brutalized Jefferson Parish put it in a Sept. 4 Meet the Press interview, speaking at the height of nationwide despair over FEMA's confused response: “If [the U.S.] government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.”
This benevolent improvisation contradicts everything we have been taught about Wal-Mart by labour unions and the “small-is-beautiful” left. We are told that the company thinks of its store management as a collection of cheap, brainwash-able replacement parts; that its homogenizing culture makes it incapable of serving local communities; that a sparrow cannot fall in Wal-Mart parking lot without orders from Arkansas; that the chain puts profits over people. The actual view of the company, verifiable from its disaster-response procedures, is that you can't make profits without people living in healthy communities. And it's not alone: As Horwitz points out, other big-box companies such as Home Depot and Lowe's set aside the short-term balance sheet when Katrina hit and acted to save homes and lives, handing out millions of dollars' worth of inventory for free.
In addition to the local stores having greater incentive to help the local people (because they knew them and lived with them), one reason for the success of these huge stores' efforts is their decentralized command structure (as indicated by Scott's message). For example, the Coast Guard performed well in the aftermath of Katrina because it leaves a great deal of authority to the individual commanders, who knew the location and were able to make correct decisions on the spot.
This is a fantastic illustration of several things that I want to point out. First, Wal-Mart is not the source of evil in the modern world. Second, it is not filled with brain-dead losers who can't think for themselves – quite the opposite, as those store managers made tough decisions that cost the company money but saved lives. They did the right thing – that's true leadership! Third, this decentralization effect is just one more reason why we don't want an all-powerful federal government. They screwed it up, the local people didn't. The more we rely on the state and local levels of government rather than the federal level, the better off we'll all be.
Especially in times of disaster, when speed and effectiveness is needed most.
There's my two cents.