Indifference versus incompetence.

A lot of people are accusing our current government of indifference to the plight of Katrina’s poorer victims. I don’t think it’s entirely fair. Moreover, I don’t think it’s useful.

It comes back to the same old razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” And it becomes clearer with every passing day that incompetence is more than adequate to explain our government’s inability to react quickly enough to circumstances across the Gulf Coast.

“Indifference” is a charge that defies empirical data, because we can never truly know the hearts of others. “Incompetence,” however, can be quantified:

  • The head of FEMA had no practical experience in his job.
  • FEMA was completely gutted in the process of a massive reorganization under the banner of Homeland Security.
  • Government officials were reporting things in press conferences that were obviously at odds with what was being reported on the ground by the press in New Orleans.
  • Government officials repeatedly stated that “no one ever thought about the possibility of the levees breaking,” which was categorically false.

So let’s keep our eye on the ball. There’s no benefit to anyone by getting personal, and by claiming that “the government doesn’t care about poor people.” It’s much more useful to make it *crystal clear* that the government has been just plain negligent, and that their negligence led directly to the deaths of thousands of people — because a negligent government is something that, with enough support, we can change.

Indifference versus incompetence.

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