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Washington, D.C., September 7, 2005— As the relief effort continues in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />New Orleans, questions about how the city, and the state, will rebuild are already being debated. One of the country’s leading free market advocates, a former Louisianan, hopes the disaster will encourage a shift toward more entrepreneurial-friendly policies. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
“Great disasters force societies to confront their risks and realities,” says Fred L. Smith, Jr., president and founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
As Smith points out, Louisiana and New Orleans were at one time very prosperous—the leading communities of the South. Louisiana’s natural advantages made it a major port and that role stimulated the growth of regional banking and other financial services. Oil and other natural resources were plentiful, and, of course, tourism and hunting/fishing were added assets. As a result, Louisiana prospered for some time, even though its politics and its policies were increasingly destructive.
“Over the last 50 years, industry has sought to shift every job possible to more favorable climes,” says Smith. “Houston became the oil capital and grew far more rapidly. Atlanta became the South’s commercial capital, and Charlotte has become the financial center of the South.”
Smith believes Louisiana can rebuild its tax, regulatory, legal, and welfare policies as it also rebuilds its physical structures, but that it must liberate the creative talents and energies of its people to do so. “Louisiana has for too long allowed itself to become a banana republic,” observes Smith. “It is time for the state to use this disaster to displace the failed populism that for so long has crippled its economy.”
While some have suggested that New Orleans may never rebuild, Smith dismisses that notion. “As one who has lived in and loved this area, I believe that would be a tragedy. Louisiana can rebuild, New Orleans can again become the ‘City that Care Forgot’—if we care, and if its citizens abandon the populist policies and the fatalistic attitudes of the past.”
Former Louisianan & Free Market Expert Available for Interviews
Fred L. Smith, Jr.
President and Founder
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Contact for Interviews:
Judy Kent, 202.331.2266
Jody Clarke, 202.331.2252