Wednesday, August 31, 2005

❄ Imperial Decline

In imperial China it was said that natural disasters meant withdrawal of the ‘mandate of heaven’ from the ruling dynasty.

The more modern explanation is that dynasties, in their later years, failed to give attention to the maintenance of water-control systems, lost capability to collect needed revenue, and spent monies they did collect to maintain the Imperial writ on their borders where it was challenged.

We want to learn from design failures, as well as design projects, and projects brought to completion.

The Question

Did the White House’s withholding flood-prevention funds from New Orleans lead to more serious consequences for that city in Hurricane Katrina—29 August 2005—and its aftermath?


Will Bunch reports that a number of engineering and planning projects were refused funding, or funded at reduced levels. About a US Corps of Engineers propsal he writes:

“In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

“On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: ‘It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.’  ” [1]

The Political Design Problem

Design a study, which respects scientific and engineering judgment, to assess (a) whether, and to what degree, the proposed funding could have mitigated effects of Hurricane Katrina, and (b) why the Administration made the alleged reductions and refusals.


[1] Will Bunch, “Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? Times-Picayune Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues”, Editor and Publisher, 30 August 2005.  Bunch reports for the Philadelphia Daily News, and much of his article can be seen on their website at his blog, Attotood.

[Political Design 2005.08.31 Post A13.]


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