So with FEMA and the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans all competing for "Most Incompetent Response" award, guess who was ready with a stellar example of an emergency plan, getting essential goods back into town days before the government could?
None other than that bastion of corporate evil, Wal-Mart.*
No doubt they were motivated by a sinister desire to profit off the unfortunate. But in that circumstance, I'd certainly rather get food and water from a greedy corporate profiteer who was there, than from a generous government that wasn't.
For all the allegations that profit is theft, profit makes things happen. People who have a profit to make will be there sooner, more efficiently, and with more appropriate items than people who don't.
Further, what are the two great reaons Wal-Mart is considered evil? One is pushing neighborhood stores out of business. Now I like neighborhood stores better, too. Big ugly warehouses offend my aesthetic sensibilities, and I like knowing the people I do business with. But I'm betting not many neighborhood corner groceries had the resources to re-open as quickly as Wal-Mart could.
The other, deeper, reason people hate Wal-Mart is that it is not unionized. Even if unionization would allow Wal-Mart to consider existing (which is doubtful)--does anyone really think that the extra costs and regulations associated with union work would help it respond more quickly to a disaster?
Unfortunately most likely the focus will remain entirely on how to get government agencies better equipped to do something they simply cannot do well, instead of on how to get government further out of the way of the private sector doing something it does better than anyone else.
* Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, B1, Col. 5.