International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 6 June 2008



Block, W. (2008), "Introduction", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 35 No. 7.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Introduction From: International Journal of Social Economics, Volume 35, Issue 7

This is the first issue in a two part series devoted to an analysis of the Katrina situation. The second installment will appear in issue 8.

In the social sciences, it is rare that we ever witness anything like a controlled experiment. North Korea and South Korea, and East and West Germany, have come closest, perhaps, in this regard. But with Hurricane Katrina we have a strong competitor, at least in a time-series sense, if not from a cross-section approach, as in these two other cases. That is, there are not one but two New Orleanses: the one before this natural and/or man made disaster, and the one afterward. They are both located in the same geographical terrain, but that pretty much exhausts the resemblance between them. The former was a thriving, functioning city. Yes, it had its problems, but they were not so different than those of a half dozen other cities in the USA. Afterward, the big uneasy resembled not so much a metropolis in this country, but rather one in any of the very poorest sections of Africa or Asia.

As a professional economist, I readily admit, my own bias in analyzing this situation is from the perspective of the dismal science. But IJSE is an interdisciplinary publication, and there is perhaps no event that is more conducive to this sort of approach than the havoc wreaked on the Crescent City by Katrina. We have found room in this special issue for analyses from a whole host other disciplines, too, including sociology, public health, social work, city planning, geography, urbanism, history, political science, architecture, engineering (never forget those collapsing levies), ethics, philosophy, accounting, management, marketing, finance, international relations, criminology, law and ethnic studies.

It is a basic element of economics that markets are an institution that allow for widespread cooperation. Bastiat long ago addressed the question of how it is that “Paris gets fed” even without any central direction. Well, for a long time after Katrina, New Orleans was not really getting fed too well, to say nothing of clothed, sheltered, entertained, etc. The lack of cooperation was there for all to see. Plumbers, for example, did not want to return to the city, for example, unless they could be sure there would be health care for them, restaurants, groceries, pharmacies, as well as complementary factors of production both human (electricians, carpenters), and non human (pipes, etc.) But the same challenge faced members of each of these other professions: why would a doctor return if he, too, could not avail himself of these other goods and services? And if he did not, why would these others? Nor we need focus, only, on the upper echelons of the human resource pyramid. One of the greatest needs was for people to man the fast food establishments; this is so at least if we can extrapolate from the extraordinary wages and guarantees being offered in this sector of the economy.

I would like to thank all of the authors of the papers in this issue, each of whom refereed at least one other article. In addition, I would like to thank all of these outside referees:

  • Sherry Lee Alexander, Loyola University New Orleans.

  • Jeb Bleckley, Beloit College.

  • Gregory Dempster, Hampden-Sydney College.

  • Kelly Frailing, University New Orleans and the University of Cambridge.

  • Joshua Hall, Beloit College.

  • Dee Wood Harper, Jr, Loyola University New Orleans.

  • Tom Hickman, Loyola University New Orleans.

  • Wendy L. Hicks, Loyola University New Orleans.

  • Kate Lawrence, Loyola University New Orleans.

  • John Levendis, Loyola University New Orleans.

  • Alex Padilla, Metropolitan State College of Denver.

  • Mike Pearson, Loyola University New Orleans.

Plus three other referees who wish to remain anonymous.

Walter BlockGuest Editor

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