By David Henderson
Houston, we’re solving our problems.
This culture really shines through during events like Hurricane Harvey. Despite what the narrative spinners would have you believe, we are not rugged individualists; we are rugged communitarians. We know that when times are tough, you must rely first on family, then friends, then neighbors, and then – and only if you’re one of the few, unfortunate folks who cannot rely on any of those three – on the government. And if we have family, friends, or neighbors who can help, reaching out for government support is actually taking resources away from those who need them more.
In short, the best governance to rely upon is self-governance.
This is from Leo Linbeck III, “Hurricane Harvey: A View From a Rugged Communitarian,” new geography, September 2, 2017.
The whole thing is well worth reading, both for its clarity and for its specificity.
The other thing I like, which is why I chose the quote above, is Linbeck’s distinction between rugged individualism and rugged communitarianism.
If you’ve been an outspoken advocate of freedom for more than, say, a year, it’s likely that you have been charged with believing in, and advocating, rugged individualism or selfishness. Critics may have charged you with believing in “Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.”
Linbeck does a nice job of showing that in fact, people used their freedom to take care of themselves first, but, once that was covered, to take care of others.
Another great excerpt:
However, a focus on Houston’s public officials or public infrastructure will lead you away from the more important truth: our response was driven by thousands of Houstonians who voluntarily stepped up to the challenge, and didn’t wait for some central authority to tell us what to do. The truth is that Houston’s culture was its biggest asset, a culture of mutual support that is extraordinary in a city of this size and diversity.
And this culture is not an accident; it the consequence of a system that was designed to be driven from the bottom-up, by regular folks, responding to needs on the ground rather than some kind of theoretical plan put together by experts with no stake in our future, or interest in our family, friends, or neighbors.