Blame the government… Sort of


In the wake of the floods that have devastated Midwestern America, a recent CNN headline read "Insurance not required, FEMA told flooded town."  Long story short, a number of people blame the government for their failure to insure their homes against floods because the government did not require them to do so.  They "said they felt misled about the risks of not having flood insurance," and thought that the risks were "miscalculated." As a result, legislation is now being introduced to require that all people living in levee-protected areas have flood insurance.
The problem here is not that FEMA did a bad job or that the levees were improperly built. They were designed to withstand a hundred-year flood, and this one was simply bigger than that.  There is no reason to think that the risks were miscalculated; even events with very small probabilities will happen sometimes.  No, the problem is much deeper.  The problem is that people are relying on the government to make their decisions for them; they live in a levee-protected town, but will only make the decision to buy flood insurance if the government tells them that they absolutely must do so. 

This psychology of dependency, in which "the government" is responsible for anything bad that happens, is one of the most insidious results of a big government.  If people did not expect the government to have full knowledge of possible disasters, perhaps more than 28 of the families in the flood zone would have taken the responsibility on themselves.  Individuals should be thinking about their lives, their futures, and the risks that their various decisions might entail.  The floods were a tragedy, a natural disaster beyond the predicted levels, and were no one’s "fault," per se.  Nonetheless, freedom requires responsibility, and blaming the decision not to purchase flood insurance on the government only furthers the psychology of dependence that led the unfortunate victims of this flood not to consider insurance in the first place.