27 Jun 2008

Sustainable Flooding

EDF complains (rightly) of bad flood-control policies and offers suggestions that mix science (don't build levees in floodplains) and economics (buy out people living in the wrong places; end national insurance coverage of building in floodplains).

I'm ready to go much farther than that, i.e., end all government support for flood insurance and levee maintenance. Second, require insurance of all property owners. Rates in safe areas will be close to zero; rates in dangerous areas will climb quickly. People will move to places that are safe (unless they are rich enough to be foolish). Since levees are expensive, flooding will be diverted to the least-valuable property. (The same policy makes sense on coasts.*)

Sure, this represents a "taking" from those people who live in subsidized areas, but they were the recipients of a "giving." What one hand can give, another can take away, and we are back to fair and square, zero net losses.

Bottom Line: Don't subsidize stupidity.

* Need more evidence? How about this from this report:
Coastal marine ecosystems have declined progressively in recent decades due to the growth of human populations and their demands on the marine environment and resources...

Shorelines have hardened, channels and harbors have been dredged, soil has been dumped, submerged and emergent land moved, and patterns of water flow modified.

Climate change is starting to add further stress, leading some scientists to predict the total disappearance of coral reefs in some parts of the world...


  1. Government plays a large role in your sceme, a really large role. What are the economic principles that lead to the mix that you propose?
    BTW, NPR last Sat interviewed an academic from Illinois? who asserted that the world's largest strip mall has recently been built on a flood plain in Illinois. I believe that he asserted that it was a private company who built the levee protecting the strip mall. Any more info insight here?

  2. FC -- gov't plays NO role, except to force insurance.

    If the pvt strip mall is privately funded AND insured, it sounds good to me. :)


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