Harvey’s Newest Victims

The Chronicle reports that more than 1,000 homeowners have requested that the government buy their flooded homes. The Harris County Commissioners Court has asked FEMA for $17 million to buy 104 homes that are considered high risks for flooding.

Since any money spent by government ultimately has to come from taxpayers, this means that individuals across the country will pay for these buyout programs. They will become the newest victims of Harvey.

It is certainly tragic when one’s home floods repeatedly. But one individual’s tragedy is not a license to force others to bear the financial responsibility. Yet, that is what the government does each time a natural disaster strikes.

If the owner of a flooded home began robbing others to obtain the funds to repair his home, we’d recognize his action as theft. The principle does not change simply because government acts as his proxy. One individual’s need, no matter how dire, does not justify robbing others.

Many will claim that denying government disaster relief is heartless and uncaring. But how is it compassionate to rob non-victims? How is it just to force Iowans and Ohioans to pay for our tragedy?

Similarly, Mayor Sylvester Turner has called for an 8.9 percent property tax increase to pay for the city’s efforts to clean up after Harvey. Again, non-victims will be forced to pay for a tragedy that befell others.

Altruism underlies these disaster relief efforts. Altruism holds that we have a duty to self-sacrificially serve others; we have a moral obligation to satisfy the needs of others. If someone suffers repeated floods, we must repair his home or buy it from him. According to altruism, one individual’s need is a claim on the property of others.

Those who wish to voluntarily help the victims of natural disasters have ample opportunities to do so. Private charity, not coerced government aid, is the proper response to helping disaster victims.

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