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Reopening America: Lessons from the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright


We are delighted to announce that, on May 28, 2020, at 12PM EST, Students For Liberty’s CEO, Dr. Wolf von Laer, will interview Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright, president and CEO of the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS). This online event, titled, “Reopening America: Lessons From the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” will be the first of a series of webinars as part of our Liberty at Home campaign, which will continue throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Having earned her PhD in Economics from George Mason University in 1993, Dr. Chamlee-Wright specializes in the fields of liberal education, civil discourse on campus, economic development, and economic recovery following disasters. Before joining the Institute for Humane Studies in 2016, she served as the Provost and Dean at Washington College since 2012. She has also previously served as the Elbert H. Neese Professor of Economics and associate dean at Beloit College.

This discussion will focus on the theme of economic recovery following a catastrophe, paying particular attention to what lessons we can learn from the recovery of New Orleans and the surrounding region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, from 2005. This is a topic which Dr. Chamlee-Wright has studied extensively, having authored and contributed to several books and articles, including The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery and How We Came Back: Voices from Post-Katrina New Orleans

Although the situation in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina was different in many ways to the current crisis, Dr. Chamlee-Wright points to the common issue of government solutions leading to serious negative consequences. She believes that excessive state intervention in response to crises poses a significant threat to people’s livelihoods and individual liberties, while also undermining civil society.

Dr. Chamlee-Wright has praised the efforts of several community leaders in New Orleans who made their voices heard when government measures threatened the future of their neighborhoods. She believes that it is extremely important for today’s civic and business leaders to stand up against potentially long-lasting government encroachment.

On the issue of how the lessons drawn from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina relate to the current crisis, Dr. Chamlee-Wright argues that:

“Once government occupies civil society with top-down control, it tends to over-police and stay too long. Few officials want to risk lifting the lockdown orders, lest they face public scrutiny if something goes wrong. The result is systematic overcaution, which expands government control.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic already bringing immense hardship in terms of both a health crisis and unprecedented economic downturn, it is of vital importance that government actions are continuously scrutinized. Leaders must be able to step up and challenge any policies which threaten to have long-lasting detrimental effects on people’s well-being, individual rights, and prosperity. It is clear that suppressing the efforts of resourceful individuals seeking innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of the crisis is certainly not an ideal answer.

If you are interested in the opportunity to hear Dr. Chamlee-Wright’s insights on the prospect of a global economic recovery that incorporates the values of individual liberty, make sure to join us on May 28, at 12PM Eastern Time.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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