Katrina: no natural disaster

Thanks to Ben Ranson for the tipoff to this excellent New Yorker piece on Katrina by Nicholas Lemann.
It explores the theme of 'No Natural Disasters'.

By the standards of one’s middle-school geography class, New Orleans ought to be one of America’s most prosperous cities, instead of one of its poorest. It is the natural port for the vast interior of the country, from the Rockies to the Appalachians. In its immediate vicinity are many natural resources: rich soil for growing rice and sugarcane, and plenty of cotton, sulfur, seafood, and, beginning in the early twentieth century, oil. Then there are the city’s celebrated charms—the food, the music, the generally soft, seductive atmosphere. But New Orleans peaked, relative to other American cities, back in 1840, and has been losing ground ever since. It looks today like an especially severe example of the resource curse, because its economy of extraction was based originally on slavery—antebellum New Orleans was the country’s leading marketplace for the buying and selling of humans—and then on Jim Crow, which generated a system of exploitation that pervades every local institution, as well as a deep, evidently permanent mistrust between the races.

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