In my first post, I talked about the disaster in New Orleans as an example of government shortsightedness. What look like unexpected calamities are often anything but. They?re moments when we pay the price for ignoring things that we shouldn?t be ignoring.
What can we do about the shortsightedness of government? We (and this means both sides of the political aisle; this is too important to be a partisan issue) need to do a much better job of planning forward. Forecasting, scenario planning, the kinds of wargaming that the military does; all these are useful. After 36 years in government, 8 of them at the top in the White House, I can tell you that civilian policy makers aren?t doing much of any of this.
This helps explain what happened in New Orleans. People just weren?t prepared. As Chris Mooney said, prophetically, a few months back:
Shockingly, even in the wake of the Asian tsunami catastrophe, there has been little widespread discussion of scenarios in which the United States could find part of its home territory devastated by the sea. Chatter in New Orleans itself has largely focused on improving evacuation plans and reducing gridlock as a storm approaches. These are necessary conversations to have, certainly, but bigger-picture perspectives have rarely surfaced in broader public discussions. That has to change — and fast.
It didn?t change fast enough. We?ve got to do better next time.