Commentary

A NEW New Orleans

Joel Kotkin in the LA Times discusses will New Orleans come back as a “new American city of the 21st century. Or as an impoverished tourist trap.”? Sadly, even before Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, local leaders seemed convinced that being a “port of cool” should be the city’s policy. Adopting a page from Richard Florida’s “creative class” theory, city leaders held a conference just a month before the disaster promoting a cultural strategy as the primary way to bring in high-end industry. This would be the easy, bankable way to go now: Reconstruct the French Quarter, Garden District and other historic areas while sprucing up the convention center and other tourist facilities. This, however, would squander a greater opportunity. A tourism-based economy is no way to generate a broadly successful economy. As Kotkin points out elsewhere, “hip loftsters will stay lonely, for suburbs still seduce.” Back to New Orleans’ choices: New Orleans should take its destruction as an opportunity to change course. There is no law that says a Southern city must be forever undereducated, impoverished, corrupt and regressive. Instead of trying to refashion what wasn’t working, New Orleans should craft a future for itself as a better, more progressive metropolis. Look a few hundred miles to the west, at Houston ― a well-run city with a widely diversified economy. . . . Houston has succeeded by sticking to the basics, by focusing on the practical aspects of urbanism rather than the glamorous.

Adrian Moore

Adrian Moore, Ph.D., is vice president of policy at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.