Hurricanes, Heuristics, and the Human Spirit

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
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Pete Boettke on Katrina, Ten Y... Yuval Harari on Sapiens...

In a follow-up of sorts to this early 2006 episode, Roberts sat down with Peter Boettke this week to talk about the impact of Hurricane Katrina ten years later. The two discussed the utility of various research methodologies, the interaction of the public and private sectors with civil society, and the amazing resilience of the human spirit.

We hope to continue the conversation with you...Let us know your reaction to the prompts below in the Comments, or use them to strike up a conversation offline. (And if you do, we'd still love to at least hear about it!)

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1. What were the three areas of focus in the field research Boettke and his colleagues undertook in New Orleans post-Katrina? What does Boettke mean when he says, "it's the framework that's up for grabs?" Why does it seem economists are so loathe to grasp this? To what extent are economics' common heuristics inapplicable?

2. Both Roberts and Boettke agree that we should avoid being too dogmatic in our diagnoses of and prescriptions for circumstances like the wake of natural disasters. Yet Boettke maintains that "low-hanging [policy] fruit" exists in these situations that we might take advantage of. What examples did Boettke give of this kind of opportunity? Do you think more interventionist economists would agree with Boettke? What might they suggest?

3. In the last segment of the conversation, Boettke suggests that an individual's physical skills can atrophy at a rapid pace, but one's character traits don't seem to atrophy at the same pace. What sorts of situations does he suggest as remedies for character flaws, and how do you think a culture of meaningful work can be fostered?

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