Government as Gardener: Cultivating the Environment for Private Sector Natural Disaster Response

Part of the Mercatus Studies in Political and Social Economy book series (MSPSE)


Previous research has demonstrated the effectiveness of both the private sector and the intermediate institutions of civil society (houses of worship, community organizations, etc.) in responding to immediate and longer-run economic and social needs after a natural disaster. Given those results, and given the existing powers of government, what role should government play in disaster response? By clarifying and enforcing the rules of property and contract, governments can ensure that actors in the market and civil society are best able to lead the processes of response and recovery. In this way, governments should think of themselves as gardeners who cultivate an environment in which the private sector and civil society can be most effective.


  1. Chamlee-Wright, E. 2007. The Long Road Back: Signal Noise in the Post-Katrina Context. The Independent Review 12 (2): 235–259.Google Scholar
  2. ———. 2010. The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chamlee-Wright, E., and V.H. Storr. 2009. Club Goods and Post-Disaster Community Return. Rationality and Society 21 (4): 429–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. ———. 2010. The Role of Social Entrepreneurship in Post-Katrina Recovery. International Journal of Innovation and Regional Development 2 (1/2): 149–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. ———. 2011. Social Capital as Collective Narratives and Post-Disaster Community Recovery. The Sociological Review 59 (2): 266–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. de Tocqueville, A. [1835] 2012. Democracy in America. English ed. Ed. Eduardo Nolla and Trans. James T. Schleifer. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  7. Hayek, F. A. [1937] 1948. Economics and Knowledge. Reprinted in Individualism and Economic Order, 33–56. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. ———. [1945] 1948. The Use of Knowledge in Society. Reprinted in F. A. Hayek, Individualism and Economic Order, 77–91. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Hayek, F.A. 1977. Law, Legislation, and Liberty Vol. II: The Mirage of Social Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Higgs, R. 1997. Regime Uncertainty Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the War. The Independent Review 1 (4): 561–590.Google Scholar
  11. Horwitz, S. 2009. Wal-Mart to the Rescue: Private Enterprise’s Response to Hurricane Katrina. The Independent Review 13 (4): 511–528.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 2010. Doing the Right Things: The Private Sector Response to Hurricane Katrina as a Case Study in the Bourgeois Virtues. In Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market-Based Approaches to Social Economic Problems, ed. M.D. White, 169–190. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. ———. 2015. Breaking Down the Barriers: Three Ways State and Local Governments Can Get out of the Way and Improve the Lives of the Poor. Mercatus Research. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
  14. ———. 2016. In Natural Disasters, Companies Operate Like Neighbors. Wall Street Journal, June 7.
  15. ———. 2018. Households as Crisis Shock Absorbers. SSRN Working Paper No. 3259507.
  16. Koppl, R. 2002. Big Players and the Economic Theory of Expectations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Skarbek, D. 2010. Restricting Reconstruction: Occupational Licensing and Natural Disasters. In The Political Economy of Hurricane Katrina and Community Rebound, ed. E. Chamlee-Wright and V.H. Storr, 72–83. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Smith, D.J., and D. Sutter. 2013. Response and Recovery After the Joplin Tornado Lessons Applied and Lessons Learned. The Independent Review 18 (2): 165–188.Google Scholar
  19. Storr, V.H., S. Haeffele-Balch, and L.E. Grube. 2015. Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster: Lessons in Local Entrepreneurship. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsBall State UniversityMuncieUSA

Personalised recommendations