Saturday, November 3, 2012

Businesses help people

The Sandy experience has reminded me of this Thomas Sowell column.

People keep talking about the role of government in helping people. (On the day the cyclone hit New York City, the New York Times ran an editorial with the headline: "A Big Storm Requires Big Government.") That's a valid point, but a lot of the credit for helping people recover from the storm should go to businesses. It's all too easy to implicitly exclude businesses from our mental category of those who help people. (Why? Because they're driven by profits? Is that worse than being driven by votes?)

I can think of many ways that businesses helped me get through the past 5 days, when the power was out in my apartment and my workplace. (It came back in my apartment earlier today.) I just had breakfast at a diner in Manhattan, which seems like an amazing experience now even though the menu was limited. I also went shopping at Whole Foods to replace some of the food I had to throw away when my power went out. During the blackout, I bought much-needed food and supplies at stores around town; some of these stores struggled to open as soon as possible after the storm even though their power was still out. My credit-card companies emailed me to offer various kinds of assistance. Cafes, stores, and banks let people linger to charge their phones and computers, allowing them to stay in touch with friends and family who could offer further help.

Government has been helpful too — the police being the main visible example. Government may have also helped me in unseen ways, and the same could be said of businesses.

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(Photos were taken by me yesterday. The first is La Lanterna Caffe; the second is Mamoun's Falafel in Greenwich Village.)

4 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite writers. His clear, common sense is an uncommon trait among the Beltway punditry- of course, he has a degree, I believe, in economics which is enormously helpful to understand human behavior. I suggest Obama take a few econ courses if he gets re-elected- even he might learn a thing or two which could help Obama actually do something right for a change.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Yes, Sowell earned a Ph.D in economics from the University of Chicago — after dropping out of high school.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Sowell has incredible common sense with or without any academic degree. The degree allowed him to apply that common sense more effectively to that subject matter.
Among the many qualities Barack Obama does Not have is common sense, so any further attempts at educating him are wasteful.

karen said...

:0)- glad to see you're doing ok, John.