100 Economics Question of the Day: An Intermittent Blog: The Times Drinks Habitat's Kool-Aid—Still...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Times Drinks Habitat's Kool-Aid—Still...

The letter from Peter Ostrower praising the efforts of his organization, Habitat for Humanity, in the rebuilding of New Orleans is revelatory.

(To be clear: I gave regularly to Habitat until they shifted their literature to emphasize that they are a "Christian" organization, at which point I shifted to other organizations. I still admire the work they do and their publicity skills.)

Mr. Ostrower declares his group "the city's largest organized rebuilding effort." How much rebuilding?
Habitat has handed over the keys to more than 30 houses this summer and plans to complete 100 homes this year.

Cool. At that pace, it would only take 300 years to rebuild the city. Ostrower continued:
Habitat's goal of 1,500 new houses by 2011 creates a significant demand for volunteer labor. Although our current progress may seem like a modest first step, it's an energetic start.

So, if they get the "volunteer labor," Habitat would be able to build an average of either 280 (if he means 2007-2011, inclusive) or 350 (if he means 2007-2010) houses a year. Which would have the city almost rebuilt around the end of this century.

Don't get me wrong; to re-emphasize, I support the effort of Habitat for Humanity in spirit (the rest of you can send cash). But their capacity and "energetic start" isn't anywhere near what would be needed.

Tell me again, please, why we should believe that private charities are any more efficient or effective than government support and funding?

(Cross-posted at Marginal Utility)


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