The devastation resulting from the hurricanes of 2005 could largely have been avoided at modest cost, evidence of a policy failure that may stem from misaligned incentives among levels of government. In particular, Federal government provision of ex post disaster relief means that subnational governments are not rewarded for costly but socially efficient policies that limit disaster losses. A system of Federally-mandated, state-funded disaster reserves would strengthen subnational government incentives to implement more disaster-averse policies. Illustrative calculations show that the costs of such reserves would vary widely by state but would not impose undue burdens on state fiscal systems.

David E. Wildasin / dew@davidwildasin.us