Jim Stoner is the best and most sophisticated apologist for New Orleans that I have read. But what, we may ask him, is the relationship between the spirit of America that leads to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and the somewhat anti-capitalist spirit of New Orleans, which he also seems to cherish?
Update: Heres Jim Stoners quite justified response to my post. I was too hasty and intoxicated by his Walker Percy intro to take adequate account of the "hard-headedness" that marked much of his essay.
I was a little taken aback by having my apology called anti-capitalist,
since the thrust of the essay was about what would be needed to rebuild New
Orleans, not as a big federal welfare project or a tourist trap, but as a
great commercial port, as it once was. To be sure, Im from the old two
cheers for capitalism school, since I think there are things like family,
faith, culture, and learning that are poorly understood if analyzed only in
terms of self-interest and free exchange -- and I havent figured out how
to add the principles of free gift and sacrifical love to an indifference
curve. Still, New Orleans was from its foundation a commercial city --
okay, maybe more mercantilist than capitalist -- and my apology was to
suggest a return to its first principles (leaving out, of course, those
forms of commerce now properly suppressed). As for the third cheer, I
would reserve it and remind my conservative friends that our state is
consistently one of the mostly staunchly pro-life in America.
But having reread his essay, I have more questions. Of course, as others have pointed out, restoring the "mercantile" elements of New Orleans economic infrastructure, and providing for the population employed by them, may well leave us with a different and smaller city than before. Would its charms be those that have figuratively and--Ill admit it--literally intoxicated me in the past? And would those charms be those of a living city or of a museum or amusement park? The risk accompanying too much money, arriving too quickly, even if (or especially if) its expenditure is more or less centrally controlled is that what comes back bears too many obvious marks of artifice to command our affection or allegiance. Can the re-animated New Orleans capture something of the distinctive spirit of the one that grew "organically"? Will Jim Stoner still find something in his adopted city to love?