One of the bigger systematic differences between the left and right in America is that progressives have a realistic view of human behavior while conservatives at times seem unhealthily obsessed with moral hazard. Yesterday we had David French explaining that we’ve got to stop bailing out drug addicts or else poor people will never stop being so depraved. Today, Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA) explains his insistence that any funding for earthquake relief in his district be offset by cuts else: “All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have” and “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.”
Indeed they don’t. Is the problem here supposed to be that if we help Virginians out after a freak earthquake that people will fail to insure themselves against this wildly unlikely scenario, thus exacerbating the problem in the future? I could imagine this working in the case of federal subsidies for disaster relief in, say, regular flood zones. But surely Cantor has noticed that the Richmond area basically never has discernable earthquakes and nobody is ever going to get insurance for this no matter what. Interest rates are super low. The government should borrow some money and repair some damage! There’s no problem here.