Flood insurance

Insurance is meant to spread risk. This does not mean subsidizing stupid behaviors. A risk easily foreseen should be avoided. Some places flood with monotonous regularity. If you choose to build a house there, you should be prepared to suffer losses. If that means that people don’t build on floodplains or barrier islands, it is better for both our economic and our ecological future. Our Congress wants to reinstate subsidies of flood insurance that they only recently voted to end. It is a mistake.

We should not subsidize stupid behavior. I know it is very hard not to have sympathy for our fellow citizens whose dreams lie in ruins, houses and businesses clogged with muddy water and it is likely to get worse with changes in climate. We should not leave our fellow citizens in dire straights, but we should perhaps help them move if their previous abodes are no longer well suited to habitation. It is not generous to enable people to stay in places where they will be serial victims to foreseeable vicissitudes of nature. Help a man rebuild his home on a floodplain and you are condemning him to misery and grief again and again. How can we be so cruel?

There is a story about a preacher in a town that was flooding. The water reached the roof of his church and along came a boat. “Get in,” said the boatman “It is still raining and the flood is rising.” No,” replied the preacher “the Lord will take care of me.” The water continues to rise. Comes another boat and then a third. Each time the preacher dismisses them, explaining that he has faith that the Lord will help him. Finally, there are no more boats and the water is rising. The preacher sees he will drown and calls to the Lord. “I trusted you,” he cries “Why have you forsaken me?” To which the Lord replies, “I sent three boats. Why didn’t you get into one of them?”

In our more modern time, maybe people have too much “faith” in government subsidized insurance. Maybe they should get in the figurative boat and move up the hill or away from the low estuaries.