One of the reasons that I love history -- and took a masters degree in the subject -- is that there are countless examples where we can learn from the past to avoid mistakes in the future (history can also be a bad guide in some cases as well, as the book The Black Swan points out). But the sad fact is that our memories are short and we often repeat the mistakes of the past. Such would be the case if public and private officials dump the more than $1 billion in funding requests that the Port of New Orleans is looking for. According to a Purchasing article on the subject, the port is looking for the funds "in an effort to expand the port and take advantage of the ever-growing number of ocean containers coming from Asia."
But how risky would this investment be? Very, in my book (and it goes beyond simply the infrastructure costs of the port itself). Consider how if the port gets the funds its seeking, how companies will build out additional infrastructure in the weather-prone area, putting their own supply chain operations at risk. The fact is that we should be looking to develop alternatives and back-ups to the Port of New Orleans rather than looking to expand it with public funds (if the port can raise private funds, it's another question entirely). As Katrina proved through supply disruptions for foam, resin and other products, the port area poses significant risk to our national infrastructure unless we invest in developing alternatives rather than super-sizing what's already there (which could potentially increase the size of the next metaphorical heart attack the region gives us).
- Jason Busch