Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Orleans

I returned yesterday from New Orleans, where I heard several challenging and provocative papers that should be of interest to anyone involved in the Catholic legal theory project (I'm thinking of presentations by Zachary Calo and Eric Claeys in particular), but those can be poked and prodded at a later date.  The highlight of the trip for me was an afternoon spent driving through various neighborhoods with an old college friend who's a New Orleans native.  This was my first trip back to the city since Katrina, and it was amazing to see firsthand the immense scope of destruction that remains.  I've tried -- with limited success, I'm afraid -- to apply CST principles, particularly subsidiarity, to the Katrina recovery in the past, and my visit has underscored how complicated the situations is, and how difficult a "bottom up" or grass-roots recovery can be with destruction occurring on such a wide scale.  In city block after city block, you see two or three rebuilt homes surrounded by a sea of empty shells or, in many cases, cement slabs where a house used to stand.  A handful of residents have returned to their neighborhood, but since it's only a handful, it's not really a neighborhood.  A city with half the population needs to shrink its footprint or face enormous problems with infrastructure, city services, and (I think) a sense of community.  The footprint of New Orleans is apparently not going to shrink, but the population has dramatically shrunk.  (My visit also reminded me of how much aesthetics matter to our daily experience.  The neighborhood around my alma mater used to be filled with trees.  Most of the trees are gone now after standing in salt water.)  Individual property rights are a hallmark of Western law (as well they should be), and localized empowerment is a hallmark of CST (as well it should be).  Katrina has presented a challenge for both.

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Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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