"We have an obligation to people, not to places," says Edward Glaeser, a Harvard professor who specializes in urban economics. "Given just how much, on a per capita basis, it would take to rebuild New Orleans to its former glory, lots of residents would be much [better off] with $10,000 and a bus ticket to Houston."
My predictive view is closest to that of Joel Garreau: the core tourist sites of New Orleans will be restored, but like Galveston, Texas (hurricane of 1900), the city will not return to its previous prominence. How many major corporations had their headquarters there as it was? You could service the port with a city half of New Orleans’ previous size or less.
For better or worse, the necessity of signaling "political will" suggests a significant rebuilding effort will be made. What kind of rebuilding must we do to convince ourselves we have tried hard enough? I see a few options:
1. The rebuilding effort will give central attention to culture, a main source of pride in the city. That being said, the actual rebuilding will complete the transformation of New Orleans into a dead museum of past glories. The city’s poor neighborhoods — which bred many of the ideas — will never be the same and in fact had already lost much of their creativity.
2. The rebuilding effort will give central attention to race. This will attempt to convince voters that our government really does care about poor blacks. The attempt will fail.
3. The rebuilding effort will give central attention to spending money for the sake of spending money. When that does not suffice to restore the city, many Americans will blame the residents, thinking back on the looting and collapse of order.
None of these efforts will in fact signal that we are ready for the next disaster headed our way.