Don’t Call the Government When the Levee Breaks

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.
Hurricane Harvey

Natural disasters just plain suck.

Mother Nature is a cruel matriarch, and she doesn’t much care about you, me or any of the human structures we’ve erected to help combat her occasional wrath.

Indeed, Mother Nature’s caprice and cruelty were on full display over the past couple of weeks, and watching the scenes of the aftermath in Houston, Florida and the Caribbean over the past several days made me sad, mad… and uplifted, all at the same time.

The destruction also reminded me of one of my favorite rock/blues songs, Led Zeppelin’s classic, “When the Levee Breaks.” Here’s the lyric that came to mind:

Mean old levee, taught me to weep and moan;

Mean old levee, taught me to weep and moan.

It’s got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home.

As we all know, many disaster zone residents were forced to leave their homes. Yet we also know that despite the damage and destruction suffered, many are resolute, strong of mind and already on their way back to clean up, rebuild and return to normalcy.

And, they are doing so with the help of their fellow citizens, many of whom have donated to the charities of their choice (my preferred charity is, and I encourage you to help through this fine organization, if you are able).

In fact, the recent storms have really revealed the true character of America; a rich country that is both generous and compassionate, and one replete with humans reaching out to help other humans in countless ways, including via monetary donations, manpower, equipment, food, shelter… and love and affection for those who are hurting.

Unfortunately, when disasters like Harvey and Irma strike, many people’s first reaction is to turn to political leadership and government for a clue as to what to do, or how to respond, or what kind of help they are likely to get.

But I say that when the levee breaks, don’t call the government… count on yourself first, and second, help your fellow man.

Yes, by all accounts, the response to Harvey and Irma by federal agencies such as FEMA, and by state and local government agencies, has been pretty good. But what’s been even better is the effort of individual citizens acting out of a sense of what’s right.

Investor’s Business Daily, a news source I highly recommend (full disclosure, I worked there for many years in the 1990s), has done a great job in its editorial page detailing the heroes of both Harvey and Irma. And wouldn’t you know it, none of them worked for Big Brother.

Most were just your average, good-hearted Americans stepping up to do their part to assist other Americans.

For example, in an Aug. 29 piece, “If You’re Focused On The Government’s Response To Harvey, You’re Looking In The Wrong Direction,” the op-ed told about the great work done by the so-called “Cajun Navy”:

Over the weekend, dozens of people from Louisiana showed up in Houston as part of what’s become known as the Cajun Navy. This is an all-volunteer group formed during Hurricane Katrina that has grown in size since.

The Cajun Navy was part of what’s been described as an “armada of private boats” that came to Houston to help rescue thousands of people stranded in their homes by Harvey’s relentless deluge.

Nobody ordered it, or organized it, or coordinated it, or directed it. Nobody’s getting paid. But their efforts are a big reason why the death rate from Harvey has been so low.

It’s the same with Irma.

In a Sept. 11 editorial titled, “With Hurricane Irma, Private Volunteers — Not Gov’t — Again Lead Way In Relief,” the newspaper detailed some of the contributions by private companies to the relief effort:

Discount giant Wal-Mart, a frequent and favorite target of the elitist pro-union left for daring to sell things cheaply to low- and middle-income Americans, has pledged $30 million for Irma relief efforts. Other major corporations have kicked in an estimated $160 million, and that amount is growing by the minute.

Home Depot actually runs a staffed Hurricane Command Center in Atlanta, from which it makes sure its stores are stocked with vital goods — including portable generators — needed to survive a major storm and rebuild after it’s over.

Meanwhile, at least 30 utilities across America and from Canada have sent some 16,000 technicians to Florida to help get power there up and running again after the storm has passed. No one ordered them to do it. No one forced them to help. Private groups and businesses such as these did it out of basic decency, the kind that Americans once were known for — and may someday be known for again.

Ah, yes, the key concept here is that no one (especially not government) ordered them to do it, and no one forced them to do it. These people, and these companies, did it because they wanted to make a bad situation better for their fellow man.

It is my view that when unshackled from over-taxation, over-regulation and the encroachment of government into areas where it has no business, Americans would not only do just fine, we would thrive even more than we already do.

That’s true during times of economic, social and cultural prosperity… and it’s especially true when the levees break.

Upcoming Appearances

Dallas MoneyShow, Oct. 4-6: If you’re in the “Big D” in early October, then come by the Hyatt Regency Dallas and see me, as well as many other great industry speakers, at the Dallas MoneyShow. I will be giving a presentation on Friday, Oct. 6, 8:00 – 8:45 a.m., titled, “5 ETFs to Fight the Fake News.” For your complimentary tickets, go to


Remember, Always!

On Monday, the nation paused to remember the horrific events of 9/11. It was 16 years ago, but for me, the memories seem as clear today as they were that September morning.

A lot has happened since then, including a dramatic rebuilding of the former World Trade Center site. Now, perhaps I’m a bit too biased here to be objective, having worked at the World Trade Center in the late 1990s when I was with Morgan Stanley.

Yet despite the brilliance of the new buildings, when I close my eyes and think of the Manhattan skyline, I see the twin brothers of the WTC standing tall, proud… and representing the essence of capitalism and freedom.

Remember, always!


Buckley on Self-Reliance

“There is an inverse relationship between reliance on the state and self-reliance.”

— William F. Buckley, Jr.

Conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. was acutely aware of the distorting nature of a powerful state apparatus when it comes to international affairs and the domestic economy. He was also aware of its distorting nature on the individual, as a big government just tends to make the individual smaller.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my audio podcast, newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

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