free and open society

When I landed in San Antonio for the State Policy Network’s (SPN) annual conference, Hurricane Harvey had spent the last 96 hours ravaging the Texas and Louisiana coast. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster days before the hurricane made landfall, and federal emergency services were ready to act when the storm passed.

But the real story of recovery along the coast in Texas and Louisiana lies in how businesses and people answered the call to begin rebuilding affected communities and how these actions help to promote and advance a Free and Open Society, as outlined in the Framework for a Free and Open Society.

Now, more than a week since Harvey dissipated, there are dozens – perhaps even hundreds – of stories about how businesses and communities responded to the tragedy. Many of these stories will go untold in the media, and the unsung heroes will go back to their lives after heeding the call to help their fellow man.

As part of the State Policy Network’s annual meeting, dozens of attendees joined hundreds of other volunteers in San Antonio to assemble groceries and meals at the San Antonio Food Bank for those  in need. Volunteers processed over 100,000 pounds of food in a four-day period. SPN attendees also raised more than $12,000 for relief efforts.

free and open society

Employees at GLA volunteered at the San Antonio Food Bank in wake of Hurricane Harvey. Their shift bagged over 51,400 lbs of food for shelters in impacted areas.

But that’s merely a figurative drop in the bucket.

As of this writing, more than $150 million has been pledged by businesses toward the relief effort, according to CNN Money.  From big box retailers like Walmart (who sent truckloads of supplies after Hurricane Katrina) to Disney and  IBM to small businesses and their employees.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, makers of Budweiser, converted one facility to produce canned water for relief efforts. Popular home-sharing platform Airbnb connected hosts with those who have been displaced, just as they have done in the wake of past disasters. Mobile carriers are waiving the cost of their services to keep families and communities connected.

There are thousands of stories of average Americans rising up to help those in need. The Cajun Navy, a loose alliance of boaters from Louisiana’s bayou country, dispatched hundreds of boats to help find and rescue those trapped in their homes.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s “Bridge to Wellbeing” program dispatched dozens of volunteers in Louisiana to assemble thousands of hygiene kits and other necessary supplies for those in the affected area.

free and open society

A group of Grassroots Leadership Academy graduates assembled hygiene kits with the Bridge to Wellbeing program at Americans For Prosperity Foundation.

Paul Smathers, a graduate of the Grassroots Leadership Academy’s Grassroots Leader Certification program, helped collect items in Shadyside, Ohio, and made the 22-hour trip with his wife to Refugio, Texas, to help with relief efforts.

On social media, I have seen dozens of individuals who are leading fundraising campaigns to aid the relief effort.

Investor’s Business Daily touched on the beauty of these efforts:

“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.”

As an economic principle, this is known as spontaneous order: people coming together without the direction of a central planner. It’s how Business and Community should respond in trying times like these.

Most Americans understand Government as an institution can’t solve all the problems created by natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. That’s why we need to consistently lace up our boots and get to work when our community calls.

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