Building the Disaster State: The Development of US Disaster Policy, 1789-1900

33 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 7 May 2013

See all articles by Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

The US government has provided ad hoc disaster aid since the early days of the republic, and early texts of American political thought show that disaster response was considered a fundamental responsibility of a strong national government. Disaster response in the early days of the republic was intended to relieve suffering, save lives, and restore critical functions. Today, citizens and some politicians expect the government to engage in recovery by returning a community to its pre-disaster condition. In the 20th century it has become routine for Congress, the president, and agencies to justify disaster relief on humanitarian grounds, but it was not always so. In the early republic, disaster relief was intended to protect the flow of commerce or, in contemporary terms, critical infrastructure.

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Patrick, Building the Disaster State: The Development of US Disaster Policy, 1789-1900 (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1452177

Patrick Roberts (Contact Author)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University ( email )

Center for Public Administration and Policy
School of Public and International Affairs
Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States

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