Building the Disaster State: The Development of US Disaster Policy, 1789-1900
33 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 7 May 2013
Date Written: 2009
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.
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