As luck would have it we missed what will be forever known as the Great Fourth of July Deluge. Rarely does Houston, Texas, in July beat 30A, but anyone who ventured from the Bayou City to our environs should have stayed home. Like Meade at Gettysburg and being a survivor of the Great Flint River Flood of 1994 I made a point to choose high ground in Blue Mountain Beach.

Floods often change landscapes and uncover things hidden just below the surface — for better or worse. After Flint River waters receded in 1994, city workers discovered an old skeleton dating back to the late 1800s. For decades some poor bloke lay alone in a shallow grave, a lead slug testimony to his demise.   

The Great Fourth of July Deluge eroded standard libertarian dogma also.

The torrential downpour caused a dike on the Intercoastal Waterway connecting North Bay and Choctawhatchee Bay to fail. Ink was still drying on the Constitution when Congress passed and George Washington signed the Northwest Ordinance defining future use of the natural navigation, transportation and communication routes. This far-sighted legislation recognized the benefits federally supported navigation projects bring to an economy. 

Thus all repairs to the waterway will be tasked to the United States Coast Guard and The Corps of Engineers. I am from the government and I’m here to help, hahahaha.

To this day, no tolls are charged on Intercoastal Waterway barges but in 1980 Congress enacted barge fuel surcharges to minimize taxpayer costs.  The current 20 cents per gallon levy has remained unchanged for eighteen years or the 1995 equivalent of less than twelve cents. Taxpayers pick up the balance and not adjusting the barge tax subsidizes large corporations. 

The holiday weekend saw another hole poked in standard small government meme. Pesky regulations played a role in minimizing fatalities when the Asiana Airlines flight tragically crashed in San Francisco. According to Steve Wallace, former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accident investigation chief, many people survived crashes 30 years ago but died in the post-crash fire. Regulations were tightened so passengers could exit planes quicker. Even if half the exits are blocked, planes are designed for passengers to escape within 90 seconds.  Per FAA guidelines, plane interiors now consist of less flammable material.

In 1988, the FAA issued regulations requiring that all newly developed transport aircraft use seats designed to take 16 times (16g) the force of gravity. The FAA found many people were killed after surviving the crash when their seats broke from the cabin floor.  Some survivors in California walked away luggage in tow. Yes, the plane’s nearly empty fuel tanks played a crucial role but the bottom line remains a few decades ago more people would have died. 

The airline industry could argue these policies reduce profits, after all airline companies go bankrupt more frequently than other industries.  Warren Buffett once said, “… if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”

These common-sense regulations sprang from the Reagan epoch hardly a burdensome regulatory regime. And they improved our standard of living. Conversely, in the minimize regulations race to the bottom, we risk things blowing up like fertilizer plants in Texas or Gulf of Mexico oil wells. 

Buz Livingston, CFP offers hourly financial planning and fee-only investment management to clients along Florida’s Emerald Coast.  Contact him at 850-267-1068, or