NEW YEAR’S IN NEW ORLEANS: “This weekend, New Orleans got what it has been missing since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city four months ago: tourists.”

I’ve heard some people suggest that this sort of thing is inappropriate, and that we shouldn’t encourage crass capitalism at the scene of such a disaster (we heard similar sentiments after the Indian Ocean tsunami), but that seems like a terrible argument to me. You can’t do much without an economy, and staying away out of “respect” is the surest way to kill the place off.

The Association of American Law Schools had to move its conference (which is this week) from New Orleans to D.C., but to its credit the AALS only did so after making sure that there was just no way to hold it at its planned venue. Me, I’m glad the New Year’s celebrations went smoothly, and I wish ’em well for Mardi Gras.

UPDATE: New Orleans reader Beth Blankenship emails:

Thanks for your item on New Year’s in New Orleans. My partner and I, along with two other couples, spent the night in the Quarter, paid way too much for a very nice meal at a verrrrrry nice restaurant (Susan Spicer’s Bayona), and we’re locals. I can testify that there were indeed tourists in town, but lots of local accents filled the air as we crossed Bourbon Street after midnight.

Yes, we need tourists. It’s our main business. It’s important, too, that people see what has happened here, that we are resiliant and determined to endure, and that New Orleans is a place worth saving.

Mardi Gras will be strange, but I’m looking forward to it. I know of many expatriate New Orleanians planning to come for at least part of it. The good thing is we expect there’ll be less of the “Girls Gone Wild!” aspect and more of the old-fashioned family party.

And come Spring, be on the lookout for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. It’s much better than Mardi Gras.

Indeed. And Barry Dauphin emails:

Thanks for the comment about people visiting New Orleans. I was just in again at Christmas. Disaster tourism is good for the economy and a good way for people to see up close what happened. Of course, there
is something mildly creepy about it, but I think its advantages far outweigh the downsides. I think they should keep the disaster tours going until there’s no more disaster remnants left to see. If people want to help New Orleans, they should make a trip down there, stay in a hotel, take a disaster tour, eat, drink, shop, frolic, have fun and spend money. Ultimately that is what the area needs, i.e., more economic activity. Let the market work.

Free minds and free markets, that’s my motto. And, just to show that silliness knows no bounds, reader Alan Martin reaches into the past:

IIRC, during the peak of the famines in the Horn of Africa, the sensitives of Boston avoided the few local Ethopian/Eritrean restaurants, out of “respect”.

As the story goes, restaurateurs’ pocketbooks were not amused.

We can all do without that kind of respect.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader David Dayen points out that the Democrats are holding their spring meeting in New Orleans. Hardly an act of disinterested generosity, but praiseworthy nonetheless.