The Organizational Evolution of the American National Red Cross

An Austrian and Bloomington Approach to Organizational Growth and Expansion

Originally published in Advances in Austrian Economics

The American National Red Cross is in many ways the iconic symbol for disaster response and recovery. The organization, founded in 1881, has a long track record for coming to the aid of those in need in the wake of wars, natural disasters, and other crises. However, in the wake of recent disasters, the Red Cross has been criticized for underperforming. By combining the literature on bureaucracy in Austrian economics and the literature on monocentricity in the work of Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom, we provide an analysis of the Red Cross that helps explain the organization's evolution over time and that also yields implications for disaster management more broadly. Specifically, the Red Cross is a bureaucracy that has become increasingly centralized and rigid as it has become further enmeshed with governmental responsibilities.

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