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January 16, 2010

Voodoo economics

Remind me again: How much help Haiti offered to the United States in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? After 9/11?

There are reasons these people cannot - will not - help themsleves and these have precious little to do with an earthquake. Worse yet, there are reasons these people cannot - will not - help themsleves in future. For one thing, our help is not helping.

It's easy to blame poverty for the magnitude of the devastation in Haiti this week, but poverty is the result of poor governance. The island of Hispaniola provides a useful comparative laboratory in this regard, like the Korean Peninsula or the two Germanys during the Cold War. Haiti is on the western side of the island, and the eastern two-thirds make up the Dominican Republic, a functioning democracy with a relatively strong economy. The 2008 per capita income in the Dominican Republic was $8,200, making it 119th in the world. In Haiti, income was $1,300, ranking 203rd, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Satellite images of the island clearly show the divide between the two countries because of deforestation and a lackluster agricultural sector on the Haitian side.

There is nothing compassionate about ensuring a people live in penury forever, for all they seem willing to endure such compassion indefinitely.

On point: Assuming this Time Magazine report is accurate, Haitians are responding to crisis with their usual unique aplomb. Let's send them 100 millions dollars!

Angry Haitians set up roadblocks with corpses in Port-au-Prince to protest at the delay in emergency aid reaching them after a devastating earthquake, an eyewitness said. Shaul Schwarz, a photographer for TIME magazine, said he saw at least two downtown roadblocks formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks.

"They are starting to block the roads with bodies, it's getting ugly out there, people are fed up with getting no help," he told Reuters.

Aside from a complete lack of elementary building codes, emergency planning and the rule of law, you know what is slowing down emergency aid? Road blocks made of corpses.

On a related note, Time Magazine is racist.

A voluntary organization for every 800 residents: Theodore Dalrymple on Haitian poverty, a matter of deep ideological contention.

That Haiti was a slow-moving disaster even before the earthquake was visible—obvious, in fact—from a height of 35,000 feet. When you flew from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince, the border was as clearly visible as on any map, a straight line drawn on the earth’s surface: on the Dominican side, verdant, on the Haitian side, brown, bare as a desert.
...
A Nigerian journalist once said of his country, “No known system of government works in Nigeria.” This is even truer of Haiti. It’s often claimed that Haiti’s desperate situation is the consequence of outside interference—principally American, of course—plus recurrent, often bizarre, dictatorship. But Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, has suffered similar disadvantages; yet it prospers.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 16, 2010 06:28 AM

Comments

I have a theory about Haiti, and most other French speaking colonial cast offs. Yep, France. At least England left behind local people who had training in the governance of a country. You can look the world over the the ex-Commonwealth countries are doing well or moderately well, while the ex-French colonies are mostly mired in poverty with varying degrees of governance from anarchy to dictatorship to some democracy. God Bless England :)

Posted by: Dwayne_M [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2010 12:52 PM

If one didn't know any better one might be tempted to think Haiti is cursed or something.

Posted by: Enas Yorl [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2010 05:27 PM