A small note on Haiti

Folks, no one \”made Haiti poor\”.

Certainly there have been actions by all sorts of people of right and left, thugs and even the well meaning, which have made Haiti poorer than it should be or could be. Everything from supporting grossly incompetent dictators to demanding reparations and stupidity about trade.

But the sort of poverty that Haiti is enmired in is not something that is made. This is the natural state, this $1 or $2 a day disgusting, foul, entirely a blemish upon us all, level of destitution is something which is the result of something not being made.

It is the result of wealth not being made. That may well have been the result of actions by all sorts of people of right and left, thugs and even the well meaning. Everything from supporting grossly incompetent dictators to demanding reparations and stupidity about trade.

But the basic point remains. They\’re in the Malthusian trap. GDP per capita is (at PPP) around $1,300. That\’s not notably different from England in 1600. Indeed, it\’s not notably different from England in 900 AD, from the GDP per capita in the Roman Empire.

Haiti\’s poverty is not something that man hath wrought. It\’s the result of what man hath not wrought.

In the longer term what they need is just what everyone else needs and has needed. Economic development. More factories, more trade, more, dare I say it, of that liberal capitalism stuff that dragged our own forefathers up out of the horrors of that $2 a day destitution.

3 comments on “A small note on Haiti

  1. Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man.

    Advances which permit the norm to be exceeded – here and there, now and then – are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people.

    Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as “bad luck”.

    –Robert A. Heinlein

  2. well of course I agree with the thrust of this … but if you say that liberal capitalism is what they need, then you have to think about the institutional prerequisites for that, and maybe it makes sense to ask who destroyed them (or destroyed their chances of emerging). You could consider this or maybe blame the Duvaliers

  3. Yes, but be serious – how would Haiti becoming a prosperous nation put food on the table of directors of charities, UN aid consultants and government contractors?

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