Haitian update

Can it get worse? With Haiti the answer is always yes. This is from The Independent:

It now looks certain that more than 2,000 Haitians lost their lives in the flooding that followed Tropical Storm Jeanne last weekend. A similar number drowned in floods in May…simply a light rainstorm that swept away their shanty homes.

That is just the beginning. At least a quarter of a million Haitians face two more coming storms. They have no food and many are still living on rooftops. Human and animal corpses are drifting down the dirty river, which currently provides the only source of drinking water. Starving dogs have been seen tearing off the limbs of human corpses. The morgues are not working and there is risk of a large-scale epidemic. And social cooperation has broken down. The Washington Post reports:

Hungry, thirsty and increasingly desperate residents attacked each other in a panic Thursday to get scarce food and water as workers struggled to bury hundreds of corpses five days after the city was struck by Tropical Storm Jeanne.

To make matters worse, radical deforestation, caused by ill-defined property rights, may make Haiti a virtual desert by the end of the decade. In the 1950s, 25 percent of the country was forest, now it is 2 percent. Floods of this kind will only get worse.

Outside of wartime, Haiti represents new depths in how bad things can get. The current standard of living is well below that of most hunter-gatherer societies. We don’t spend much time studying economies with negative real rates of return; I am sorry to report that developing such a theory is becoming increasing relevant.


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