This is Chile, not Haiti

"There is a certain lawlessness in this country that the government enabled," he said in Spanish. "They don't protect people and people don't respect them and criminal elements get out of control. People also have a high sense of entitlement. They expected the government to have water and power and things under control."

There is much more at the link or try this tweet: "The situation in Concepción is deteriorating. Citizens have taken up arms to defend themselves and their stores. 8 PM to 12 PM Army curfew."  By no means is it just a bunch of people trying to feed themselves: "…many residents in the most damaged areas have not only taken food from supermarkets, but also robbed banks, set fires and engaged in other forms of lawlessness."

Haiti, on the other hand, remains fairly orderly and there have been reports that police corruption has gone down significantly

One implication here is that I fundamentally distrust the use of "social trust" or "social capital" indicators in cross-country growth regressions.  Repeat three times after me: context-dependence, context-dependence, context-dependence.  The lessons for social science run deep.

My deeper worry is that this event will change Chile and set it back more than the damage alone would indicate.  It will alter their self-image and national unity could decline.  An alternative story is that Chile will become more progressive, as there will be greater common knowledge of income divisions and it will be harder to pretend everything is just fine.

Maybe it is a sign of social health to have some looting after an earthquake.  In this part of blogland we do not dismiss the counterintuitive conclusion out of hand.  For instance perhaps Haiti is so orderly because a) looters would be killed on the spot, and b) the entire fate of the nation is at stake and thus every small event is taken very seriously.  Neither factor is exactly good news.


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