Assorted links

1. What went wrong with the reconstruction of Haiti?  A long feature article, mostly good though it is wrong, and arguably insane, to criticize the development models of Haiti’s past as too “business friendly.”

2. Michael Clemens: where are the free trillion dollar bills?

3. Is something strange going on in Hungary?

4. Company scans your books for a dollar.

5. Scott Sumner on Japan.

Comments

@4 If you know what you're doing, It is surprisingly quick and easy to scan your own books to PDF with a tripod, desk lights, digital camera, and OCR software. You can do it pretty much as fast as you can turn pages.

All of those things would take me way more than a dollar's worth of time to set up.

#4 Company scans your books for a dollar.

If every other guy sends in, say, Freakonomics to be scanned can they just scan once and then send the same pdf to all requesters? Might they even obviate the shipping hassle by just requiring a credible proof-of-purchase?

I'm excluding the margin-note-to-self aficionados.

That is very similar to what got MP3.com sued into oblivion.

Where are the free trillion dollar bills? They're in the Wall St. banks. And you can't have any. But they are "free" you said. Yeah, free for the banks, gratis Bernanke, but not free for you.

The bank infusions, such as the discount window, were generally not free. They have to be paid back. TARP capital infusions, for example, were preferred equity that had to be paid back at a pretty health premium.

I believe in Scott Sumner's response to 2008, where banks are allowed to fail but we offset the failures with much looser monetary policy. If we don't do that, then I think banks should be nationalized and broken up if they are bailed out, like the FDIC. But it's still not good to have blatant lies about the bailout. I wonder how many people still think TARP cost nearly a trillion dollars when it will probably end up as a net gain.

Matt,

What happen when the money is paid back? Is it added to this year's revenue? I always see the spike in spending in 2008, but when TARP gets paid back, should we not credit 2008s budget?

#3 "...promote moral rearmament" ?!?! If only Washington were half as creative as that.

Perry-Bachmann will fix that.

4. Another way for countries with cheap labor to steal intellectual property.

1. To paraphrase Edward Longshanks, "The trouble with Haiti, is that it's full of Haitians."

3. Hungary is strange because it recognizes that 2+2=4?

5. Scott Sumner is strange because he recognizes that 2+2=4.

2. Can't open the file. That's strange.

The trouble with Haiti is that it has been full of ignorant Americans calling the shots ever since we invaded in 1917 and sent FDR to write Haiti's constitution. We haven't stopped violating its political sovereignty since, and the sentiment you expressed is a regrettable relic (IMHO) of deeply racist colonial attitudes.

Americans may not be blameless, but it's silly to blame Haiti's condition on America. DR is on the same island, with the same proximity with America. I'm sure DR has had its share of American intervention as well, but somehow it's done much better than Haiti.

As Tyler says, it's just about insane to blame Haiti for being too business-friendly. In fact, Haiti is one of the toughest countries in the world to do business in.

See my comment at 12:46 pm today. Haiti has had much more extensive intervention, which has happened much more recently, than the DR. People are very comfortable making assumptions based on no information about this topic...

Ah yes, its the ignorant Americans have not given the Haitians running water, given them adequate shelter, given them responsible government, given them adequate educations, given them the "American Life".

Even more laughable are the claims that Haiti is Haiti due to lack of property rights. Obviously giving every Haitian a copy of the Road to Serfdom will solve their problems! Amusingly also proving once again the old adage that when the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems start looking like nails.

No, Mike's remarkable ability to realize that 2+2 does in fact equal 4, places him among the scant few to acknowledge reality or at least speak truth to power in the face of our Chekist enforcers of Gramscian orthodoxy.

Haiti is Haiti because it is full of Haitians. Or if you wish me to elaborate further (god forbid I stand accused of ad-hominems), the Haitians are a people sadly lacking the human capital in organizing and sustaining a developed industrial state because the mean intellectual facilities of the population group are more than a standard deviation below those who can. That their problems are not of the Wests making nor are they of the West's solving. That there are limits to what Haiti can achieve and limits to Western social engineering. That there are better and more productive ways to spend money than frittering it away on the usual clique of development "consultants", "activists", and sundry shakedown artists all in a quixotic quest to turn lead into gold.

If you want to call me a racist then I must freely admit my counter-revolutionary thought crimes. I'll even volunteer to show up for the struggle sessions if you provide a yummy lunch

A healthy system of property rights does not spring forth fully formed simply by reading TRTS. (Alas, were it only so -- nearly every poor country struggles with this problem.)

OTOH I agree this problem has deep cultural roots. All men may be created equal, but all cultures are assuredly not.

Jing,

The really funny point is that Michael Clemens wants to ship the population of Haiti to the United States. Somehow the values and culture that have made Haiti a rip roading success will also make Haitians vast contributors to the United States.

That hasn't worked in the United States to date and Europe's vast immigrant slums show that it is not working over there either. It not a coincidence that the country in Europe with the best schools (Finland) has the fewest immigrants.

Ive met many of the Haitians who came to the US. i think we're probably getting the best of them.

Mike,

"i think we’re probably getting the best of them."

Something like half of the college educated population has left Haiti. See

"How to help Haiti" http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-to-help-haiti.html.

"Immigration from Haiti is a terrible way to help" http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/01/immigration-from-haiti-is-terrible-way.html

"Haiti's Economy" http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/01/haitis-economy.html

"1. The worlds perhaps leading expert of Haiti's economy is a Swedish economics professor, Mats Lundahl. His research has emphasized the political economy of Haiti, overpopulation and a vicious cycle in resource use (which he links to ill functioning institutions). In "The Root of Haitian Underdevelopment" (1985) Lundahl writes:

Population growth in a country where the institutional environment did not enable an industrial sector led to more and more labor intensive agricultural techniques and products (food instead of coffee). This led to land erosion and a vicious cycle : erosion made useful land even more scarce, which leads to an even higher labor to land ratio, more labor intensive agriculture, more erosion etc.

Another problem that Lundahl studies in depth has been the kleptocratic nature of Haiti's political leadership. People who are interested about Haiti should read some of his work.

2. Between 1960 and 2008 Haiti received $8.6 billion (real) dollars in Official Development Aid, not a shocking amount by most comparisons. If someone would have invested this aid money in a bank account earning 3.5% real returns, it would be $16 billion, twice Haiti's nominal GDP. Haiti has become somewhat more aid dependent in recent year, as this graph shows."

"Haiti's per capita GDP would be 43% higher if today's aid and remittances were shared on their 1960 population instead of their current population (assuming it aid and remittances were same, but ignoring agriculture).

While Ehrlich was wrong in general, population growth harms the standard of living in some specific cases, namely countries where a large share of income is derived from fixed assets (in Haiti's case land, relatives abroad and the generosity of foreign nations). The most obvious case where more people reduces the average standard of living is Saudi Arabia. "

Im glad your opinions are so humble, Nathan.

It's far easier to blame foreign intervention than it is to man up to taking responsibility for their own condition. If I recall, there was an agrarian economy on the eastern coastal region of North America that had been a colonial possession. After its revolution it was plagued with indebtedness, internal struggles, and foreign intervention. But those guys were mostly white, so they had it easy, right?

The problem with Haiti is that it has been full of ignorant Americans calling the shots ever since the marines invaded in 1917 and we sent FDR to write Haiti's constitution. We haven't stopped violating its political sovereignty since then. The sentiment you expressed is (IMHO) a regrettable relic of deeply racist colonial attitudes.

The trouble with Haiti is that it has a lot of people, no natural resources, it hasn't had a strategic location since the age of sail, and it it in the middle of the hurricane highway. The DR is also poor, but less so since it is able to outcompete Haiti for tourism.

Basically, if you are a caribbean island you have historically had a few choices: 1) wealth through sugar slave plantations, 2) wealth through piracy, 3) wealth through strategic location, 4) wealth through tourism, 5) be big enough to maintain an actual economy.

(1) Stopped being an option a while ago, as did (2). (3) worked for a while for Cuba, but now no one can really do it. (4) is very competitive, and only thinly-populated islands make enough per capita to make it worth it. (5) only Cuba and the DR, maybe Jamaica, are big enough to really manage that.

I hate FDR as much as the next guy (scratch that, more than the next guy). But what was Haiti like before 1917? I don't actually know, but I'm assuming it was very poor then as well.

@TGGP: See my reply below. Haiti had the same GDP as DR until 1960.

@jb: That's an interesting theory, except Jamaica's population is 2.7 million, less than a third of Haiti's, and it has much higher growth rates...

Political sovereignity is, IMO, in no discernible way connected to economic results of said country.

Many rich countries are, or until very recently were, colonies, while many poor countries exist for a century or more as sovereign states.

Lucid. Thanks!

@1 The problem with describing past Haitian development models as too "business friendly" isn't that it's wrong, but that it's imprecise. As a Haiti activist, I'm often a part of conversations in which these types of claims are made (the US imposed policies that were too business friendly, etc.). I believe that when you hear such a claim, you evaluate it (roughly) along the lines of something like the World Bank's Doing Business index - in other words, "how attractive is it to set up a run a business in Haiti?" In that sense, you're correct that it's nonsensical to say Haiti has been too business friendly, because Haiti doesn't have any of the institutions in place to support a successful entrepreneurial culture.

However, the claim that the US imposed (under the Duvaliers, and under the interim governments before and after Aristides' term fragments) policies that were "too"[1] friendly to *particular* businesses (for example, American Rice, Inc.) is definitely accurate. This is happening again in the reconstruction effort (see: http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/winner-bad-for-haiti/).

The point is that while you're right that Haiti's development models haven't fostered a business culture, they *have* resulted in a few (mostly US) businesses making a killing at the expense of Haiti's development. I believe that's what the article meant, even if it was expressed in a generic way that likely reflects an ideological stance rather than a balanced assessment of the evidence.

[1] In the sense that their long-term impact was to detract from Haiti's development.

ARI didn't make much from Haiti. In 1998, ARI filed for bankruptcy.

"though it is wrong, and arguably insane, to criticize the development models of Haiti’s past as too “business friendly.”"

Depends on which business.

Though I see Nathan just made my point.

I think DeSoto's book is still the gold standard on countries like Haiti: the basic problem is lack of property rights. IIRC he found it takes fourteen years to transfer real property, with sundry bribes and permits along the way. And unfortunately, the cultural underpinnings are such that it's going to take them a long time to get to something approximating a free market economy: unfortunately, no matter what you do, Haiti is still going to be full of Haitians.

"the sentiment you expressed is a regrettable relic (IMHO) of deeply racist colonial attitudes."

This excuse is getting pretty threadbare in my view. Everyone to the right of Joe Lieberman has been called racist so often, for such trivial reasons, that the word no longer stings. This is allowing truly racist views to take root, and those who hold them to laugh off criticism as just more inconsequential partisan prattle from the intellectually bankrupt Left.

Yes, that's an over-used label. And as you say, the over-use of it allows truly racist views to take root.

Those truly racist views clearly include, in my opinion, the comment made by Mike. Saying Haiti's "trouble" is the result of being full of Haitians is an ad hominem attack, applied to the people of a country rather than to an individual. For starters, I wonder about your judgment that your moral intuition doesn't recognize as racist such a comment about a nearly all-black (with some mulatto) country. But more relevantly, any remotely serious student of Haiti's history (including its very recent history) can demonstrate quite clearly how common that rhetorical style and perspective is, even among US policymakers.

However, it seems that you aren't actually addressing the merits of my claim that it's racist to say "The trouble with Haiti, is that it’s full of Haitians." It mostly seems you have an ideological axe to grind about people playing the race card, which doesn't interest me. If you're interested in discussing the topic of US attitudes toward Haiti with relation to race, I would be happy to provide you with some resources that could help develop your perspective on the topic.

Jing's response added flesh to a statement that I considered pithy and you construed as racist. I didn't say a word about race and didn't imply it.

Had i said, "The problem with Canada is that it's full of Canadians," I would have received quizzical glances and questions like, "What's wrong with Canada? And if there's something wrong with Canada, what quality of Canadian character has led to this problem?"

No one would be accusing me of being racist against Canadians. No one would suggest that any problems with Canada rested with anyone other than Canadians.

Perhaps I confused you by quoting a humorously evil line from the antagonist in Braveheart. Clearly the problem with Scotland was all those white guys who resembled Sean Connery in a skirt and make-up.

I'm half Korean and 1/4th Mexican. While not dispositive of racism, I think I fully understand and appreciate from my own cultural heritage the affects of invasion, colonialism, war, corruption, despotism, and foreign influence. But I want you to know I don't hold all you white folks accountable if I fail, if North Korea fails or if Mexico fails. Somehow, South Korea seems to have survived America writing its constitution, inclulcating American attitudes and business practices, and occupying it with an army for 66 years.

I, for one, am grateful for this sort of colonialist, racist oppression.

....so also India thrives in spite of 200+ years of English colonialism

Rahul,

The Americans in South Korea were better than the Brits in India. The Brits wanted to make a profit from India (for their country). The Americans wanted to stop communism even at a large cost to themselves.

America strongly promoted economic development in SK even if it was (or could be) competitive with the U.S. A thriving SK was a winning outcome for the U.S. even if it created a competitor / rival to the U.S. The same was true for the U.S. in Japan after WWII. The more and faster Japan grew, the better American policy looked.

Of course, the U.S. would have been economically better off if Japan and SK had remained complementary economies incapable of producing high-value goods that competed with American output. However, that would have been a political disaster (by promoting communism in Asia).

I don't think the Brits in the 19th century had comparable policy objectives. However, I also don't think the relative success of SK and India is just a matter of colonial policy (Brits vs. Americans). In my opinion, Koreans have more "social capital" compared to Indians. That's hard to measure or prove but appears to be true.

"No one would suggest that any problems with Canada rested with anyone other than Canadians."

Same with Albania, Georgia (that one of the former USSR) or Greece.

But, hey presto, once the problematic country is in the third world, all their problems were caused by the Evil Caucasians. Even the most awful characters like Mugabe and Idi Amin are just tools of the Incredibly Evil Former Colonialists and Neo-Colonialists.

Meanwhile, let's pretend that the extremely successful countries of Pacific Asia do not exist...

The lefty doublethink is overpowering. Orwell knew what he wrote about.

So it is OK to criticize, say, Moldovian culture and national character, because Moldovians are white, but taboo to criticize Haitian culture and national character, because it is "nearly all-black (with some mulatto) country"?

I am TIRED of this blatant dual meter.

'it seems that you aren’t actually addressing the merits of my claim that it’s racist...'
Well, since you haven't actually bothered to address the merits of the claim that Haiti's problem is the Haitians, it seems only fair. Or did you think that just by throwing out the racism ad hominem we would automatically assume your must be right?

@ bbartlog. Actually, you just failed to read the comment thread. Look at my comment at 12:46. I addressed that claim extensively.

@ Marian Kechlibar. there's no dual meter here. I think cultural explanations are lazy. It allows people who don't know anything about a country to make a claim about the country anyway. Can't explain why Haiti is such a basketcase? Much be culture.

General challenge to you cultural explanations folks:

I'd love for ANY of you to substantively rebut the claims I made in my longer comment below (timestamp 12:46), or else point to something other than your owned priors to support the claim that Haiti's culture is the reason it's poor.

As it stands, I'm the only one who has provided a substantive argument. Pointing to the fact that Haiti is poor, and that it has extremely superficial similarities to better off countries (e.g. "wait, other small islands are richer!" or "wait, other colonized countries are richer!") is not an argument. It's not a causal argument, or even an argument that passes muster in a high school classroom.

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things just doesn't belong.

Can you tell me which thing is not like the other...

By the time I finish this............

What?! Eastern Europeans hate Gypsies and politicians stoking the flames?! What next, Der Spiegel uncovers a survey showing that Western Europeans look down on Eastern Europeans?

@2 Michael Clemens is nihilistic sociopath intent on the utter annihilation and extermination of the West. Maximizing labor "efficiencies" by importing half the third world into developed nations is the plan of a genocidal Stalinist intent on plunging Europe and America into a perpetual dark age of mediocrity and despair from which there will be no recovery.

Idle hands are the devil's tools. Clemens is the type of man who in another age and place would be busy calculating how to best defend the revolution by starving it's malcontents into submission. Some of these so-called intellectuals would be best served by hauling night soil by hand on a pig farm.

#3 - The article on Hungary talks about "forced labor camps." However, what it actually describes sounds more like a New-Deal-style make work program. It suggests racism with its image of Gypsies working, but it doesn't actually explain this--is there actually a policy that targets Gypsies? We aren't told. The only worker actually quoted is glad to have a job. It also says "critics warn of...Jew-baiting" but doesn't provide any evidence of government being involved in this.

I'm not saying this to defend the administration in Hungary--I know next to nothing about it. But it does make me wonder how objective and how accurate the article is.

That journalist opportunistically used the Gypsy theme to kick start his article. He never digs into that theme in the core of his argument.

The general problem with Gypsy populations in Central and Eastern Europe is that they have almost zero formal education, plus their traditional culture does not value it, so the pattern carries to the next generations.

The situation is complicated by language barriers, but they aren't really at the root of the problem (Vietnamese immigrants have had bigger language barriers, but their second generations usually speak local languages without accent, while maintaining Vietnamese cultural identity). The root of the problem is low parental investment into children's education.

Another complication is that traditional Roma culture does not know or respect private ownership. If someone gains some resources or money, there are enormous social pressures from the extended family to share them with the rest of the relatives - unconditionally. Refuseniks are accused of acting white, and usually expelled from the community (magerdo - shunning). In such conditions, there is no incentive for fruitful labor, but there is enormous incentive to game the welfare system.

The states of Central and Eastern Europe are desperately struggling for a solution that wouldn't be overly racist, but still would integrate the Roma into the majority culture, including values and work attitudes. No one really knows how to do that; and with the demographic situation favoring the Roma, pretty much every realistic person is afraid of serious potential troubles in the next decades, especially as the overburdened welfare system can't carry as much weight as in the previous era.

An underlying malady is that it has become fashionable to value tradition for tradition's sake. The fact that a tradition is ancient, exotic, rare or quaint is not sufficient reason to tolerate or encourage it. Any attempt to assimilate ethic people is seen as cleansing and their way of living considered sacrosanct, even if there are obvious lacunae by modern secular standards of welfare and well-being.

3."those who hold political power today should be allowed to remain in office for as long as possible; and those who once had power and did not use it for the benefit of the people should now be punished."

Most politicians don't say that out loud.

2. Free Lunch: stop doing something that costs you money costing you money.

@2. Who says we've exhausted all of the low hanging fruit???

The article on Hungary was atrocious. It really never delves into specifics to support some of it's most alarming assertions. Forced labor camps? They certainly looked like make-work programs from the description given, but we are led to think that this some sort of vicious right-wing development, but looks just like something from the New Deal. Jew-baiting? No evidence given.

On the media, we learn that the public-supported media are being cut with the implication that the layoffs are politically motivated. Well, Hungary is broke,so something had to be cut. A big fat public media bureaucracy is as good a target as any. I don't doubt politicians use such cuts as a way to reward supporters and punish critics, but that is the price you pay for accepting the government job in the first place- he who pays the piper calls the tune. The article also claims the government has recently passed laws the provide a variety of ways to silence critics, but never once identifies these. I am guessing that these probably also apply to those journalists on the public payroll, in which case I wonder why I should care beyond being critical of a government actually paying to have publicly supported journalism in the first place. How about just cutting the office altogether? I am sure the writer of the article doesn't support that.

And finally we have the government critic from the church who complains that his public funding is being cut. Well, boohoo! Again, this is the price you pay when you take the government's nickel in the first place- you are providing your opponents leverage to use against you.

The main thing this article successfully demonstrates is that leftists really hate Hungary's new leadership.

#2 is something libertarians have been saying for a while. CATO or Mercatus should do some more studies.

Open eyes, open borders.

Open Borders are such a wonderful idea. Let's import the entire population of Haiti into the United States where they will make a vast positive contribution. After all, the values and culture of Haitians have been a stunning success story in Haiti. Why shouldn't those values and culture be a big plus in the United States?

Immigration isn't fundamentally about economics, its about people. People who bring their flaws, failings, burdens, and weaknesses with them. The Swiss author Max Frisch once wrote

“We imported workers and got people instead”

If Haitians had the social cohesion and human capital to max a positive contribution to the United States, we wouldn't be discussing this, because Haiti would already be a success story. It isn't.

That's really the big story here. Michael Clemens implicitly assumes (but never dares to state) that people in the third world lack the culture/values/human capital to achieve economic development at home. However, they can exploit the superior social structures of developed nations. If these people really can't develop their own countries, why would anyone assume that they won't undermine the existing developed nations?

Note that painful experience to date shows that they will. For fun look up the definition of "tournantes". Check out immigrant PISA scores around the world.

Rather thank looking from trillion dollar bills, how about ten trillion dollar bills? Hundred trillion dollar bills? Raising world per-capita output to the level of the G7 would increase world output by 207 trillion dollars. Makes emigration / immigration look pretty trivial. If that not happening (207 trillion in growth), why not?

"If Haitians had the social cohesion and human capital to max a positive contribution to the United States, we wouldn’t be discussing this, because Haiti would already be a success story. It isn’t."

I guess standards for establishing causality go out the window once you enter into the fray in the comment section. Consider me convinced, Haiti's culture MUST explain low growth in Haiti.

Is this argument appealing because it's easy to make even if you know nothing about a country? Can you point to a convincing paper in the comparative growth literature that suggests cultural facts are dominant in determining GDP outcomes?

Gratuitous links to the project you're working on in Haiti for your Socialist merit badge don't inspire the belief that you've reached your conclusions through a studied analysis. Pre-conceived notions that are favorable to a people are also prejudicial. Harping about capitalist, imperialist pigs is merely the mating call of the paleo-Marxist. You'll find few companions here. I suggest you try a truck stop.

Mike, you are infuriatingly averse to engaging in substance. Let me provide you external links on the same topic for the two times I linked to my blog.

On Paul Farmer pointing out that Haiti's government hasn't been given control of aid: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/29/5_lessons_from_haitis_disaster?page=full

On the US blocking loans from the IADB for a water project: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/relief-and-reconstruction-watch/heavy-rains-threaten-to-bring-more-cholera-cases-what-to-do-about-it

---

Of the two of us, each has clearly reached our views through study: mine were reached through studied analysis of Haiti's history; yours through studied adherence of a narrow ideological position.

I'm not talking about capitalism or Marx. I do embrace the notion that our policies are imperialistic, but if you don't like the label I'm happy to set that point aside. I'm documenting each of my claims in every comment, and you turn around you engage in another ad hominem based on the fact that they're a part of my "project... for my Socialist merit badge."

MR is a great blog that I've followed for a long time. I think that you're the one in the minority here, because I imagine my fellow readers of MR to mostly be interested in fact-based discussions and analysis. I may not be the authoritative voice on Haiti, but I've at least engaged in this conversation in good faith - which, to me, means talking about the issues rather than trying to shame me into leaving the comment section based on your fictionalized account of my political beliefs. Your behavior is embarrassing.

Moreover, if you'd like to make it an ideological argument (which it oughtn't be), I'm certainly not expressing paleo-Marxist beliefs. If anything, I would advocate for our policies toward Haiti to be characterized by a libertarian ethic, which I'm sensing you identify with.

Nathan,

"Can you point to a convincing paper in the comparative growth literature that suggests cultural facts are dominant in determining GDP outcomes?"

"The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" - Weber
"Culture and Economics" - http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/luigi.zingales/research/topics/culture.html (many papers actually)
"The Wealth and Poverty of Nations" - Landes
"Culture and Institutions: Economic development in the Regions of Europe" - Tabellini
"Moral Basis of a Backward Society" - Banfield
"Cultural evolution and economic growth: a theoretical hypothesis with some empirical evidence" - Marini

For intelligent readers of a blog that values fact-driven discussion, I would have expected a lot more of this conversation. Few of you have introduced any facts to the discussion, just snark.

So, to quickly address a few points:

1) "Wait, the DR ('same island' argument) and Mexico and Korea and India ('same experience' argument) have similar characteristics in terms of geography and treatment. Therefore, it must be Haitian culture driving low growth."

These are incredibly intellectually lazy arguments. Let's look at the question empirically. The DR and Haiti had the same GDP per capita until 1960 (www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2007/wp0763.pdf). This paper finds that "policy decisions" played a huge role in determining what happened after that. Now, until 1986, the US made policy in Haiti. We propped Baby Doc Duvalier with a ton of policy contingencies. He followed them so he could keep arming the tonton macoutes, and the policies that he put in place wrought havoc on the Haitian country. In particular, I'm referring to his embrace of a rural-urban migration process on steroids, which resulted in Haitian agriculture being wiped out with no attendant improvements in export-oriented industries like textiles. This was a US plan, to the letter. It was imposed, via dictator and at gunpoint, on the Haitian people. This history is covered in a video presentation that I did (http://vimeo.com/27522661), and I would happily provide documentation for any of the facts cited in that presentation. Post-1986, the US has backed two coups against the democratically elected government in Haiti when we didn't like its policies. In short, Haiti hasn't been able to craft its own policies, and so cannot logically be "held accountable" for its policies.

As for the "well such and such country also had colonialism" argument ... That's even more irrelevant. The experiences of Haiti are not comparable to those of any of those other countries. Haiti wasn't colonized past 1804. I'm not making a colonialism-drove-poor-growth argument. If anything, the opposite: all of the potential benefits derived from colonialism (the AJR historical institutions hypothesis: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7771) never materialized in Haiti. Instead, the Haitian National Bank was treated like an international ATM through the first half of the 20th century. By 1900 alone, Haiti had paid out an amount that equates to $692 billion today. Until 1947, Haiti was still making payments to France for having damaged French plantations in the 1804 Revolution. Every major power extracted from Haiti, but rather than investing in infrastructure, the only thing these world powers ever did in return was bomb Haiti. Therefore, it's not like India or any other colonized country, because... well, it hasn't been colonized for 207 years. It's just been treated like a hostile state that exists for financial resource extraction.

2) "Oh, well excuse us for not bringing clean water etc. to the Haitians."

I'm not saying we haven't given the Haitians enough. We give them plenty of "aid," but most of it is in the form of military presence --- even post-earthquake. The problem I have is when we sabotage existing efforts for Haitians to develop those things themselves. For instance, there was a water project in 1999-2000 that was to be financed by IADB aid. When Haiti elected a leader we didn't like, we illegally blocked any of those aid dollars from getting to Haiti (http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/causing-cholera/). That's one example of a laundry list of times that the US has intervened to promote our political vision for Haiti, meanwhile violating their sovereignty and sabotaging social programs. But as opposed to in SK, Mexico, India, etc., we're talking about events taking place *this decade*. No other country has had to sustain such a burden of intervention, which is a claim I would happily back up further.

So, am I saying 100% of Haiti's problems are attributable to Americans? No. But, in what I think is an applicable anecdote, I can only point to a speech given by Sec. Clinton and FM Lawrence in December. They complained about Haiti's mismanagement of the reconstruction effort, arguing - as you all have - that the international community "can't do everything" and that they may have to freeze aid if Haiti didn't shape up (http://wwww.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/KHII-8C555S?OpenDocument). It was an ironic speech to listen to, because just a week before that, Paul Farmer had written that only .3% of the reconstruction money had been funneled to, or managed by, the Haitian government (http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/freezing-aid/). The rest went into the IHRC coffers, managed by Bill Clinton.

But, yes, if Haiti had only used that .3% of the aid money they controlled well, I'm sure the recovery effort would be going well.

In short, it's clear that none of you in the comments know much about Haiti. Get off your high horses and ideological pedestals. You're correct, Mike, that my opinions aren't humble, and even if you were well-informed on this topic we may still disagree. But as it is, I feel I'm the only one in this discussion who has proven that he's even read about Haiti.

Nathan,

You have fallen for the hype. France originally demanded 150 million francs from Haiti. In 1838, the debt was reduced to 60 million francs payable over 30 years. 60 million francs was the equivalent of $11,250,000. Haiti had a population of around 2 million in the 1830-1840 period (see http://www.populstat.info/). That's around $5-6 person. Haiti's per-capita GDP might have been $50 back then. Over a 30 year period, that 3 billion dollars versus a debt of $11.25 million.

Not exactly overwhelming.

Peter,

Can you provide a citation? I'm quite confident you're incorrect.

The original figure was 150 million francs, as you say. It was subsequently reduced, but to 90 million francs (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10988938). 90 million francs, however, is equivalent in today's dollars to $21.7 billion today.

Either way, that was a small drop in the bucket of financial extortion and misses the broader point. There were quite literally hundreds of examples, like the Luders Affair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luders_Affair), of times when France, Germany, or the US would send gunboats to collect money from Haiti all throughout the 19th century. Paul Farmer, in The Uses of Haiti, came up with the figure of $692 billion before 1900. If you would like to check his math, he lays it out very transparently.

Yes, we all have Wikipedia for our fabulous fact-based opinions.

I can list dozens of nations of non-whites that endured invasion, colonialism, gunboat diplomacy, civil war, foreign influence, and still managed to become prosperous.

I can name dozens of nations consisting mostly of caucasians that became poltical, economic, and social basket cases despite every reason to be successful.

The list of subcultures in each of these categories provides additional observations.

So don't go waving around your empirical research here. Haiti sucks because Haitians made a long series of poor choices for themselves and for their country. Some of those choices included institutional structures that development economists have found to be strongly associated with weak economic development.

Personal responsibility isnt your strong suit.

Mike,

I linked to Wikipedia because I can't scan a picture of the chapter of Paul Farmer's book, Uses of Haiti, that covers that anecdote. As I stated in the next sentence.

As I've indicated, Haiti didn't make any choices for itself, because the US was directly controlling policy through the Duvaliers. That lasted until 1986. After that, the US ousted the leader Haiti elected. Still, they weren't making their own policy, because we installed a government for them. When Haiti re-elected the same man, Jean - Bertrand Aristide, in 2000 (with 92% of the vote), we overthrew him a second time.

America has denied Haiti the political space to make choices. I'm all for personal responsibility, but I do think that alleviates a substantial portion of their responsibility for their status.

Although I don't think what you've said is compelling, I appreciate that at least this comment addressed something substantive amidst the personal jabs.

Nathan,

The U.S. played a rather large role in South Korea after WWII and the Korean War. SK was actually considerably poorer than Haiti back then. The U.S. remained a vastly larger influence in SK than the U.S. ever was in Haiti (save for the occupation period). Somehow SK became an economic giant and Haiti did not.

Of course, SK has no natural resources and very hostile geography. Somehow SK has thrived and Haiti hasn't. Literacy provides a critical measure of the willingness of the people of a country to develop. In 1970, South Korea was already at 87.6%. Haiti is 50% literate today.

Nathan,

Numerous sources verify the reduction in debt to 60 million francs in 1838. See http://www.haitiinfo.nl/attachments/110_Onafhankelijkheidsschuld.pdf for just one. See http://parthealth.3cdn.net/0badc680352663967e_v6m6b1ayx.pdf for another.

60 million francs was the equivalent of $11.5 million back then or $247 million in today's money... Not $21.7 billion. Haiti was allowed to pay the 60 million francs without interest at a rate of 2 million francs per year. That's around $383,000 per year versus GDP in the range of $100 million for the period.

http://www.measuringworth.com/ provides tools for comparing dollar values over time.

Peter,

Thanks for the links and citation, both to the information about the independence debt and to measuringworth. I have read the incorrect figure enough times to have accepted it as true; I appreciate the correction on that point.

Although if you read the second paragraph on p. 5 of Anthony Phillips' piece closely, he indicates that they did in fact pay 90 million francs back. You may be right about the conversion rate, but the reduction to 60 million francs took place AFTER several payments from Haiti to France had already occurred. Honestly, after the first reading of that paper I'm still about fuzzy on it - you may be correct, but the exact amount of the repayment was definitely not the centerpiece of my argument.

Nathan,

You wrote

"As for the “well such and such country also had colonialism” argument … That’s even more irrelevant. The experiences of Haiti are not comparable to those of any of those other countries. Haiti wasn’t colonized past 1804. I’m not making a colonialism-drove-poor-growth argument. If anything, the opposite: all of the potential benefits derived from colonialism (the AJR historical institutions hypothesis: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7771) never materialized in Haiti. Instead, the Haitian National Bank was treated like an international ATM through the first half of the 20th century. By 1900 alone, Haiti had paid out an amount that equates to $692 billion today. Until 1947, Haiti was still making payments to France for having damaged French plantations in the 1804 Revolution. Every major power extracted from Haiti, but rather than investing in infrastructure, the only thing these world powers ever did in return was bomb Haiti. Therefore, it’s not like India or any other colonized country, because… well, it hasn’t been colonized for 207 years. It’s just been treated like a hostile state that exists for financial resource extraction."

Seems like you were attaching quite a bit of importance to the financial "burdens" imposed on Haiti in the 19th century. By the way, I did read the papers as implying payments of 30 million francs before 1838. That's $5.75 million in dollars over 13 years versus Haitian GDP in the range of $100 million per year (assuming 2 million people and per-capita GDP of $50).

The real problem with Haiti's debt wasn't the magnitude (which was trivial, even by the standards of the day) but Haiti's inability to pay it. Why? Because Haiti's money economy more or less disappeared after independence. Stated differently, Haiti abandoned its formal (export oriented) economy and reverted to subsistence agriculture. Subsistence agriculture doesn't produce hard currency exports.

Also, Peter,

Did that single sentence, included more because it illustrates the indignity of their treatment rather than the extent of extortion, seem like the lynchpin of my argument? That seems a tad nitpicky, unless you're implying that all of my statements are discredited because we (potentially) disagree about conversion rates.

The broader point I've been making is that everyone in this discussion has been making fact-less, grand claims to support a position that doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. If someone has an empirically-based counter-argument to make, I would love to hear it.

Nathan,

You wrote

“As for the “well such and such country also had colonialism” argument … That’s even more irrelevant. The experiences of Haiti are not comparable to those of any of those other countries. Haiti wasn’t colonized past 1804. I’m not making a colonialism-drove-poor-growth argument. If anything, the opposite: all of the potential benefits derived from colonialism (the AJR historical institutions hypothesis: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7771) never materialized in Haiti. Instead, the Haitian National Bank was treated like an international ATM through the first half of the 20th century. By 1900 alone, Haiti had paid out an amount that equates to $692 billion today. Until 1947, Haiti was still making payments to France for having damaged French plantations in the 1804 Revolution. Every major power extracted from Haiti, but rather than investing in infrastructure, the only thing these world powers ever did in return was bomb Haiti. Therefore, it’s not like India or any other colonized country, because… well, it hasn’t been colonized for 207 years. It’s just been treated like a hostile state that exists for financial resource extraction.”

Seems like you were attaching quite a bit of importance to the financial “burdens” imposed on Haiti in the 19th century. By the way, I did read the papers as implying payments of 30 million francs before 1838. That’s $5.75 million in dollars over 13 years versus Haitian GDP in the range of $100 million per year (assuming 2 million people and per-capita GDP of $50).

The real problem with Haiti’s debt wasn’t the magnitude (which was trivial, even by the standards of the day) but Haiti’s inability to pay it. Why? Because Haiti’s money economy more or less disappeared after independence. Stated differently, Haiti abandoned its formal (export oriented) economy and reverted to subsistence agriculture. Subsistence agriculture doesn’t produce hard currency exports.

"If someone has an empirically-based counter-argument to make, I would love to hear it."

I guess that GDP, population, exports, currency values, literacy, etc. aren't empirical.

Peter,

... I made that comment well before you provided an empirical rebuttal. Prior to that, the only responses were on par with verbal chest-beating. I even thanked you directly the first time you introduced an empirical claim. Goodness. Commenters these days...

The thesis of those missing "trillion dollar bills" is that voter mistakes are capable of being massive detriments to national and world wealth... yet I see no analysis (or even mention!) of the effects of unrestricted immigration on the propagation of mistaken votes. This seems like a recipe for "Popular government makes stupid decisions, which lead to poor economic conditions, which drive population to neighboring polities, where they then vote for the same stupid decisions", but now on an international instead of just an interstate scale.

Don't get me wrong, it's a gross affront to human freedom that some racist politician 2000 miles away can tell me who I can and can't hire or rent to. But as long as we think "people can outvote freedom", there's a serious pro-freedom and pro-efficiency argument for being careful of who gets to vote.

But on the gripping hand, a plurality of the first world now seems to think that most of the world's problems could be solved by redistributing more of the 99th percentile's wealth to the 80th percentile; if we're going down that path anyway we might as well make sure the 1st percentile gets their cut too.

Non-voting citizenship stock? Not a bad idea; many potential immigrants might jump at the idea.

You could raise the citizenship bar higher to a "people-who-vote-like-us" standard.

"it’s a gross affront to human freedom that some racist politician 2000 miles away can tell me who I can and can’t hire or rent to."

That is a thoughtless statement. Do you have a right to hire or rent to people with communicable diseases? Criminal recidivists? Net tax consumers?

"2. Michael Clemens: where are the free trillion dollar bills?" They're on the *sidewalk*, of course!

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