Saturday, January 16, 2010

Poor, poor Haiti

Folks in Hait are poor.  Most live hand to mouth, or get by one what little they can get from the gummint, when their gummint isn't busy finding new ways to stick its hand in the till.

Then an earthquake hits, destroying what little infrastructure they do have, destroying their homes, their government, and taking everything away from them. Since most American high school students  (and most of their teachers) couldn't locate Haiti on a map, with two assistants to mark it with chalk, I'll esplain:  It's a dinky little half an island East of Jamaica, (where they make rum, weed, and everyone tries to either be Bob Marley or a voodoo priestess) West of the Dominican Republic (where they make cigars almost as good ad Havana) South-Southwest of Cockburn Town (no idea how that was named) and North of Aruba (which as we all know is renowned for being the first word in the the Beach Boys hit "Kokomo."    Pubilc education:  just one more niche I fill.

From the Cato institute:

(emphasis added)

For 40 years, U.S. foreign aid has been judged by its intentions, not its results. Foreign aid programs have been perpetuated and expanded not because they have succeeded, but because giving foreign aid still seems like a good idea. But foreign aid has rarely done anything that countries could not have done for themselves. And it has often encouraged the recipient governments' worst tendencies--helping to underwrite programs and policies that have starved thousands of people and derailed struggling economies.

Americans have a long tradition of generously aiding the victims of foreign earthquakes, famines, and wars. Before World War II, private citizens provided almost all of America's foreign assistance. After World War II, the Truman administration decided that a larger, more centralized effort was necessary to revitalize the war-torn economies of Europe. Economic planning was the rage in Washington in the late 1940s, and Marshall Plan administrators exported their new-found panacea. The Marshall Plan poured over $13 billion into Europe and coincided with an economic revival across the continent. The best analysis indicates that Europe would have recovered regardless of U.S. aid, and that the clearest effect of the Marshall Plan was to increase the recipient governments' control of their economies.
 Who rebuilt San Fransisco?  (either time)
What foreign aid (or for that matter, foreign charities) poured resources in to California for that?
What foreign aid helps us fight forest fires?
What foreign aid will pay for our nation's debt?

From the National Academy of Public Administration: (pdf)

The facts of Haitian poverty are startling.
  • The UN Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Haiti as 153rd least developed among the world’s 177 countries.
  • About three-fourths of the population is impoverished—living on less than $2/day. 
  • Half of the population has no accessto potable water.
  • One-third have no sanitary facilities. 
  • Only 10% have electrical service.
  • Official unemployment rates range from 50% to 70%, but no one really knows. 
  • Haiti’s private sector is comprised mostly of subsistence farmers and micro-businesses.
  • A small elite organized in family groupings (ahem, mafia) controls all exports and imports, tourism, construction and manufacturing. 
  • About 4% of the population owns 66% of the country’s wealth. Some 10% own nothing.
  • About 5% to 8% of the population has HIV/AIDS, and that percentage is rising. Haiti is the most severely affected by HIV/AIDS outside Sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • Only an estimated 5% to 10% of those with HIV/AIDS receive treatment. HIV/AIDS is reducing life expectancy in Haiti by 10 years. In addition, tuberculosis, and recently polio, have emerged as epidemics. 
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deliver four-fifths of public services.
We've given them billions, now we pledge additional hundreds of millions. We send our troops and our treasure.  Treasure which does not come from the government or the President's "stash," the money that the government so freely spends is money that is taken from every working American (under threat of imprisonment) supposedly for the Federal government to uphold the limited duties allowed to them by the constitution.  It isn't government money, it's our money.  Maybe if we paid fewer taxes we could afford to donate to charities when the time arose that countries needed aid or when disaster struck somewhere.

Haiti is a failed state with our without our help, it will continue to fail, or it will recover.  It must be left to find its own destiny, be that destiny at the barrel of a gun, the noose of a hangman, or through the ballot box.  The tree of liberty must, from time to time, be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants...  doesn't matter how much you spend on fertilizer, the tree has to be watered.  The tree, in this metaphor, belongs to Haiti (which, if it did in reality, they would likely chop into firewood).  The blood of tyrants and patriots must also be theirs.  And the fertilizer may come from any outside source--government, private citizens, industry, etc., or it may come from a willing people nurturing that tree.  No one will look out for the best interests of Haiti better than the Haitians.  When they are ready, they will feed that tree, water it, and take control of their history. 

To use another metaphor:  If you give the bum on the corner a dollar every day, he will come to expect your dollar.  If you feed him every day, he will expect you to feed him.  If you give him neither money nor food, he will either learn to provide for himself, or he will die.  But he has to make the decision to do that.  In a way, by not helping him, you are helping him to become far more than if you gave him your whole checkbook.  He has to make a decision about what his future will be like, or if he even will have a future.

Finally, there's this:  
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... 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.

So... how's that self-determination vs. international welfare argument working out for ya?


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