January 15, 2010


Devil's Logic: Behind Pat Robertson's Haitian blame game (Elizabeth McAlister, 01.14.10, Forbes)

According to Haitian national history, the revolutionary war was launched on the eve of a religious ceremony at a place in the north called Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman in French). At that ceremony on Aug. 14, 1791, an African slave named Boukman sacrificed a pig, and both Kongo and Creole spirits descended to encourage the participants and fortify them for the upcoming battle. The spirits were aggressive, strong and mad at the injustice of the system. The revolution was on.

The evangelical storytellers put an additional spin on this Haitian national story: Satan got the ball rolling by instituting the French slave system. Slavery was the original sin in Haiti, so terrible it created "welcome mats" for more sin and for demonic infestation. The Haitian revolutionaries had no choice but to do business with the devil as a response to his demonic system. Haitians today are burdened with the legacy of spiritual problems that stem from the root spiritual sin of slavery.

Haiti's misfortune was that it was a French colony, had a revolution modeled on France's, not Britain's, and never enjoyed the sort of fascist interlude that, for instance, the Dominican Republic did. That why GDP per capita on their part of the island is a fraction of the DR's.

More misery for a feeble country (David M. Dickson, 1/15/10, Washington Times)

"The lack of any protection of private property rights is at the core of Haiti's development problem," Mr. Roberts said. Haiti ranked 147th out of 184 countries in the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, prepared by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. In its respect for property rights, Haiti ranked above only Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

Because of the lack of property rights, Mr. Roberts said, massive environmental degradation has resulted in 95 percent deforestation. The result: extensive erosion and a lack of clean water.

Dan Erikson, director of the Caribbean Project at the Inter-American Dialogue, a center-left, nonpartisan think tank, also cited ineffectual property rights as a major factor in Haiti's enduring poverty.

"Haiti cannot provide a stable climate for investment because it lacks the legal and regulatory institutions to protect contractual rights," Mr. Erikson said. "Haiti has a very brittle institutional framework compared to the Dominican Republic."

The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and also has a population of 9 million. Ranked 88th in the Index of Economic Freedom, the Dominican Republic has an annual per capita income of nearly $5,000 - more than six times higher than in Haiti.

Mr. Erikson estimated that Haitians living abroad send $1.5 billion a year to their families back home.

"Haitians' success in the United States demonstrate that Haiti's problems are not due to individuals," Mr. Erikson said. "They're due to the system and the environment in which they live."

That system is extraordinarily corrupt. In a global index of corruption compiled by Transparency International for 2009, Haiti ranked 168th out of 180 countries, tied with Iran and Burundi.

Were it an Anglospheric country its revolution would have been about liberty. It got stuck with a French one, about equality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 15, 2010 6:16 AM
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