When I agreed to write this piece on Haiti for the Register's Sunday Commentary section, I thought I might be able to deliver a marginally upbeat verdict on Haiti's chances for improving its condition post-earthquake. After all, Haiti's criminally corrupt government is largely responsible for Haiti being so impoverished, and the erthquake virtually destroyed the government. Maybe, just maybe, it might be possible to start with a relatively clean slate?
The more people I talked to and the more I read, however, the less optimistic I became. There's a formula (adaptable to local conditions,and customs, of course) for poor nations becoming rich, as this book rather persuasively demonstrates, but it involves protection of private property rights and a welcoming environment for entrepreneurial activity. It turns out that Haiti's government has been ineffectual for years and that what governance Haiti has experienced recently has come from the UN, which doesn't come close to understanding what might work; indeed, it's wedded (not surprisingly) to the kind of top-down model that makes "experts" from international organizations the key players. Haiti's best chance is for the experts to get out of the way (once private property rights are secured), but the chances for such a development approach zero. Too bad. I'd love to be wrong.