Arnold Kling  

Jonah Goldberg on Haiti

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He offers a diagnosis based on FP2P.


It's true that Haiti has few natural resources, but neither do Japan or Switzerland. What those countries do have are what Kling and Schulz call valuable "intangible assets" -- the skills, rules, laws, education, knowledge, customs, expectation, etc. -- that drives a prosperous society to generate prosperity.

Of course, the conclusion I draw is that the fastest way to improve life for Haitians would be to give them more choices about where to live. It appears to be easier for individuals to adapt to new cultures than to impose a new culture on a country.

UPDATE: John Baden also thinks that Haiti illustrates the economics of FP2P.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
PeterW writes:

What makes you think that Haitians will smoothly adopt the old culture, and that cultures won't become "averages" of immigrants' and indigenous populations? In which case it'll be welfare-neutral or even welfare-reducing.

bgc writes:

AK: "It appears to be easier for individuals to adapt to new cultures than to impose a new culture on a country."

That is simply not true as a _general_ comment.

The work of Thomas Sowell shows that people typically take their cultures with them for multiple generations, biology shows that they take their genes with them - and genes have a substantial effect on intelligence and personality, and there are plenty of disastrous examples of new groups forming hostile, nasty and violent ghettos and subgroups - many of which have proved intractable and grown rapidly to dominate specific regions and influence whole nations.

Mike Gibson writes:

"It appears to be easier for individuals to adapt to new cultures than to impose a new culture on a country."

I wonder how much status competition plays into this difficulty. Imposing a culture is a high status play. If it accepts the new, the home team must also accept a lower status. They must admit how badly they've failed. So in order to save face or maintain perceived status, they reject.

Whereas, immigrants come to the table hat in hand. Their status is not threatened, but readily traded for a chance at a better opportunity.

Here's an analogy: it appears that in speed dating, women are much more attracted to men if the men stay put at a table, and the women rotate around the room. Whereas, if the men rotate and the women stay put, the men appear more ingratiating, supplicating and so on...all of which lowers their perceived status. The higher your status, the higher the attraction. And having your back to the wall is a high status play: thrones and a corner table for the Don attest.

One key to establishing new rules in an old country has to involve ameliorating perceived loss of status for the home team. In other words, we have to find a way to rotate the women around the room.


starodi writes:

The following article documents some EXTREMELY little-known history of Haiti which accounts for much of its underlying problems.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/ben_macintyre/article6995750.ece

Remember, Haiti is the ONLY country in the Western Hemishpere that was created by a revolt of slaves who defeated Napoleon's army in a very bloody war of independence.

In short, the French extorted immense reparations from Haiti in return for halting their naval blockade and recognizing independence. Repayment took from 1825 to 1947!!!


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