Haiti Is No Ordinary Disaster -- We Have to Start Thinking Outside the Box

News & Politics

I think Matt Yglesias is right both about allowing for mass emigration from Haiti to first-world countries, and about the wisdom of using French-speaking soldiers and police officers from Canada, Switzerland, and France. He's also right to start thinking outside the box. This is not your ordinary natural disaster. There is no infrastructure left in Port-au-Prince. There are no government buildings, there are no businesses left, and there is no safe housing. You can't establish a government or even an economy in these conditions. The city basically needs to be bulldozed and rebuilt, but there is no economic incentive to do that, and money is limited.

It's probable that Haiti will need to become a protectorate of some sort, if not in letter then in fact. And very clever people will have to devise economically sound plans to rebuild. For example, temporary housing could actually be semi-permanent, with an option to buy equity and have eventual ownership. The Department of Agriculture could encourage the planting of fruit trees rather than attempting reforestation that will be used for timber. Of course, having first-world corporations swoop in and begin making profits off this misery will bring about charges of imperialism and expolitation. But, really, what are the alternatives? Without some profit-motive, there will never be enough aid to keep Haiti at a sustenance level of existence.

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