Saturday, January 16, 2010

The culture of poverty, and those who need it

I saw this story referenced on a blog post yesterday:

Angry Haitians block roads with corpses: witness

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - 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, an eyewitness said,

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.

The other blogger asked if it might not be more productive to clear the roads if the problem is aid not arriving fast enough.

That sentiment is echoed, only more strongly, by this comment on the Reuters site:
Makes perfect sense to me. Supplies are not being delivered fast enough, just block the roads?

This might some insight into the mindset of why haiti is such a properous and self sustaining nation.

We have conditioned them to stand with their hands out instead of being self sufficient(work).

Now the natives riot because we do not respond quickly enough with more handouts.

Then I heard Rush Limbaugh read this article in the New York Times by David Brooks and thought how well it dovetailed with the story about Haitians blocking the roads to protest the slow arrival of relief supplies.

The Underlying Tragedy

On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.

In the recent anthology “What Works in Development?,” a group of economists try to sort out what we’ve learned. The picture is grim. There are no policy levers that consistently correlate to increased growth. There is nearly zero correlation between how a developing economy does one decade and how it does the next. There is no consistently proven way to reduce corruption. Even improving governing institutions doesn’t seem to produce the expected results.

The chastened tone of these essays is captured by the economist Abhijit Banerjee: “It is not clear to us that the best way to get growth is to do growth policy of any form. Perhaps making growth happen is ultimately beyond our control.”

The second hard truth is that micro-aid is vital but insufficient. Given the failures of macrodevelopment, aid organizations often focus on microprojects. More than 10,000 organizations perform missions of this sort in Haiti. By some estimates, Haiti has more nongovernmental organizations per capita than any other place on earth. They are doing the Lord’s work, especially these days, but even a blizzard of these efforts does not seem to add up to comprehensive change.

Third, it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.

[The same is true for Israel and the Arab/Muslim nations which surround it. The "Green Line" got its name from the fact that on the Arab side of the border you have desert and on the Israeli side you have thriving agriculture. - LC]

As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.

These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.

It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.

The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington used to acknowledge that cultural change is hard, but cultures do change after major traumas. This earthquake is certainly a trauma. The only question is whether the outside world continues with the same old, same old.

The problem is that the Obama administration will never allow anything but more of the "same old, same old".

Obama and the people around him would never allow a new paradigm of foreign aid focused on transforming the culture of Haiti. Not because they fear that it would fail but because they are terrified that it would succeed.

Remember the old saying "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"?

The left-liberal (Like Obama and his closest friends and advisers) hears that and wonders, "if he knows that he won't starve to death unless he gets a fish from me every day then how will I control him?". To the left charity is never about simply helping people. Charity is about creating dependence. Dependence which is then forged into chains of slavery.

You may now be wondering if I am saying that Obama wants to enslave the Haitian people by making them dependent on American handouts.

The answer is no. Or at least not anytime soon. It's just that if a "tough love" approach to ending poverty were to be demonstrated to work in Haiti (when literally everything else has failed) it would be impossible to resist calls to begin applying it across the board in America.

What would happen to the Democrat party if the black population began to see themselves as free and self sufficient individuals rather than as members of an endangered minority group surrounded on all sides by hostile forces and depending completely on big government handouts and protection for its very survival?

The answer is that if blacks stopped voting in a 90% block for Democrats that party would never win a presidential election and would hold fewer than 40 seats in the Senate and would never manage to control the House of Representatives - at least not as long as it remained a party of the left.

This, by the way, is why the Democrats are so keen to grant amnesty to illegal aliens and create a legal means for virtually limitless numbers of Mexicans to enter the US legally. They want to increase their margin of victory by importing another minority group which can be wrapped in chains of dependency and turned into a reliable left-wing voting block.

Of course the Democrat party would not cease to exist if blacks were to be elevated out of poverty and dependence but that party would not continue to be a party of the left. The left would no longer have a significant voice in mainstream American politics and would have to retreat further into the margins.

The leftists who control the Democrat party at the national level understand that a sufficient number of Americans have to be kept poor, ignorant and dependent. To further that end they will oppose every poverty fighting philosophy or program which threatens to actually work. Whether in Africa, Haiti or anywhere else on the globe in order to keep that philosophy or program from ever taking root in America.