IN which Dave the Brave boldly tackles The Issue Which Can't Be Named, Except In Broad Hints That Come Approximately 100% of the Time when "Conservatives" Sadly, Reluctantly, Have To
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.
Well, sure. It's the dead of winter, and it's been pow'ful cold; I've been feeling a little Katrina nostalgia myself. Nothing like a good natural disaster to make you feel the warm glow of superiority to the poor people at the bottom of the pile.
But this, of course, is not purely a feelgood column, or an excise in facing down the twin demons of Political Correctness and Historical Fact, no. It's Duke Visiting Professor Brooks. It's science. However dismal. (The writing, I mean.)
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.
Really? He can't just cut a check and luxuriate in having done a Good Deed? You really don't think he's an American, do you?
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.
First, lemme just say that, whatever our differences,
Now, some might quibble about comparing the most populous, and oldest, nation on earth to 10,000 square miles on half a Caribbean island whose population, the descendants of a slave revolt and beneficiaries of a couple centuries of our Monroe Doctrinaire munificence and Hemispheric Police Protection, have received all the credit for their struggle our own history would lead you to imagine.
But I'd rather quibble about the notion of China "not receiving aid", since it has been the great beneficiary of our policy of unfettered acquisitiveness at no cost to the importer and retailer. It's like the old saying: Give a man a fish, and he'll have lunch; give a man license to set up a chain of seafood restaurants built and maintained by slave labor, designed to skirt US environmental and product safety laws, and those pesky near-living-wage labor costs while making "selling cheap shit cheap" the ridgepole of your economic policy, and he'll wind up eating your lunch.
Still, I do want to congratulate you on this new-found demand for results (or, perhaps more accurately, re-descovered from the Clinton era). When does it begin applying to the US defense budget? And when does the magical Aid/No Aid equation get applied to Israel?
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.
Here's the thing, Dave. I'm guessing that if you brought together the great theologians of the age (I'm joking, but just play along) and asked them to contribute to an anthology entitled "What Works in Spirituality?" that you'd learn the continuing existence of Evil in the world, despite our having discovered the One True Religion any number of times over, is the fault of practically everyone except theologians.
Look, in addition to the big greasy thumbprint we've left over the entire hemisphere, the US occupied Haiti from 1915-1934 because we didn't care for anyone else monkeying with Haiti's national railroad, which we owned, or risking the profitability of its national bank, which we dominated. We then let Trujillo slaughter the blacks on his half the island because he was a good Francoesque Anti-Communist, and we let Poppa and Baby Doc and the Tonton Macoutes terrorize the population for thirty years, apparently in the hopes that this would make our pal Marcos look good by comparison. Of course, we did send the Duvaliers plenty of economic and military aid, so, by your rubric, maybe we were just trying to drown them in dollars.
In fact the only time the US has seen fit to directly intervene to preserve precious Haitian freedoms is when it looked like those might break out in a bad case of socialism.
So, look: no doubt there's "a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences" afflicting Haitian society, something we don't really need David Brooks quoting some other authority to tell us, and we don't need you giving us "the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile" as a prime example. Y'know, the Chinese kinda see things that way too, in a sense, and they're miracle workers. For that matter, so does much of the adult world, or at least that portion of it that isn't yet convinced that manufacturing colossal mounds of junk in order to afford a mortgage in Suburbia is the highest aspiration of Man.
But really: feel free to talk about this sort of thing all day long if you wish. Who th' fuck's stopping you? I don't offer Western racism, military threat, and economic tyranny as perpetual Get Out of Jail Free cards. I'd just like to know why, every time you feel compelled to struggle against the bonds of Political Correctness, which so prevent you from Telling It Like It Is, you evince nothing resembling the slightest familiarity with those practices or their long-term effects? You're really Telling It How You Want It To Be, aren't you, in the same way we could defeat whatever insurgency we're currently losing to if they'd just come out in the open and fight like 18th century Englishmen? The Haitian people are responsible for all that Boogety-boo, and for not making the most of their economic opportunities the way those nice Dominicas, the ones who insure Mr. Limbaugh enjoys his vacations on the other side of Hispaniola, do. Go ahead and say it, Dave. Just spare us the tale of how this all occurs despite our bestest humanitarian efforts--which our Best Economic Minds just can't quite understand--and because of our failure to insist on finding just the right strongman to run the joint for us.