Published by Christopher Lingle
With brutal regularity, new comes from Haiti that elicits an outpouring of pity. Now after an endless stream of aftershocks from a massive earthquake that left scores of thousands dead or injured, hapless Haitians are reeling from the destruction.
Before the first tremor shook the earth there to leave scores of thousands dead or injured, Haiti suffered from manmade causes that made it a perpetual “disaster zone”. When not being ravaged by nature, Haiti has been beset by relentless criminal activities or endless political corruption & infighting.
As soon as news filtered out about the catastrophic event, international aid agencies & NGOs began to descend on the shattered tropical isle. Unfortunately, the efforts of do-gooders & opportunists are unlikely to bring long-term benefits to Haiti.
Fortunately, the “software” that should be introduced to Haiti to bring sustainable recovery is quite simple & shovel-ready. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be in the toolkits of erstwhile aid workers or their supporting institutions.
Clues for what Haiti needed and needs now more than ever can be found in the most important books on public policy from the late-20th Century. In “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else”, Hernando De Soto showed how Haiti & other failed economies suffer from a lack of property rights that undermine the operation of markets.
While codifying property rights would take a long time, immediate benefits could come by declaring the entire country a duty-free port with zero income taxes. This would transform the country overnight, especially if combined with a stated commitment of protecting private property.
There is no secret behind the successes of Singapore and other Asian “tiger” or “dragon” economies. Markets work best when supported by “institutional infrastructure” based on the Rule of Law that establishes & protects both property & contracts.
While Haiti may continue to be buffeted by onslaughts of nature, Haitians can better cope with it all if they can become richer within a market economy.