The (Original) Problems of Haiti

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under social-justice, politics

I’m more than a little amazed that I stumbled on this article.

A divided island: the forces working against Haiti:

For years, I have wondered about this very question: why has the Dominican Republic done fairly well, while Haiti is a trainwreck, given that they share the same island?

Last year I listened to “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond, which is about why and how civilizations developed. I enjoyed it, and I was thinking to myself, “Man, I wish Jared Diamond would answer my questions about Haiti...”

And here is an article with this subtitle:

Why does Haiti have it so tough compared with its neighbour, the Dominican Republic? Jared Diamond explains

That’s crazy awesome.

(The article is actually extracted from his current book, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” which I now have to read, I supposed.)

The gist of it comes down to these precipitating factors:

So, Haiti by the start of the 20th century was (1) relatively arid, (2) packed with former slaves, and (3) largely stripped of its forests. Not a good way to head into the Industrial Revolution.

The Dominican Republic, on the other hand, was still fairly fresh. It peaked later, essentially. In the 20th century, it was much more attractive to Europeans who brought business, investment, and help it develop an export economy.

The rest is history, really.

The question becomes, what do you do now? How do you turn a country around? I wish I knew.

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