Critics, Conservatives Make the Case Against Haiti Aid

Haiti will be better in the long run, they argue, if the country learns to take care of itself

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In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, Bill Clinton outlined his case for long-term aid (covered by the Wire here). The former president argued for massive foreign investment, writing: "Once we deal with the immediate crisis, the development plans the world was already pursuing have to be implemented more quickly and on a broader scale."

Clinton's argument opened the door for opinion-makers to debate the broader issue of whether foreign aid benefits or harms countries, and both sides came equipped with a bibliography. The Atlantic's Megan McArdle cited William Easterly, a longtime critic of "lavish aid", in this moving post.

Easterly makes a convincing case that aid doesn't improve the level of economic growth, or pull nations out of poverty. But aid can alleviate human misery, and that's what Haiti has a lot of right now. Haiti may not be any richer when we pull out. But it will have fewer dead people, fewer children missing parents, or parents missing limbs. It will not have descended as far into the brutal chaos of starvation and desperate thirst--a chaos which can irreparably rend the social fabric.

Many conservative commentators, however, are still advancing the case against a long-term aid strategy in Haiti. Each has a different take on the same theme: Haitians will be better off if they help themselves.

  • Long-Term Aid Means Long-Term Dependence The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens references reports by the National Academy of Public Administration and the World Bank in claiming prolonged aid will allow the underlying problems in Haiti to continue. "Just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity," he declares. "It will benefit the well-connected at the expense of the truly needy, divert resources from where they are needed most, and crowd out local enterprise. And it will foster the very culture of dependence the country so desperately needs to break."
  • Aid Will Perpetuate Haiti's 'Poverty Culture' Piggybacking on Stephens' article, Townhall's Jonah Goldberg goes a step further and claims Haiti's culture and dependence on other countries is responsible for the magnitude of the current crisis. "While the scope of the tragedy in Haiti is nearly impossible to exaggerate, it's important to remember that last week's earthquake was so deadly because Haiti is Haiti," he argues. Later, he adds: "Collectively, Haiti depends on the kindness of strangers much more than on itself." Goldberg's solution? "Once the dead are buried, the wounded and sick healed and the rubble cleared, it's time for some tough love. Otherwise, Americans will just be back to clear the debris after the next disaster."
  • Why Not Just Take It Over, Then? "We'd be better off simply annexing the entire country, which, if left with any sovereignty intact, will simply go on abusing itself ad infinitum, as it has for decade upon decade," grumbles Thomas P.M. Barnett on his blog. "Yes, our hearts tell us we must do whatever to relieve immediate suffering, then the conversation shifts into these Marshall Plan-like clarion calls. But five years from now, the place will remain the same with the government just that much more infantilized--and thus that much less resilient (if you can believe it)."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.