Anne Applebaum on Chile's Strength

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What saved Chile from the full devastation of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake? We looked at Bret Stephens' interesting case for giving credit to Milton Friedman's school of economics. At the Washington Post, seasoned foreign correspondent-turned-commentator Anne Applebaum makes another provocative case. She argues that as the country recovers, Chile's political culture will help it stave off chaos and "return to normal faster" than Haiti.

A society's ability to recover from a natural disaster is also a reflection of its economic and political culture. There will be more "looting" in Chile this week as people struggle to survive in the ruins, but the Chilean army and police, not U.S. Marines, will control the situation. Weakened apartment blocks will abruptly collapse, but there will be inspectors on hand to help assess which ones might be safe. ...

Disasters have no logic, and no political significance. But the recovery process that follows a disaster is always deeply political. Despite a stronger earthquake and more damaging aftershocks, Chile will return to normal faster than Haiti. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Applebaum also looks at Chileans' faith in their country's civil institutions, which she says reflects and bolsters the strength of those institutions.

In the city of Concepcion, residents of a new building that collapsed are threatening to sue the builders, according to one report. The fact that they are even discussing this option implies that these apartment owners believe they have a court system that works, a legal system that could force builders to pay compensation, and a building regulatory system that is generally respected. Haiti has none of the above.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.