Econ prof Donald Boudreaux at Pajamas Media:
The ultimate tragedy in Haiti isn’t the earthquake; it’s that country’s lack of economic freedom. The earthquake simply but catastrophically revealed the inhuman consequences of this fact.See also Claudia Rosett comparing the U.N. and U.S. response.
Registering 7.0 on the Richter scale, the Haitian earthquake killed tens of thousands of people. But the quake that hit California’s Bay Area in 1989 was also of magnitude 7.0. It killed only 63 people.
This difference is due chiefly to Americans’ greater wealth. With one of the freest economies in the world, Americans build stronger homes and buildings and roads, are better nourished, and have better health care and better search and rescue equipment. In contrast, burdened by one of the world’s least-free economies, Haitians cannot afford to build sturdy structures and roads. (Haitian builders often add sand to their concrete because concrete is so expensive there. The result is weaker buildings.) Nor can Haitians afford the health care and emergency equipment that we take for granted here in the U.S.
Anne Applebaum in Monday's Washington Post:
Though the earthquake itself was powerful, its impact was multiplied many, many times by the weakness of civil society and the absence of the rule of law in Haiti. As Roger Noriega has written, "you can literally see the dysfunction from space." Satellite photos of Hispaniola, the island split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, show green forests on the Dominican side and bare, deforested hills on the Haitian side. Mudslides and collapsing houses were routine in Haiti even before this disaster. Laws designed to prevent erosion, and building codes designed to prevent criminally shoddy construction, were ignored. The rickety slums of Port-au-Prince were constructed in ravines and on steep, unstable hills. When they collapsed, they collapsed completely.See also why America will be blamed whatever happens.
So incredibly weak were Haiti's public institutions that nothing is left of them either. Parliament, churches, hospitals and government offices no longer exist. Haiti's archbishop is dead. The head of the U.N. mission is dead. There is a real possibility that violent gangs will emerge to take the place of leadership, to control food supplies, to loot what remains to be looted. There is a real possibility, in the coming days, of epidemics, mass starvation and civil war.
(via Instapundit, Tigerhawk)