If you had been reading my blog, you would know that Democratic Peace is an idea I support. But like any posit, it needs to be explored and examined. It is good to be skeptical of any theory that purports to explain the reasons for war, democide and even famine.
I ran across the above article lately and commented on Dr. Rummel's site at Americans Don't Believe in the Democratic Peace. Now I would like to expand some of my analysis (ok back of napkins analysis). After reading the article I then realized he was the same person that many free market environmentalist criticize and that I had seen his lecture on a local access channel.
Let us start with his first reason that environmental degradation is much higher in Haiti than the Dominican Republic:
Part of the answer involves environmental differences. Hispaniola’s rains come mainly from the east. Hence the Dominican (eastern) part of the island receives more rain and thus supports higher rates of plant growth.
Hispaniola’s highest mountains (over 10,000 feet high) are on the Dominican side and the rivers from those high mountains mainly flow eastwards into the Dominican side.
The Dominican side has broad valleys, plains and plateaus and much thicker soils. In particular, the Cibao Valley in the north is one of the richest agricultural areas in the world.
Yes the rain comes mainly from the east but how does this have any bearing on rainfall? A lot more factors come into play here. One is the fact that the mountain ranges line up east west and thus the rivers run north-south directions more than east-west directions. If there was a blocking mountain range such as the Pacific Northwest has then maybe I could understand there being a rain shadow effect.
It is hard to get a definitive answer to the exact amount of usable rainfall but let me break down some numbers.
Highest point:-DR--- Pico Duarte 3,175 m
---------------Haiti Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m
Land Area:-----DR--- 48,730 sq km
---------------Haiti 27,560 sq km
Arable land %:-DR--- 22.65%
Arable sq km:--DR--- 11037 sq km
---------------Haiti 7799 sq km
Coastline:-----DR--- 1,288 km
---------------Haiti 1,771 km
All information from CIA-The World Fact Book at Dominican Republic and Haiti.
By looking at the graphs at Monthly Weather Review
I see that DR has 2 locations over 100 inches of rainfall per year and Haiti has 3 but smaller areas. And while I will conclude that there is more rainfall in the DR side, the differences are not significant considering that it is more important what you do with what you got more than what you have to start with. While the CIA states that DR has water shortages as its main environmental issue, but it has done much on water management including building of dams.
Since the wind patterns go easterly so do hurricanes! Which means Dominican Republic has to bear more of the adverse weather, and thusly the damages environmentally.
His points are so good he has to repeat them again:
In contrast, the Haitian side is drier because of that barrier of high mountains blocking rains from the east.
Compared to the Dominican Republic — a higher percentage of Haiti’s area is mountainous — the area of flat land good for intensive agriculture is much smaller. There is more limestone terrain and the soils are thinner and less fertile and have a lower capacity for recovery.
I already talked about the barrier being only in his mind. Then why did agriculture become more developed in the Haitian side? Arable land is smaller on the Haiti side, but as the numbers show the per person arable land is only 28% greater on the Haitian side.
Now back to the reasons by Diamond:
Note the paradox. The Haitian side of the island was less well endowed environmentally but developed a rich agricultural economy before the Dominican side. The explanation of this paradox is that Haiti’s burst of agricultural wealth came at the expense of its environmental capital of forests and soils.
This lesson — in effect, that an impressive-looking bank account may conceal a negative cash flow.
While yes this makes sense, but what could have corected these problems; maybe a Liberal Democracy and maybe well defined property right could help?
Here comes the French!
One of those social and political differences involved the accident that Haiti was a colony of rich France and became the most valuable colony in France’s overseas empire. The Dominican Republic was a colony of Spain, which by the late 1500s was neglecting Hispaniola and was in economic and political to decline itself.
Hence France could and chose to invest in developing intensive slave-based plantation agriculture in Haiti, which the Spanish could not or chose not to develop in their side of the island. France imported far more slaves into its colony than did Spain.
So let me get this straight economic and political decline will improve the environment. So today Haiti is in this condition and it thus must be in environmental euphoria. Not! At some time in 200 years since independence (from France 1804), Haiti could have changed directions it seems.
I too love to blame the French for all the problems but at some time 200 years ago these slaves became free and then had choices on how to create a government. Did the French make these choices? Was it that slaves could not govern themselves? Is he assuming that any slave-based plantation agriculture results in environmental degradation? As far as I know the south and the Deep South did not sufer the environmental damages that other parts of the country has (ie dustbowl, toxic Great Lakes, etc).
Back to Diamond:
As a result, Haiti had a population seven times higher than its neighbor during colonial times — and it still has a somewhat larger population today — about 10 million versus 8.8 million.
So again we need to look back 200 years for his theory to hold any water. And his numbers are not even close to factual! DR 9 million Haiti 8 million
But Haiti’s area is only slightly more than half of that of the Dominican Republic so that Haiti with a larger population and smaller area has double the Republic’s population density.
Wrong again, DR has density of 181/km² and Haiti has 271/km² according to DR and Haiti thusly a population density of less than 50% higher. A more important indicator I mentioned earlier is density for each sq km of arable land thusly 28% more people have to derive food from available land and not twice as Diamond implies.
We can also look at coastlines as opportunities in harvesting from the sea. Haiti has 37.5% more coastline and a well protected inner bay. Estuaries and bays are said to be the most productive locations in the world. While this short blog can not delve too much into this, it would be easy to imagine that this resource has not been exploited to its full extent.
Damn them French:
In addition, all of those French ships that brought slaves to Haiti returned to Europe with cargos of Haitian timber, so that Haiti’s lowlands and mid- mountain slopes had been largely stripped of timber by the mid-19th century.
So let me calculate mid-19th century to beginning of 21st century is 150 years. Coincidentally the same amount of time for a forest in the east coast to become an old growth timber forest. This would be the same logic that 9-11 was the result of the crusades.
Those damn western racists!:
A second social and political factor is that the Dominican Republic — with its Spanish-speaking population of predominantly European ancestry — was both more receptive and more attractive to European immigrants and investors than was Haiti with its Creole-speaking population composed overwhelmingly of black former slaves.
Hence European immigration and investment were negligible and restricted by the constitution in Haiti after 1804 but eventually became important in the Dominican Republic.
The title says it all, but then why did Haiti try harder and not less than DR? A friend of mine said that during the early 70's he went to Haiti to help with resort building and casinos. Haiti backed away from every offer and as history has shown the DR's were more than happy to get western investment that Haiti passed up.
If Western Countries were strictly basing decisions of racism, then why is Jamaica per capita GNP nearly 3 times more at $4100 vs. $1500 for Haiti? All three countries have a minority of whites with DR having 73% of mixed race and per capita GNP of $6300. I would also like to mention that Jamaica has been a free country by Freedom House ratings for the past 32 years.
Diamond does not mention it but one important factor to look at is that "wealthier makes healthier". As people have more money to spend they spend more on their health as well as the health of the environment.
Damn slave owning land!:
Still another social difference contributing to the different economies is that — as a legacy of their country’s slave history and slave revolt — most Haitians owned their own land, used it to feed themselves and received no help from their government in developing cash crops for trade with over seas European countries.
The Dominican Republic, however, eventually did develop an export economy and overseas trade.
Damn it, the proletariat owning their means of production. What will happen to the world? Didn't the slaves know that a centralized controlled government was better? Or maybe if they did not have a liberal democratic form of government to explore as a group the direction they wanted the country to go.
Again, Damn them French!!!:
Haiti’s elite identified strongly with France rather than with their own landscape, did not acquire land or develop commercial agriculture and sought mainly to extract wealth from the peasants.
So the elite did not own the means of production, which should mean that the peasant farmers had the upper hand and could through a liberal democracy, say what the resources are to be used for. Even the free market would dictate that farmers would change the production away from commodities that did not earn an amount equal to the economic profit in the long run. How could the elite extract wealth with no export market and just a domestic market. The elite would either be the government exploiting through the use of the police state or were the merchants that facilitated the transactions. But the merchant in a free market would easily be pushed out of the market if his economic rent was too high.
Almost there but not quit:
Finally, Haiti’s problems of deforestation and poverty compared to those of the Dominican Republic have become compounded within the last 40 years.
Diamond has almost started thinking about what has been so different in the past 40 years. Maybe it has been freedom in DR and none in Haiti? We can only hope that maybe some day he can think of other factors as to why the environment is degraded in some locations and is healthy in others.
Damn those Dams:
Because the Dominican Republic retained much forest cover and began to industrialize, the Trujillo regime initially planned, and the regimes Balaguer and subsequent presidents constructed, dams to generate hydroelectric power. Balaguer launched a crash program to spare forest use for fuel by instead importing propane and liquefied natural gas.
This is a novel approach to build dams and allow the market to take off some of the demand on the forests. Under a normal market with strong property rights, as a resource becomes scarcer the price is increased until a substitute is found or demand is reduced until it equals what the production can be sustainably.
But Haiti’s poverty forced its people to remain dependent on forest-derived charcoal from fuel, thereby accelerating the destruction of its last remaining forests.
Yes, without wealth creates situations that promote unhealthy situations. But, even poor communities and families in the poorest of countries have savings and capital. If property rights are well defined and enforceable, the poor can do much to improve their lives and their communities. Liberal democracies create ways of the communities to spread information and ideas that can be used to tackle issues such as the environment.