Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thanks for the Comments on Hispaniola

Thank you Dr. Rummel for commenting on my blog and I agree completely with your answer.
And thank you Hank, but I do want to explore some of the points you brought up from your post:


As I remember my Latin American history. Haiti was a slave colony in the worst sense, as if there good sense. There was no effort to develop any local leadership by the French, with independence virtually every one who know how to manage anything larger than a small plantation left. You had a country with no leadership cadre, no traditions of political process, and close to 100% illiteracy. Really, a checklist of everything to make a country fail.

The DR was not without its problems but there was a local leadership cadre with some political tradition and at least some of the assets necessary to develop the country.

The difference shows.

One of my main points is that after 200 years the Haitians can no longer blame the past history with French. The Haitians some how had enough leadership (more than likely bad) to control and occupy Dominican Republic (DR) for 22 years from 1822 to 1844. Throughout this I am using the above link for history of Haiti.

But going back to the excuse of slavery and exploitation of the colonizers then let us look at Belize.
Belize, like other British colonies, lasted as a slave society until 1838, when slaves were emancipated throughout the British empire.

Taken from A History of Belize. Which from reading this passage, it shows it was even more brutal than the Hispaniola experiences that ended in 1804. Note: that also Belize was heavily "exploited" with the timber and slave trading.
Let us look at the numbers:
Freedom House average rating:
Belize: 1.2
Haiti-: 5.7
GDP per capita:
Belize: $6500
Haiti-: $1500
Land Area:
Belize: 22,966 sq km
Haiti-: 27,750 sq km
Belize: 279,457
Haiti-: 8,121,622
Arable land %:
Belize: 2.85%
Haiti-: 28.3%
Arable sq km:
Belize: 654.531
Haiti-: 7853.25
Belize: 427
Haiti-: 1034
From CIA-Belize.
Well not all theories pan out but it is remarkable that Belize has less than 3% of land area is arable. Obviously if the two countries only relied on their arable land for sustenance then Belize would be in better shape. But if density was the primary factor in environmental degradation then we would assume that Singapore would be in much worse condition than Haiti.

In the short article that Jared Diamond wrote One Island, Two Worlds, he did not discuss the:
1915-1934: U.S. Occupation

Main article: United States occupation of Haiti (1915-1934)

From July 28, 1915 until mid-August 1934, Haiti was under the occupation of the U.S. Marine Corps, effectively making Haiti a colony in all but name. Efforts were made to improve Haiti's infrastructure and education systems in particular, but because of the imposed nature of these reforms, with little regard for Haitian customs or traditions, these generally were not well-received nor especially effective.

From my perception the US has always tried to promote education in Latin America even if just to export our education services and advance our own economic interests.
Lastly USAid seems positive about Haiti's prospect. We can only hope that their elections result in a liberal democracy being formed.


Blogger hank_F_M said...


I would not disagree with your point.

There is something of a ”compound interest effect” and Haiti started at a lower point. So even if the two countries had progressed evenly there would be a difference. The article seemed to say that the French left the place in good shape relative to the DR. Actually the best features of French Administration got on the boat in 1804 and left.

But you are right, the choices of Haiti’s leadership since then usually ranged form bad to worse, and by now has had a much larger effect on the situation than the starting point. If Haiti had developed at the aveage rate of the DR it would be a much better place. And after the 1820’s-30’s there was enough exposure to the outside world to see the choices they did not make.

The comparison to Belize is good. It has a poorer position from a strictly physical geography point of view but has done relatively better. If the choices made by the British were self-interested it was never in their self-interest to run the place into the ground. Haiti’s leadership has all to often made choices for their personal benefit that were harmful to the country. Belize was effectively a self-governing democracy long before independence and it shows.

10/11/2005 11:41 PM  

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