14 January 2010

Why is Haiti So Poor?

Map of Haiti before the recent tragic earthquake. The huge loss of life, and the ongoing monumental humanitarian relief effort have focused the eyes of the world onto the small, perennially impoverished and unstable island nation.

Tyler Cowen asks the second-most asked question in the world:  Why is Haiti so poor?   Tyler then provides 8 hypothetical reasons for Haitian poverty, but confesses that he is not satisfied by them.   But his commenters proceed to fill Tyler in on the real reasons -- from American colonialism to voodoo religion to deforestation etc etc.  The most intelligent commenter suggested that Haiti was so poor because the average income was too low!  No doubt an Ivy League MBA with a law degree, working for the government or the UN.

A few commenters timidly suggested that perhaps something intrinsic to Haitians themselves contributed to poverty in Haiti, but the idea was dimissed as being "beyond the pale."  

The average IQ of the Caribbean nations' populations is close to 75.   According to Wikipedia, the average IQ of Jamaicans is 72. The GDP of nations correlates very will with the average IQ -- so much so, that only educated fools could go on and on in comments about the poverty of a nation such as Haiti without seriously discussing the average IQ (and other heritable factors).

Haiti has been violently independent since its inception as a nation of self-liberated slaves from West Africa. Independent except when it comes to foreign aid and foreign weapons to the ruling classes, and other militant groups. Haitian immigrants have contributed significant crime to New York City, Boston, Quebec, and other parts of North America -- but little else.

So why is Haiti so poor? Who in their right minds could imagine an independent Haiti as anything else -- this side of the singularity and the nanotech revolution? Read the comments at the top link, and consider the extravagance of so many wasted educations.

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Blogger yamahaeleven said...

Perhaps you've already seen this, link from Marginal Revolution:


In the Gaussian distribution of national incomes, there will always be some at the bottom. One hopes that as economies grow that destitute nations rise as well.

Thursday, 14 January, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for the link. There are some other interesting links at the Marginal Revolution post, too.

Bob Corbett is a good example of someone who never gets tired of beating around the bush. While everything he says may well be true (to a greater or lesser extent), the core essence of the problem goes ignored.

A large number of people would apparently rather be doused in burning oil than to be accused of political incorrectness.

Thursday, 14 January, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the wiki article on IQ and the Wealth of Nations and clicked on a few countries in Haiti's IQ range to see what their per capita GDP's were adjusted for purchasing power parity. Here is what I found:

Congo: $3,919
Sudan: $2,309
Nigeria: $2,162
Kenya: $1,711
Ghana: $1,571
Tanzania: $1,353
Haiti: $1,317
Uganda: $1,146

I excluded Jamaica because I keep hearing that the country is actually 10% White, and therefore is not managed by its Black majority, I wouldn't know though. The SA economy is very clearly run by a coalition of everyone but the Blacks, so I excluded it too.

Looking at my list Haiti comes in almost dead last among its peer group in per capita income adjusted for the cost of living. Maybe it is the weather, maybe fate, maybe Pat is right. A few years ago I remember running across an article on wiki that claimed that the Blacks in Louisiana were imported from Haiti when LA was a French colony, which would explain why LA has its own variety of Voodoo that is related to the Haitian variety. In the LA Voodoo article, you should read the section on how LA Voodoo relates to Christianity.
In addition, Steve Sailer wrote an article after the Katrina disaster claiming that because smarter Blacks lived away from the 9th ward or had cars to flee, the ones left behind probably had IQ's near the mid 70 range like Haiti.

Incidentally, I'm thoroughly enjoying seeing every major Democratic stronghold in the US being humiliated before the whole world. Louisiana was a major Democratic stronghold in the South, with many of the Whites there being Democratic French. Chicago has been exposed as a cesspool too. What blue area will be exposed/humiliated destroyed next?

Thursday, 14 January, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While we're on this post I want to mention that I have two reasons for the dysfunction of American universities. The first is that because we live in an obviously liberal country the unis are too. But here is my second one. During the Dark Ages the Roman Church organized guilds to control and direct production. Within each guild the members were divided into apprentices, journeymen, and masters depending on their level of experience. My mother worked in a unionized environment and the union there in the 70's had a contract mandating the same division among the employees there. With the coming of the Reformation all but three of the guilds were destroyed. The first surviving guild is the legal profession, which is currently waging a multi-decade war to eradicate elected justices of the peace since so many are not members of the guild. I imagine our elected sheriffs will be the next target of the guild. After that will come our elected representatives in Congress and the state houses, since we can't have the untrained public there!

The second complex of guilds to survive in limited form are the building trades, because of their association with the building inspection regime. How closed this group is to outside competition varies by state.

The last guild is higher education. In the manual trades guilds members were divided into apprentice, journeyman, and master, and there is a similar division in higher ed:


If I remember correctly doctor comes from docere which means to teach, and was originally a license to teach the junior members of the guild the way a master could take on apprentices.

So intellectual production is still controlled by a guild even though we allow reasonably free competition in other matters.

My own personal plan for reforming this is beyond the scope of this comment section.

Thursday, 14 January, 2010  
Blogger Bruce Hall said...

If one is too dull to know that one is dull, what is the likelihood that one will be able to do anything about the situation one is in?

I always told my sons that "stupidity has its own rewards," but dullness is not stupidity and has no rewards.

Thursday, 14 January, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al Fin, you are linking to the wiki article for IQ and the Wealth of Nations, but since then the authors have come out with a newer estimate of global IQ's. The new book is IQ and Global Inequality and it gives a new estimate of Haiti's IQ of 67. The number you used is from 2002 and is an estimate, whereas the number in the wiki article on the new book is not qualified with an asterisk.

So the Haitians are actually five points dumber than you originally reported in your post.

Sunday, 17 January, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Bruce: Interesting distinction between dullness and stupidity. Assuming dullness is permanent and stupidity is episodic?

Ron, below an average IQ of 80, a society is going to be a basket case -- unless it is spoon fed by a prosperous outside group or a market dominant minority.

It is more informative to watch a society over time to see what it is able to accomplish under varying circumstances.

For example, give both Zimbabwe and North Korea enlightened governments that allowed the people to trade freely (keeping the same population). What changes would you see in each country, and to what extent?

South Korea, Japan, Germany, etc. have bounced back from extreme adversity into prosperity.

Haiti goes from crisis to crisis, dictator to dictator.

Monday, 18 January, 2010  
Blogger james said...

Australia became rich despite being initially peopled by convict slaves. Despite being the driest inhabited continent. Despite being very isolated from the rest of the developed world.

I'm not sure why some states fail while others thrive. I'll rely on someone with a better education to point me in the right direction.

Thursday, 21 January, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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