Rebooting Haiti

For as long as I can remember Haiti has been a land of misery. The terror of the Duvalier years, first Papa-Doc and then Baby-Doc, which ended badly. Then an attempt to restart democracy, however the governments were unstable, the leaders were short lived, and were interspersed with coups and a second US occupation. Overlain on this has been environmental collapse, infrastractureure collapse, and a series of natural disasters, from hurricanes, to earthquakes, to the introduction of Cholera. Haiti has been a basket case since way before I was born. This is unfortunate. The Haitian people and culture are wonderful. It’s just that the country seems to be fatally flawed. Every time there is one step forward, something sets the country two back.

When I was doing computer work there was something we ran into occasionally that I came to call a “cascade failure”. In Windows you’d run into a problem, but fixing it would damage something else. Fixing that would damage a couple of other systems. And on and on. You could waste a whole day, or more chasing a problem only to have a system end up sicker than when it started. The only remedy for a “cascade failure” was to start over. Format the drive and reinstall Windows, just start over.

Haiti is suffering from a “cascade failure”. Government after government, each of them unstable and weak, tries unsuccessfully to fix the problems, to no avail. The environment gets worse, the infrastructure gets worse, more poverty, more disease, more misery. Other countries have poured aid, volunteers, building, education, and more into Haiti, to no avail. The underlying problems swallow the most well intentioned efforts whole. It’s not the fault of the Haitian people alone. Everyone has had a hand in the current state, from the colonial powers, to the corrupt governments, to the misguided aid agencies, to the subsistence farmers just trying to survive, to the world powers that occupied the country in an attempt to help it. They have all had a hand in putting the country in the state its in. The accumulated problems and errors have put Haiti in a position that may be irreparable.

Maybe it’s time for Haiti to start over.

The idea is this. Let’s take the entire population of Haiti and move them elsewhere. Wherever they want to go. We’d move them and get them set up in a comfortable life in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, France, England, China, Australia, wherever they wanted to go. Once Haiti was unoccupied we’d let it lie fallow. Do nothing for a century. Possibly we’d do some remediation of the more toxic sites, but overall lead just let Haiti heal. Let the trees come back. Let the wildlife come back. Let the land recover. Let it swallow everything people built. Let it all go back to as it was when Christopher Columbus discovered Hispaniola in 1492.

Then, after the land has recovered we’d let people come back. Of course after three or four generations I’d expect a lot of them wouldn’t. They would BE Brazilians, or Americans, or Kazakhs, or whatever. For a lot of the descendants of the original population Haiti would have no more draw for them than Norway has for me. But for those that returned it would literally be a new frontier. They could rebuild a Haitian society, a Haitian culture without the handicaps of their history. It would literally be a fresh start. They could build a Haiti that would lead the world in environmental stewardship, in entrepreneurial innovation, in freedom. No more a land that the world looks down on and shakes a condescending head at, Haiti could be the next bright and shining star. A star leading the world into the twenty third century.

But only if it puts the past behind.

But only if it starts over.