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The best, long-term protection against catastrophe

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 14, 2010 12:07 PM

The world is coming to Haiti’s aid in the wake of the devastating 7.0 earthquake, with America leading the way. As we always do. President Obama has pledged $100 million in U.S. government aid — and you can be sure it will be met with inestimable amounts of private charity on top of that. Because that is how we roll.

How best to help Haiti in the long run? The long-suffering island nation has been wracked by poverty and corruption for decades. Scholars have written endless documents on the failure of foreign aid to lift the country up.

Jim Roberts wisely says that among the things to remember while helping Haiti, the “U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti. Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue. Congress should immediately begin work on a package of assistance, trade, and reconstruction efforts needed to put Haiti on its feet and open the way for deep and lasting democratic reforms. The U.S. should implement a strong and vigorous public diplomacy effort to counter the negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp. Such an effort will also demonstrate that the U.S.’s involvement in the Caribbean remains a powerful force for good in the Americas and around the globe.”

The best, long-term protection against catastrophe is economic growth.

As the late, great UC Berkeley political science professor Aaron Wildavsky argued, freedom, wealth, and resilience put nations in the best position to weather and rebound from disasters seen or unforeseen. Wealthier is healthier:

A strategy of resilience [as opposed to anticipation] requires reliance on experience with adverse consequences once they occur in order to develop a capacity to learn from the harm and bounce back. Resilience, therefore, requires the accumulation of large amounts of generalizable resources, such as organizational capacity, knowledge, wealth, energy, and communication, that can be used to craft solutions to problems that the people involved did not know would occur. Thus, a strategy of resilience requires much less predictive capacity but much more growth, not only in wealth but also in knowledge. Hence it is not surprising that systems, like capitalism, based on incessant and decentralized trial and error accumulate the most resources. Strong evidence from around the world demonstrates that such societies are richer and produce healthier people and a more vibrant natural environment.

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More on worldwide relief efforts. Keep the Haitians in your prayers:

Planes carrying teams from China and France, Spain and the United States landed at Port-au-Prince’s airport with searchers and tons of water, food, medicine and other supplies — with more promised from around the globe.

It took six hours to unload a Chinese plane because the airport lacked the needed equipment — a hint of possible bottlenecks ahead as a global response brings a stream of relief flights to the airport, itself damaged by Tuesday’s magnitude-7 earthquake.

Search and rescue squads from Virginia and Iceland arrived Wednesday and some groups — from Cuba’s government and Doctors Without Borders — used staff already in the country to treat victims immediately after the quake.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that “tens of thousands, we fear, are dead” and said United States and the world must do everything possible to help Haiti surmount its “cycle of hope and despair.”

The U.S. dispatched troops and ships along with aid to Haiti, and other nations were joining the effort to help the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, where the international Red Cross estimated 3 million people — a third of the population — may need emergency relief.

In the streets of the capital, survivors set up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble.

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A case of resilience in action from commenter Flyoverman:

A case in point. During their June 2008 flood Cedar Rapids, Iowa lost 75% of their 16 million gallon a day water capacity. On the same day that the FEMA rep showed up and promised 600,000 liters of bottled water (@160,000 gallons), the local firemen figured out on their own how to the cross connect the hydrants where two neighboring small towns’ boundries came close to Cedar Rapids.

This totally unplanned piece of brilliance allowed their towns’ water to flow into the Cedar Rapids system. This gave Cedar Rapids an additional 3-4 million gallons of water per day, increasing their capacity to 50% and provided needed backup, if CR’s the last pumping station failed.

Resilience in action.

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Lessons from Africa from Dambisa Moyo

In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.

In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth.

In fact, poverty levels continue to escalate and growth rates have steadily declined—and millions continue to suffer. Provocatively drawing a sharp contrast between African countries that have rejected the aid route and prospered and others that have become aid-dependent and seen poverty increase, Moyo illuminates the way in which overreliance on aid has trapped developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid.

Debunking the current model of international aid promoted by both Hollywood celebrities and policy makers, Moyo offers a bold new road map for financing development of the world’s poorest countries that guarantees economic growth and a significant decline in poverty—without reliance on foreign aid or aid-related assistance.

Dead Aid is an unsettling yet optimistic work, a powerful challenge to the assumptions and arguments that support a profoundly misguided development policy in Africa. And it is a clarion call to a new, more hopeful vision of how to address the desperate poverty that plagues millions.

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