Playing the Devil's Advocate in Haiti

Some media commentators are aghast that their colleagues would weigh the Haitian earthquake as a political event, but if politics is defined, as it famously was by Harold Lasswell in 1935 as “Who gets what, when and how,” then the Haitian earthquake is certainly political in nature. How the media reports the disaster is political as is the financial side of the crisis. In fact, if one wants to help Haiti, one must engage in politics.

Media Matters should lighten up on Fox News for not covering more of the earthquake because there should be room in the U.S. for conservative media. Standards which most liberals don’t agree with, for example, that the U.S. should have a small federal government with an isolationist foreign policy are valid if consistently held. That the same people who supported invading Afghanistan and Iraq are criticizing humanitarian relief in Haiti is absolutely inconsistent and demonstrates a fetish for violence.


Similarly, large federal aid efforts, particularly in a foreign country, are inconsistent with America’s historical opposition to taxes. Conservatives hold that a large bureaucracy should not be supported by the people’s money. This is not the same as saying Haiti needn’t receive any humanitarian assistance. As Walter Mead points out in the New York Times’ “Room for Debate”, the most effective post-disaster assistance will come from private aid agencies, including individuals. Indeed, millions were raised very quickly via text messages in the U.S. and, as hurricane Katrina demonstrates, there is a lot of room for error in federal disaster relief agencies.

It turns out that Haiti is also in a lot of debt: hundreds of millions of dollars worth. France, Haiti’s former colonial master, is leading the way toward forgiving some of it. The IMF and World Bank are expected to forgive over $60 million and some French creditors have agreed to forgive over $150 million. The reason is clear: Haiti will now have to shoulder a large, unexpected social and financial burden.

According to this logic, American homeowners with predatory mortgages should be forgiven their debt, but given the clout that big lenders have within the U.S., this seems like a political impossibility.

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