Monday, March 27, 2006

Fwd: "So much waste."

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mike Netherland <>
Date: Mar 26, 2006 7:59 AM
Subject: Re: "So much waste."
To: Larry A Bailly <>

Dear Mr. Bailly,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I think I see the problem, now. Your observations, as you wrote in the article that prompted my letter to you as well as in your response, are excellent and rational. Sadly, it is the conclusions you draw from your observations that seem to attract the most attention.
You are correct when you observe that Haiti's problems won't be solved by sending them more money, however that money is collected. And similarly correct in your assessment that Haitians, like most people, will take the opportunity to better themselves and relieve thier sufferring through hardwork.
However, your conclusion that if only we sent our jobs to Haiti (and other Latin American nations) instead of to Asia, that the Haitians would greatly benefit, is on par with the light-bulb theory which we agree does not adequately address the problem.
Part of your conclusion is correct, though. Obviously, the Haitians would benefit greatly if only corporate America would simply send a factory or two and other captial to our poor neighbors instead of to poor nations in other parts of the world.
But capital investment is attracted, not pushed, Mr. Bailly. Jobs cannot be sent anywhere. They are created through the investment of capital that has been rationally decided to promise the greatest return, however that return is measured, usually in terms of profit.
For example, my state, Maryland, has recently made itself about as attractive to business investment as, well, Haiti. The political majority decided attracting business investment and thus jobs was less important than appearing to be a workers paradise buy forcing certain businesses to pay for health insurance for its workers. The fact that the 800 jobs that Walmart would have "sent" to Maryland will now be "sent" to South Carolina, seems not to worry the Democrats in Maryland who have been and will always be the dominant party in my sad state.
Now, whose fault is it that the poor folks on our eastern shore will have no jobs (and no health care insurance)? Walmart's? Or would you conclude that is it the fault of Maryland voters who continue to elect buffoons to our state legislature?
So how do we make Haiti more attractive to business? How can Haiti attract more capital investment? As you say, a hand up, not a hand-out.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"So much waste"

(My correspondence with the author of a piece in the Seattle Times of March 23, 2006)

Dear Mr. Bailly
I came by your editorial in the Seattle Times ("From haunting darkness to embarrassing light") via a link in the web site. I read your article and I must say that you are to be commended and admired for your efforts on behalf of the impoverished Haitians. You set a Christian example for us all to follow.

However, I must ask you to restrain yourself in making apologies for Americans and expressing your embarrassment by the behavior of your fellow Americans for their penchant for consuming resources (in this case electricity) for which they have paid.

You are perhaps expressing, more honestly, the awe-inspiring contrast between your experience on the ground in Haiti and in the air over the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. It is similar to the stark contrast to that nighttime satellite photo of the Korean peninsula that the Secretary of Defense likes to use to illustrate the difference between democracy and totalitarianism. In that image the southern half of the peninsula is ablaze with light which abruptly ends, meeting with pitch blackness along border with North Korea.

Now I don't pretend to know all or even as much as you about our impoverished island neighbor. Nor do I pretend to know how to solve the problems that, I am inclined to believe, are more the result of poor leadership choices than the perceived "waste" measured by the estimated number of lights one sees at night from the air over the United States or South Korea.

Ascribing to your fellow Americans greed and indifference to the plight of Haitians then apologizing for it to a member of that impoverished nation (someone who has managed to attain the education and experience to become a "medical doctor" against the odds that must have been stacked against him) seems to be counter productive. There you were, winging your way back to Snohomish County, Washington where raw sewage does not somehow flow openly through the streets (I am just guessing) and all you can do is wonder aloud at how greedy and wasteful are the citizens of America. Your time might better have been spent in silent reflection on why some nations are rich and some are poor. Or, if you couldn't help engaging your Haitian seatmate in a bit of conversation, perhaps you might have learned a good deal about why Haiti is a political and economic basket case.

This may have made for more interesting and fruitful reading (and writing) than your rambling wishful thinking has otherwise borne. But then again, I am sure the Seattle Times would not have published it.

So let's just say, for the sake of argument that every household in America turned out one light (for an indefinite period) for the explicit purpose of channeling the money otherwise spent making a 40watt bulb glow for a few hours, let's say, every night for a year, to a relief fund for Haiti. And let's further assume that somehow that money is calculated, collected and banked and a sum total of "a bazillion" dollars is suddenly available to the Haitian people.

To whom would you give this money? What goods and services would be purchased by whomever receives this money? Maybe we need to establish the goals of this fundraising. To relieve the suffering of this perpetually poor island nation, obviously. But how and for how long?

Think carefully, Mr. Bailly. The answers won't be as simple as turning off a light for Haiti. I welcome your comments and am genuinely interested in knowing your thoughts of my letter.

Mike Netherland
Severna Park, MD