David Brooks, in the NYTimes, knows that relief is needed immediately but that a bigger issues looms in this discussion: that current “remedies” for poverty aren’t working — and Haiti is the best example because there are as many as 10,000 organizations at work in Haiti — while perhaps the best remedy for poverty is paternalistic self-confidence that demands achievement. The issue, as many would argue today, is not that aid must be given; the issue is how aid is to be given.
The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.
Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism…. It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.