Paradise Spurned

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I met with a government minister on my last visit to Haiti— I believe he’s now their ambassador to the United Nations. As you know, one of my hobbies for the last 30 years has been to go around to these places — hellholes, generally — and try to sell them on a plan to totally reform their country. It would change the place instantaneously from a hellhole into a garden spot — which is entirely possible.

I’d usually meet with the head of state — which is not as hard as you might think — and I’d tell him I could do three things for him. One: I could put him on the cover of every major news magazine in the world in a favorable light, which is the opposite of how he’d usually appear at the time. Two: I could make him legitimately very rich. (It’s impossible to get rich the way the likes of Mobutu and Marcos did anymore.) And three: I could set things up so the people would love him, so he wouldn’t have to worry about every guy he meets being the one who would pull out a .45 and put a bullet in his head.

The means for achieving these three things was to basically privatize the whole government, 100% of their assets, issuing shares to the people, and making them owners of their country. With, of course, a whack of cheap founder’s stock going to the retiring dictator and his pals to make them go away — what corporate types call a “golden parachute.”

Of course, it never went anywhere. Generally speak- ing, the guy would listen with some interest, but all the guys below him would talk him out of it. Ending corrupt government control of the economy and shifting it to a free market would break their rice bowls. All of these places are kleptocracies. The power of the state is the most effective means man has ever devised for stealing. So, in Haiti, just like in the United States or anywhere else, government doesn’t attract the best and the brightest; you get the worst, the most sociopathic. It’s absolutely perverse.

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