The United States Should Annex Haiti as the 51st state

January 15, 2010 at 5:59 pm (Current Events, Haiti, Political) (, , , , , , )

The United States should annex Haiti as the 51st state.  Smart taxation policies could allow the annexation to be accomplished with little short-term cost to the United States with many near-term benefits for Haiti.  In the long-term, Haiti’s population size and density guarantee that Haiti will be one of the large states that contributes more to federal revenues than it receives without being so large as to overwhelm the existing political make-up of the Republic.

Haiti has a population of approximately 10 million people, with a median age of around 18 and nearly half of the population below the age of 18.  Haiti is comparable to Michigan in population size.  The low median age, however, presents a unique opportunity for an investment in educational services that will pay-off in larger margins, more quickly, than investments in education typically pay-off.

The United States has contributed approximately 5 billion dollars in aid to Haiti over the last 20 years, with another 100 million dollars of federal aid imminent in earthquake relief with a comparable amount of private American philanthropy to match.  Yet, Haiti has little to show for years of sustained development assistance save for a costly US military intervention in 1994 and the enduring costs of narcotics interdiction.  Corruption is frequently cited by experts as the cause for Haiti’s lack of prosperity.

Haiti has suffered for decades under military dictatorship, only breaking free of these self-imposed bonds in the 1980s.  The 1990s should be viewed as a transition period, but recent years have seen relative stability since elections in 2006.  The current president, despite balloting difficulties and demonstrations, was elected with a peaceful transition from the previous regime.  Haiti today displays similar political stability to many territorial governments of would-be States inducted into the Union throughout the 19th Century – who often avoided the appearance of political difficulties by simply excluding disruptive elements from the electorate.  The Republic of Texas only allowed American-born Whites to vote.  Territorial Utah denied suffrage to non-Mormons.  The stories of Zorro were inspired from the times of colonial California.  Haiti, however, stands on a political precipice.

The earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince was not the first ecological tragedy to visit the island of Hispaniola.  Last year, Haiti was buffeted by four hurricanes and was still working to recover from these when the earthquake hit.  A bad hurricane season this summer could cause the government to collapse and doom Haitian democracy for a generation absent external support.  That support would prove lacking in the current paradigm of Haiti as a foreign power.  Immediate induction into the Union would lend the necessary political support to see Haitian democracy survive their current difficulties.

As it stands, the United States has already invested billions in Haiti, with billions more forthcoming through immediate relief aid and the continued normal means of development assistance.  While humanitarian motivations are more than sufficient to justify our continued support of Haiti as a foreign power, why should the United States not profit from their investment when Haiti would profit equally – if not moreso?  Upon induction into the Union, the United States would absorb Haiti’s debt, a pittance at 1.4 billion dollars, half of which is odious debt incurred by the military dictatorship decades ago.  Haiti’s standard of living would skyrocket as it adopted American labor standards and practices and investment would be spurred by the guarantees of political and economic stability.  While American governance is not free of its own corruption, as Haiti adopted federal laws, Haitian corruption would be purged.  The bad actors in Haiti that cause corruption in the status quo would simply be co-opted or out-competed by the larger, richer, stronger, and smarter political machines of the Republican and Democratic parties as they reorganized Haitian politics to suit their own electoral desires.

The United States has little desire to invest in another nation-building campaign at present, and a world where Haiti was brought into the Union would not see strong political desires in Washington to dump money into Haiti beyond immediate relief aid and the normal development assistance that would occur in the status quo.  Legislation could be drafted in such a way to limit federal spending outside of entitlement, defense, and law enforcement to the amount of revenue that Haiti sends to the federal government for a transition period of 15 or 20 years.  Haiti’s exceptionally young population entering the workforce would be more than sufficient to pay for their own entitlement spending.

Federal spending should be made dependent upon the local government maintaining an exceptionally high local tax rate to dampen price inflation and to invest in necessary education, health, and infrastructure to bring Haiti up to American standards within a generation.  What Haitian-American would complain about a 50% local tax rate when they watched their minimum wage jump from $2.60 a day to $7.25 an hour overnight?

Haiti will still primarily be an agrarian society for decades to come – most States were when they were inducted into the Union – but dedicated local government, with federal support and oversight, could reorganize this exceptionally young Haitian society immediately to provide enough food for themselves for this generation.  While it may be too late for the current generation of Haitians coming of age, working together with smart local governance they could provide the education their children will need to bring their living standards in line with the rest of the United States.  Haiti already has compulsory education for all in law, if not in practice.

The Haitian culture is also uniquely suited to adopting foreign language and custom.  While French is an official language of Haiti, less than 5% of the population actually speaks it fluently.  Government and secondary schools are conducted in French, and French is a cultural ideal more than a reality for the average Haitian.  As partners in a larger Union, there is no reason why the next generation of Haitians, educated in English-speaking schools with English-speaking government would not substitute English for French as the cultural ideal within the Haitian societal norm.

The United States also has a long history of inducting foreign-speaking nations into the Union.  The original state constitution of Louisiana was written in French.  A few thousand White Americans in Austin voted tens of thousands of Spanish-speaking Mexicans into the Union with Texas.  California’s first constitution was published in both Spanish and English.  Spanish-speaking Puerto Rico has a standing invitation to join the Union (which they refuse every few years in referendum).

Haiti, as a long-term investment, could prove to be an immense asset to the United States.  Haiti’s population of 10 million is very densely concentrated at 930/square mile (the national average for the United States is 83/square mile).  Nearly a third of the country lives in the metropolitan area around the capital.  It is far more cost-effective to provide common services in to a dense population than a sparse population.  Part of the reason the Deep South and the Mountain West are drains on the federal treasury every year is because they are rural and sparsely populated.  Haiti’s dense population coupled with investments in infrastructure, education, and industry would more than repay itself a generation from now.

The United States will exist into perpetuity and we are not a young nation anymore.  We need to look for investments with an eye toward the horizon and a mind that accepts we will still be around to see the 22nd Century.  Haiti, today, is a sound investment that will bring strength to our Union. 

More importantly, it is the Manifest Destiny of the American States to govern themselves in Union.  All of us share a common tie that we have thrown off the shackles of European Imperialism.  Americans should ignore criticism that our actions in the Western Hemisphere are imperialist, because as long as we embrace our neighbors in Union as equal partners and sovereign states the American project rejects the imperialism of the past.

It has been 50 years since we brought a new sovereign partner into the Republic.  The American character requires a frontier.  As a maturing nation, we must work harder than ever before to reaffirm our values and ideals and few values are more American than Expansionism.  Within a century of our founding, the United States spanned from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  And then we stopped.  Our nation is noble, our values are good.  But Americans look to the future with uncertainty, they fear stagnation.  Few actions could dispel these fears more quickly than reclaiming our purpose of uniting all Americans.

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