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#2147: Smith responds to Arthur (fwd)

From: Merrill Smith <advocacy@bellatlantic.net>

Charles' question on the level of debate on this topic in Haiti's
election campaign is a good one and I don't have a good answer.
Hopefully, others will.

But I would like to comment on how my views are characterized.

> From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>
> In #1945, the heavyweight, Merrill Smith, 

Hey, I resemble that remark! Bob, I didn't think you allowed commentary
on participants' physical appearance! :-)

> entered the ring, brushing the
> throng aside with his 'economics first, everything else later' approach. He
> seemed to suggest that it is only to be expected that investors will invest
> wherever and however they can to make a good profit, without any other
> criteria, 

I honestly didn't imagine that anyone would find this shocking or even
particularly controversial.

> and that therefore because they do that, we should accept that.
> Without wanting to be too silly, I wonder if he would likewise expect us to
> accept that the British merchants who invested in the slave trade were
> merely following the prevailing economic orthodoxy, or that the German arms
> manufacturers who backed the Nazi Party were only looking after their
> legitimate financial interests. 

Let me clear this up for you. Slavers were indeed following prevailing
'orthodoxy' and German arms manufacturers were certainly looking after
their financial interests. But slavery and nazism are morally wrong and
the appropriate course of action was to abolish them. What really would
be "too silly" is to propose doing this by fine-tuning tariff
structures! The way it was done was through military force and
substantial bloodshed -- a heavy price but well-paid.

> He went on to pose the question why the DR
> sugar industry has been more efficient than the Haitian - was he perhaps
> suggesting that it would have been better for Haiti if Charlemagne Peralte
> and the Cacos had not resisted the US occupation, that a plantation system
> should have been established in Haiti as it was in the DR during the
> occcupation of that country, and was he suggesting that if Haiti had a
> plantation system, that it should have been nationalised as it was in the
> Dominican Republic?

Wow! That's some mighty creative 'explication du texte!' I don't think I
was suggesting anything of the sort. I was merely _asking_ why Haiti
cannot produce sugar even at the inflated US quota price, let alone the
world market price. I'm no sugar expert, I honestly don't know the full
answer. Some aspects seem clear enough and others and I have identified
them. _No one_ has even mentioned, let alone advocated, state-run sugar
plantations and you won't hear it from me. (Sounds kinda Stalinist, no?)

> Merrill Smith weighed in again 

Enough of the fat jokes already!

> #1976 'railing' against trade barriers. He
> argued that Haitians ought to live or work where they are given the maximum
> opportunity and widest options to do what they find to be in their best
> interests - did he mean the US? or Cuba?

Guilty as charged. As to where, I had _Haiti_ principally in mind. 

But, of course, as you must know, I am a notorious 'softy' on
immigration as well. (Does Cuba still repatriate Haitian boat people? I
would oppose it if they do but I'm not sure what I can do about it.
How's the UK on immigration?)

Not that I think for a minute that Haitian immigration to the U.S. will
solve Haiti's economic problems. I oppose restriction on _moral_
grounds. (See how little you know about me!) There are some good
economic arguments for immigration (remittances, Haitians going _back_
with greater skills, capital, and broader outlooks, benefits to the _US_
economy, etc.), and I don't hesitate to make them. And there are some
good economic _questions_ about why Haitians, black and speaking a
language shared by very few, can command higher wages in just about any
other country _but_ Haiti!

But the central agenda behind my immigration advocacy (and economic
arguments, too, if you read them closely), is that human beings should
be respected and treated as ends in themselves and not reduced to
_means_ to others' ends. In a word, they should be free.

But I'll just leave at that lest Bob slough me off to his philosopy

Merrill Smith
Haiti Advocacy, Inc.
1309 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20003-2302
(202) 544-9084
(202) 547-2952 fax