I think that Tyler Cowen makes a surprising mistake here when he compares the lawlessness in Chile and Haiti. Cowen: “Haiti, on the other hand, remains fairly orderly and there have been reports that police corruption has gone down significantly ... Haiti is so orderly because a) looters would be killed on the spot, and b) the entire fate of the nation is at stake and thus every small event is taken very seriously.” He links to a CNN story and a tweet from somebody in Santiago reporting secondhand about Concepción. (God, I hate Twitter.)
I dispute the stylized fact. I am peripherally involved with (well, hearing about) a U.N. survey design in Port-au-Prince: the lawlessness is out of control. Kidnappings, assaults, and rapes are endemic. Concepción, on the other hand, has a looted shopping center. These are not the same thing!
Haiti seems orderly because expectations were much worse. Chile seems chaotic because expectations ... well, actually, Chile doesn’t seem that chaotic, given the scale of the disaster. More chaotic than it needed to be, but the state functions and there has been no organized violence. Minute-to-minute reports here.
The post perturbs me a bit, since I know many people who rely on Marginal Revolution for information, and I am afraid that the false comparison is going to mislead some of them. It is also a bit ironic, since the main point of the post was “context-dependence, context-dependence, context-dependence.”
Yes. Context-dependence. By any absolute standard, Haitians reacted far more violently than Chileans to the earthquake, because the destruction was far greater and the state basically collapsed, even if it is now getting back on its feet. Apples and oranges, context-dependence.