Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Private property (Warning, political screed)

Some of these posts will be memories of conversations held with people who had important or profound ideas to share.

This post is a recounting of a conversation I had with Scott.  This conversation was held long before the earthquake in Haiti that turned everybody into an expert.  I would list Scott's full name except his brother still makes trips to Haiti and I don't want to be a party in any retribution that may be sparked by this post.  You are just going to have to trust me that Scott exists and we had a conversation.

Infrastructure in Haiti:

Scott shared with me that his brother had just returned from a week long mission trip in Haiti.

I commented on the deforestation in Haiti and opined that somebody needed to shoot all the feral goats.

Scott assured me that there were no wild goats on Haiti.  He said that they were all owned by somebody, somewhere.  In fact, Haiti is so poor that everything on Haiti seems to be claimed by several people.
On a micro-scale goats are like a big drag-net that concentrate protein and turn it into a form that can be used by humans.  On a macro-scale free range goats are devastating to the infrastructure of agricultural production.
He then explained the depths of material poverty in Haiti.  He said that people built nearly everything from poured concrete.  Haiti has rocks.  Haiti has aggregate.  Haiti has water (although not particularly rich in potable water).  He said that Haiti was so poor that people rent the sticks used in supporting the pouring forms.

I asked for clarification.  "You mean lumber, right?"

"Nope.  I mean sticks.  Pieces of wood you would be embarrassed to use as fence posts."

Scott went on to tell me that his brother made yearly mission trips to Haiti and that he (Scott) joined him one year.  "I saw them with my own eyes.  They were pouring a second story floor and they were supporting the forms from below with wood like this (making motion with hands describing posts with 4" kinks).

I got him back on topic regarding the deforestation.

Non-Governmental Agency after NGO go into Haiti.  They would see a bald knob of a hill.  They would inquire into ownership and be directed to somebody.  The somebody would accept payment.  All those college students and middle aged mid-Western women would go out and plant the little seedlings.  Perhaps they would also hire some local help.   Then the sunburned Americans would fly back home.

A week later the seedlings would be in the bellies of the local goats.

Perhaps the purported owner was an out-and-out scammer.   More likely, he was a person who had a claim of ownership on the parcel.

People in the US rarely recognize how fortunate we are to have a court system that is speedy, impartial and definitive.  In Haiti, cases can drag on for months, years, decades, even generations.  The cynical say that cases drag on until one side no longer has the means to bribe the judge(s).  Also, in Haiti, a strongman can nullify court judgements via possession.  A case of might-makes-right.

In Scott's opinion, the ambiguous status of private property rights is the hub of Haiti's poverty.

Why would you invest the sweat to build a wall of rocks if the rocks might get stolen in the night?  Why would you invest the sweat to build a wall of rocks if a strongman will claim the garden as soon as you finished  building it?

Sprouting lentil in bottom of deer track.  Deer are one of Michigan's analog of Haitian goats.
Every enterprise is a variant on building that wall.  Every enterprise involves investing sweat and materials.  Every enterprise involves an investment, a foregoing of immediate gratification in the hopes, nay, the surety of future gain.

These are conversations I remember as I build the fence around my new garden plot.  I ponder grand ideas of reshaping Detroit into a agricultural heaven.  As rich and as favorable the west shore of Lake St Claire is for growing food, I wonder how it compares to the potential of a tropical island, a tropical island that Haiti sprawls across the west end of.  I fear that the Marxists and strongmen who strangled Haiti have irreparably strangled Detroit.

I appreciate that I have been given the gift to be able to create a garden.  Gardens are real wealth, not the wealth of paper and electronic credits and debits. I thank God that I live in a place where my claim to that wealth will be honored and protected.


  1. "I thank God that I live in a place where my claim to that wealth will be honored and protected."

    I fear I do not hold the same optimism. Detroit is a template.

  2. Hello meema:

    Thank-you for reading.

    You may be right. The Detroit bankruptcy may be like the most recent Chrysler (and GM) bankruptcies where the assets were divvied up as political spoils rather than by the following the rules of precedence.

    Our system of law is based on precedence. Unfortunately, our legal processes have been suborned to political expediency.

    My method of fighting it may be as effective as gobbling baby aspirin to deflect Stage IV cancer into remission. But if aspirin is all I have, then that is what I will use.

    My method is to combine Voltaire ("First, I will tend my own garden.") and Sun Tzu. Carpet bombing Detroit with assets will not help because that is how they got into their current situation. But finding pockets of healthy cells and supporting them as best I can may be the seeds of the remnant.

    This guy is in Lansing, not Detroit, but he meets my criteria as a pocket of strength.

    Again, thanks for taking the five minutes to read and the extra two minutes to comment.

    1. I found your blog by clicking on your name in your recent comment referencing “body count” in Sultan Knish’s blog. I’m ever eager to find signs of intelligent life.


      I’ve been reading in here today and it’s clear you are not just intelligent but most certainly a member in good standing in the Remnant. I thought your comments on Sunday Sermonizing were stunning:

      “It is normal to have doubts.  But speak and act with dignity, honor and respect.  Speak and act with proper awe and respect for God.  One morning you will wake up and realize that Holy Spirit blessed you with the gift of abundant Faith.”

      Why is that so difficult for folks to understand?

      Re: tending one's own garden, I adhere to that also. As bad as it is, and portends to get, so long as I am focused on what God wants from me, here and now, I can trust Him with the rest.

      Do you mind if I add a link from my blog?

      For Christ,

  3. I will be tickled if you add a link from your blog.