Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order
excerpted from the book
Profit Over People
by Noam Chomsky
Seven Stories Press, 1999
... The announcement of the Clinton Doctrine was accompanied
by a prize example to illustrate the victorious principles the
administration's achievement in Haiti. Since this is again offered
as the strongest case, it is appropriate to look at it.
True, Haiti's elected president was allowed to return, but
only after the popular organizations had been subjected to three
years of terror by forces that retained close connections to Washington
throughout; the Clinton Administration still refuses to turn over
to Haiti 160,000 pages of documents on state terror seized by
U.S. military forces-"to avoid embarrassing revelations"
about U.S. government involvement with the coup regime, according
to Human Rights Watch. It was also necessary to put President
Aristide through "a crash course in democracy and capitalism,"
as his leading supporter in Washington described the process of
civilizing the troublesome priest.
The device is not unknown elsewhere, as an unwelcome transition
to formal democracy is contemplated.
As a condition on his return, Aristide was compelled to accept
an economic program that directs the policies of the Haitian government
to the needs of "Civil Society, especially the private sector,
both national and foreign" U.S. investors are designated
to be the core of Haitian civil society, along with wealthy Haitians
who backed the military coup, but not the Haitian peasants and
slum dwellers who organized a civil society so lively and vibrant
that they were even able to elect their own president against
overwhelming odds, eliciting instant U.S. hostility and efforts
to subvert Haiti's first democratic regime.
The unacceptable acts of the "ignorant and meddlesome
outsiders" in Haiti were reversed by violence, with direct
U.S. complicity, not only through contacts with the state terrorists
in charge The Organization of American States declared an embargo.
The Bush and Clinton Administrations undermined it from the start
by exempting U.S. firms, and also by secretly authorizing the
Texaco Oil Company to supply the coup regime and its wealthy supporters
in violation of the official sanctions, a crucial fact that was
prominently revealed the day before U.S. troops landed to "restore
democracy"' but has yet to reach the public, and is another
unlikely candidate for the historical record.
Now democracy has been restored. The new government has been
forced to abandon the democratic and reformist programs that scandalized
Washington, and to follow the policies of Washington's candidate
in the 1990 election, in which he received 14 percent of the vote.
The background of this triumph provides no little insight
into the "political and economic principles" that are
to lead us to a glorious future. Haiti was one of the world's
richest colonial prizes (along with Bengal) and the source of
a good part of France's wealth. It has been largely under U.S.
control and tutelage since Wilson's Marines invaded eighty years
ago. By now the country is such a catastrophe that it may scarcely
be habitable in the not-too-distant future. In 1981 a USAID-World
Bank development strategy was initiated, based on assembly plants
and agro-export, shifting land from food for local consumption.
USAID forecast "a historic change toward deeper market interdependence
with the United States" in what would become "the Taiwan
of the Caribbean." The World Bank concurred, offering the
usual prescriptions for "expansion of private enterprises"
and minimization of "social objectives," thus increasing
inequality and poverty and reducing health and educational levels.
It may be noted, for what it is worth, that these standard prescriptions
are offered side by side with sermons on the need to reduce inequality
and poverty and improve health and educational levels. In the
Haitian case, the consequences were the usual ones profits for
U.S. manufacturers and the Haitian super-rich, and a decline of
56 percent in Haitian wages through the 1980s- in short, an "economic
miracle." Haiti remained Haiti, not Taiwan, which had followed
a radically different course, as advisers must surely know.
It was the effort of Haiti's first democratic government to
alleviate the growing disaster that called forth Washington's
hostility and the military coup and terror that followed. With
"democracy restored," USAID is withholding aid to ensure
that cement and flour mills are privatized for the benefit of
wealthy Haitians and foreign investors (Haitian "Civil Society,"
according to the orders that accompanied the restoration of democracy),
while barring expenditures for health and education. Agribusiness
receives ample funding, but no resources are made available for
peasant agriculture and handicrafts, which provide the income
of the overwhelming majority of the population. Foreign-owned
assembly plants that employ workers (mostly women) at well below
subsistence pay under horrendous working conditions benefit from
cheap electricity, subsidized by the generous supervisor. But
for the Haitian poor-the general population-there can be no subsidies
for electricity, fuel, water, or food; these are prohibited by
IMF rules on the principled grounds that they constitute "price
Before the "reforms" were instituted, local rice
production supplied virtually all domestic needs, with important
linkages to the domestic economy. Thanks to one-sided" liberalization,"
it now provides only 50 percent, with the predictable effects
on the economy. Haiti must "reform," eliminating tariffs
in accord with the stern principles of economic science-which,
by some miracle of logic, exempt U.S. agribusiness; it continues
to receive huge public subsidies, increased by the Reagan Administration
to the point where they provided 40 percent of growers' gross
incomes by 1987. The natural consequences are understood a 1995
USAID report observes that the "export-driven trade and investment
policy" that Washington mandates will "relentlessly
squeeze the domestic rice farmer," who will be forced to
turn to the more rational pursuit of agro-export for the benefit
of U.S. investors, in accord with the principles of rational expectations
By such methods, the most impoverished country in the hemisphere
has been turned into a leading purchaser of U.S.-produced rice,
enriching publicly subsidized U.S. enterprises. Those lucky enough
to have received a good Western education can doubtless explain
that the benefits will trickle down to Haitian peasants and slum
The prize example tells us more about the meaning and implications
of the victory for "democracy and open markets."
Haitians seem to understand the lessons, even if doctrinal
managers in the West prefer a different picture. Parliamentary
elections in April 1997 brought forth "a dismal 5 percent"
of voters, the press reported, thus raising the question, "Did
Haiti Fail U.S. Hope?" We have sacrificed so much to bring
them democracy, but they are ungrateful and unworthy. One can
see why "realists" urge that we stay aloof from crusades
of "global meliorism."