Haiti and economics

Why is Haiti so poor?

Tyler Cowen asks this question on his blog, and thinks through many possible answers. He concludes:

Overall I don’t find this set of possible factors very satisfactory.  Is it asking too much to wish for an economics profession that is obsessed with such a question?

The Haiti question would be very difficult to answer, or answer well, with the standard set of tools now taught in grad school. You could argue the profession is moving in the opposite direction. Indeed, I’m willing to bet that mentioning the Haiti question on a grad school application at a top 5 program would alienate or disappoint a majority of faculty. “Not serious” would be the verdict.

That is not an indictment of the direction of economics, simply disappointment that the direction seems one-way. One might argue a healthy field is one expanding in many interesting directions, with a growing rather than a narrowing toolkit.

I am overstating the point a little, of course. But consider this the rounding out of my recent defense of development economics.

As for the Haiti question, I know too little to say. But when studying development in the Americas, one can seldom do better than reading Engerman and Sokoloff.