Help For Haiti Paved With Good Intentions

Curtsy to Brett McS for sending me this little piece about the lessons kind-hearted Westerners learn when trying to help Haitians.
Anthony Bourdain, for example, who thought he'd do something nice for the locals while he was filming an episode of his show there:
Bourdain thinks of a way to do something nice for everyone. Realizing that in this one sitting, he is eating a quantity of food that would last most Haitians three days, he buys out the remaining food from the vendor and gives it away to locals.
Nice gesture! Except that something goes wrong. Once the word spreads about the free food — word-of-mouth in Haiti is faster than Facebook chat — people start pouring in. Lines form and get long. Disorder ensues. Some people step forward to keep order. They bring belts and start hitting. The entire scene becomes very unpleasant for everyone — and the viewer gets the sense that it is worse than we are shown.
Here is the scene.
Bourdain correctly draws the lesson that the solutions to the problem of poverty here are more complex than it would appear at first glance. Good intentions go awry.
I've heretofore not thought much of Sean Penn, but sounds like the ol' boy might be learning something, and God bless 'im for this:
By the time the show was made, the glamour of the postearthquake onslaught of American visitors seeking to help had vanished. One who remains is actor Sean Penn. Although he's known as a Hollywood lefty, he's actually living there, chugging up and down the hills of a shanty town, unshaven and disheveled, being what he calls a "functionary" and getting stuff for people who need it. He had no easy answers, and he had sharp words for American donors who think that dumping money into new projects is going to help anyone.
Indeed, many Western notions fade to ashes in Haiti:
the earthquake destroyed most homes. If this had been the United States, this earthquake would not have caused the same level of damage. This led many outsiders to think that somehow the absence of building codes was the core of the problem, and hence the solution is more imposition of government control.
But the reality shows that this building-code notion is some sort of joke. The very idea that a government could somehow go around beating up people who provide shelter for themselves while failing to obey the central plan is simply laughable. Coercion of this sort would bring about no positive results and lead only to vast corruption, violence, and homelessness.
There follows a little lesson on the "capital" part of capitalism, because actually Haitians are as entrepreneurial and enterprising as anyone else. The problem is that the government doesn't permit capital to accumulate, and therefore all business is day-to-day. That's the best part of the piece.

The conclusion is a little much for me, in that it lumps together a lot of different impulses. I don't think the desire to have some kind of human scale in life, or the desire to foster community by supporting a local farm, necessarily has to go along with often as not the contrary. Nonetheless:
there are plenty of Americans who are firmly convinced that we would all be better off if we grew our own food, bought only locally, kept firms small, eschewed modern conveniences like home appliances, went back to using only natural products, expropriated wealthy savers, harassed the capitalistic class until it felt itself unwelcome and vanished. This paradise has a name, and it is Haiti.
As I say, that's a little heavy-handed for me, but Haiti as a laboratory for testing economic theories is fascinating.