The Locust Effect: The Ultimate Argument for the Most Basic Function of Government, Rule of Law, and American Privilege.

In keeping with the promise of this blog, it only makes sense to start with Gary Haugen’s and Victor Boutros’ book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. It is brutal, heartbreaking, and absolutely demoralizing. It is true.

The Locust Effect is named for 1875 swam of locusts devoured crops, destroying the savings, work and hope of poor US farmers to make it out of poverty. Huegen and Boutros concede that there are many factors that lead to poverty, but any attempt alleviating those other factors without first providing credible law enforcement will fail. Fortunately, that swam died out shortly after, the developing world is not so lucky. The book opens with Huegen in Rwanda counting piles of human corpses in a church.

“I didn’t even realize as I was loading into a van outside the airport that I had entered Rwanda without passing through customs and immigration because there was no customs or immigration.” – The Locust Effect Chapter 1, p 1.

The bodies that Huegen counts are from the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It was only 1 on the list of 100 mass graves Huegen was given as part of the United Nations Special Investigations Unit. The thought occurs to him, the people whose corpses Huegen counts in that church did not need food, water, money, cell phones, free college tuition, nor affordable health insurance while men made their way through the crowd by machete. The kind of healthcare they needed was someone to stop the machete, basic protection from violence.

Rwanda is not the most heart breaking story in The Locust Effect. Huegen and Boutros impart stories of the rape and murder of 10-year-old girls, debt slavery, and sex trafficking in which no one is convicted, charged, or even investigated. All due to justice systems left over from colonization designed to protect the monarch and/or completely corrupt systems in which the police get paid more money from sex traffickers than people the police are supposed to protect.

Imagine going to court in the United States, and the only language used in court was Mandarin Chinese or the police being involved meant criminals will always get away. Are you making sarcastic jokes about the US justice system? Allow another example from chapter 6.

A lawyer in Southeast Asia describes getting stonewalled at the local police station despite having photos of three teenage girls being raped by operators of a bar, photos of the bar, it’s operators, and a map with a diagram of the rooms where the girls are being held. The police agree to raid the bar… in a few days. When the police go the bar with the lawyer, the bar is closed and empty. The bar was one of five owned by a man who paid the police to protect this sex trafficking operation.

Huegen and Boutros do not make the claim the US criminal justice system is perfect, in fact, they make a point to state it isn’t several times. They also acknowledge; however, the US system is far better than those of the developing world. Is there a station anywhere in the US that would act like the one in Southeast Asia?

More from the book:

  • In 2013 there were est. 27 million slaves, more than all that were extracted from Africa in the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (11 million). India had the most slaves of any country.
  • In the developing world 1 in 3 (1 billion) live in a slum.
  • In the 1980s, 50% of the world population was living in extreme poverty ($1.50/day). In 2013, it was 15%
  • A smaller proportion of the world’s population is in slavery and a smaller proportion of the world’s economy is generated by slavery.
  • The average length of pre-trail detention in Nigeria is 3.7 years. In the developing world, it is not uncommon for people to spend more time in prison waiting for trial than if they had plead guilty and served their sentence.

All of this lends to the title of this piece.

The US government, for all its faults, has provided the foundation for the most prosperous nation ever. Government’s most basic function is to protect the people from people. Without rule of law the government is vulnerable to corruption based on the whims of lawmakers. American Exceptionalism (or privilege) is found in the checks and balances along with the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights that grant the people the ability to fight corruption in their own government. The rule of law and divided powers create a form of government that is difficult to completely corrupt and overtime has become less corrupt. As impossible as that is to believe given the current political climate, a look back at the police corruption in New York in the early 2oth century, Jim Crow South, and US slavery proves that. Jessica Disu’s idea that the police should be abolished is non-sense. US cities need more police and less corruption.

Furthermore, the monopolization of force by government advocated by Huegen, Boutros, and Hobbes (Leviathan) is checked by due process, free speech and a favorite of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcom X) the 2nd amendment.

The prosperity of the United States is due to the democratic republic system. It is no coincidence that poverty and slavery are highly correlated in the developing world. As Milton Freidman asserted, the US may have been built in part by slavery, however, it only flourished after slavery ended. Slavery keeps nations poor because it reduces the size of the talent pool and incentive for innovation. The same can be said of any system that prevents people from participating in the market based on solely on merit; be it racism, sexism, or socialism.

The fact that no amount of charity will save people in the developing world from violence inspired Gary Huegen to start the International Justice Mission(IJM). Huegen’s Christian organization works to bring criminals to justice in the developing world, provide legal and social work services for victims of violence. It isn’t sexy helping, shooting an ad for PETA or flying to a climate change summit in a private jet. It is a dirty, dangerous labor of love that will not make the evening news.

Last year the bodies Willie Kimani of IJM, Josephat Mwenda (Kimani’s client), and taxi driver Joseph Muirfield were found in a river in Kenya. Eight days before their bodies were found, Kimani and Mwenda were leaving a trial on police brutality when they got in Muirfield’s taxi and were kidnapped.

As some of the statics in The Locust Effect via the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor point out, slavery is on the decline, poverty is as well. That is not a reason to let up, but to keep going. To find more about my favorite charity, visit IJM.



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