A society's ability to recover from a natural disaster is also a reflection of its economic and political culture. There will be more "looting" in Chile this week as people struggle to survive in the ruins, but the Chilean army and police, not U.S. Marines, will control the situation. Weakened apartment blocks will abruptly collapse, but there will be inspectors on hand to help assess which ones might be safe. ...Applebaum also looks at Chileans' faith in their country's civil institutions, which she says reflects and bolsters the strength of those institutions.
Disasters have no logic, and no political significance. But the recovery process that follows a disaster is always deeply political. Despite a stronger earthquake and more damaging aftershocks, Chile will return to normal faster than Haiti. Luck has nothing to do with it.
In the city of Concepcion, residents of a new building that collapsed are threatening to sue the builders, according to one report. The fact that they are even discussing this option implies that these apartment owners believe they have a court system that works, a legal system that could force builders to pay compensation, and a building regulatory system that is generally respected. Haiti has none of the above.