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Confronting the Locust Effect: The Rule of Law in Developing Nations

May 28th, 2014

Although the efforts of the aid community and the spread of globalization, free trade, and enterprise have yielded a 50 percent reduction in extreme poverty over the past 20 years, more than four billion people still live outside the basic protections of the law.

At an AEI event on Wednesday, Gary Haugen, author of “The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence,” argued that the “locust effect” takes four main forms: gender-based violence, slavery and forced labor, police abuse, and land theft. The poor suffer these daily injustices disproportionately because they have inadequate power to deter abusive perpetrators and because police have little financial incentive to enforce laws.

ONE Campaign’s Tom Hart suggested that violence is both a symptom and a cause of poverty. Desperation often forces the poor into exploitation, but investments in public health, education, and infrastructure can check the conditions abused by perpetrators.

AEI’s Nick Eberstadt strongly concurred with the thesis of “The Locust Effect” as a model for antipoverty efforts in the developing world. He advocated for an international law enforcement index, akin to the Index of Economic Freedom, to identify unjust legal systems and motivate structural reform.

Haugen concluded by arguing that law enforcement could become the key component of foreign aid. Watch the entire event here: