Tyler Cowen talks about how the disaster in Haiti could transform it into a better place to live:

Arguably the new regime in Haiti will operate much like the federal states in Mexico.  Corrupt and a mess, but oriented toward a certain kind of progress, if only to increase the returns from corruption…

…The surviving Haitians, in time, might be much better off.

In support of the general idea of the positive transformative ability of disasters, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praises the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans’ schools:

I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better.’ And the progress that they’ve made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable.

As notes of caution, Tyler makes sure to point out he is not saying that “the future gains will, in moral terms, outweigh the massive loss of life and destruction”, and I doubt anyone would claim that Hurricane Katrina has had a net positive impact on New Orleans overall. Still, in the midst of terrible tragedy, any glimmers of optimism are certainly welcome.