Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Copenhagen Consensus is out...

The results of the Copenhagen
Consensus
project have been announced. This is Bjorn Lomberg's effort to prioritize big, global social programs according to how much real economic good they do for the world. The conclusion: AIDS and Malaria matter, a lot.

1. as much AIDS prevention as possible -- cost $27 billion, payoff 40x the cost
2. provide micronutrients to fight malnutrition
3. lower trade barriers
4. fight malaria

Unsuprisingly, fighting global warming is not on their list of recommendations; Lomberg has become the environmentalists' version of Emmanuel Goldstein.

I am disappointed, thought, that it is harder than I expected to find the
reasoning behind the Copenhagen Consensus' list. If they are bold enough to claim the right to define the world's most urgent priorities, surely they can write a decent press release or essay briefly explaining their reasoning? I shouldn't have to look for the original academic paper to figure out what 'providing micronutrients' means.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

What is the Religious Middle?

In American politics, there are two common "religious" points of view: the religious right, with its concern over cultural issues like gay marriage and school prayer, and the religious left, with its passion for social justice, pacificism, and economic ideas that were discredited 50 years ago. The first sounds louder in the press, but the second is still going strong in the mainline protestant churches.

I think there's room for a third religious voice -- the Religious Middle.
IMHO, the religious right and the religious left are alike in spending too much energy on issues where people will never agree, and on highly principled stands that don't work in practice. We could use a Religious Middle to talk about:
-- issues where a broad range of religious people (left, right, Christian, Jewish, Muslim should be able to agree
-- creative, pragmatic approaches for addressing social problems and improving people's lives
-- how we can meet religious goals for helping people, without sacrificing either common sense or a modern understanding of economics.

Some examples of the issues I'd like to discuss here:
1. farm subsidies -- can any religious person defend a system of farm subsidies that protects large industrial farms from subsistence farmers in the third world?
2. prisoner abuse -- shouldn't rape in American prisons be a bigger issue than, say, gay marriage?
3. genocide, slavery, and religious persecution -- all still active, today
4. what do we do about countries like Haiti?
5. importing prescription drugs -- is it morally necessary for drugs to cost the same in the US as in other countries? Is it fair for the US government to force drug prices down at home, while often opposing efforts to cut the prices Africans pay for drugs?
6. the "Copenhagen Consensus" -- what should our priorities be for helping developing countries?