Are there more cost-effective methods of helping Third World countries—and thus reducing emigration—than invading and occupying them?
The President is investing a few hundred billion dollars in the Iraq War with the laudable intention of making the Middle East a better place. But the Iraqis don't seem to appreciate his efforts. We've spent about $100 million on Mr. Ahmed Chalabi alone, but even that doesn't appear to have been sufficient to keep him from betraying American secrets to the Iranians.
Bjorn Lomborg, the ambitious statistician who wrote the The Skeptical Environmentalist, recently convened a panel of leading economists (such as Nobel Laureate economic historian Robert Fogel) to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of plans for helping the developing world. In this, Lomborg has the backing of The Economist magazine.
(Incidentally, I'm pleased to report that The Economist has won back some of my respect by running a retraction of that phony IQ-by-state table "So Democrats Really Are Smarter" they printed in their May 15th issue. The editors mea culpaed: "Alas, we were the victims of a hoax: no such data exists.")
Lomborg rather pretentiously calls his conference the "Copenhagen Consensus." Perhaps he hopes that some prestige will rub off from the famous 1927 consensus on quantum mechanics known as the Copenhagen Interpretation. Nonetheless, it's a worthy effort and the panel's evaluation of the 17 proposals—ranking them from "Very Good" to "Bad"—seems reasonable.
The economists found that the most cost-effective undertaking would be, not surprisingly,
But the runner-up in bang for the buck:
For years, the heavyweight IQ researchers associated with the much-reviled Pioneer Fund, such as Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, and J.P. Rushton, have pointed out that Third World countries' average IQs could benefit from the food fortification programs—things like putting iron in flour and iodine in salt, which began in First World generations ago. But almost no one paid attention until a UN report endorsed this view earlier this year.
A paper presented at the Copenhagen conference concurs with the Pioneer position, noting that
"deficiencies in micro-nutrients can have a major impact on development of intelligence. Lack of both iodine and iron has been implicated in impaired brain development, and this can affect enormous numbers of people: it is estimated that 2 billion people (one-third of the total global population) are affected by iodine deficiency, including 285 million 6 to 12 year-old children… [L]ack of iodine in childhood reduces brain development: a study has shown, for example, that iodine-deficient individuals score an average of 13.5 points lower in IQ tests."
Micronutrient assistance won't make Lagos into Palo Alto. But it could narrow the 15 point gap in average IQ between Africans and their African-American cousins.
Third on the Copenhagen list:
The European Union is the worst offender at keeping out Third World farm products while lavishing taxpayer money on supporting high cost European farmers. But the U.S. is guilty of this too. Florida's notorious Fanjul family cajoles Congressional recipients of their campaign donations into imposing import quotas that keep the price of sugar three times higher here than on the world market.
Since Americans aren't allowed to import sugar from poor Caribbean nations, the Fanjuls import Caribbean migrant workers to cut cane on their American plantations—which, in turn, pollute the Everglades.
These immigrant workers would be better off back home with their families growing sugar on their own islands.
The fourth and last of the "Very Good" programs on the Copenhagen list:
Way down in 14th place, and categorized as "Bad," is
With four to five billion relatively poor people in the world, it's unrealistic to think that immigration to the West could ever do much for the bulk of them. The Copenhagen economists think it makes more sense for us to help Third World peasants stay down on the farm growing crops for us.
In 10th place, ranked only among the "Fair" ideas:
Even this is too generous. It's a little hard to understand how brain-draining the smartest people from poor countries makes the folks left behind better off.
For example, when a Zambian with, say, the desperately needed skills to run a hospital in his home country emigrates to America and becomes a dermatologist in Marin County, it's not clear that Zambia, or the human race as a whole, is the winner.
Still, Lomborg should be credited with a useful attempt to focus attention on cost-effective ways to help our fellow human beings … and ourselves.