Friday, December 12, 2003

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What blogging hath wrought

No blogging today -- and it's the blog's fault. Follow this chain of events:

Back in May, I blogged about the Center for Global Development's Ranking the Rich, an effort to create, "an index that measures 21 developed countries on a plethora of policies that help or harm poor nations."

Which led to my first essay in Tech Central Station.

Which led to me getting asked to be on their Board of Advisors for future revisions to the index.

Which leads me to fly to DC and back to go to a board meeting today.

UPDATE: Back and exhausted -- just like Glenn Reynolds was yesterday.

posted by Dan on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM


Congratulations on your appointment. This caused me to read your article.

I agree with your comments but I would like to add one thing that the Economist has pointed out in the past. Unlike many EU countries, the U.S. has a broadly supported tradition of private international assistance by charities and religious groups. Private U.S. foreign aid is about three times the foreign aid budget of the federal government.

posted by: russ e on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

Agreed on private aid. There's an essay on it in the latest bimonthly Foreign Affairs. I tend to discount it, however, as the biggest chunk of this "private foreign aid" is in fact remittances to family. I find it hard to call that foreign "aid" anymore than foreign direct investment by corporations.

posted by: Dylan Alexander on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

I’m kind of glad that Daniel Drezner has been appointed to the Board of Advisors of the Center for Global Development. However, I would more thrilled if he were appointed to the editorial board of the New York Times! The latter organization desperately needs some rational guidance.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

It would also be nice if future studies didn't combine different types of "aid" into a single blob that's assumed to be uniformly effective. Some forms of aid are far more effective than others. For ex., $1B of US trade with China/India has FAR more incremental impact on global poverty, infant mortality, etc. than $1B of direct foreign aid to Egypt.

Statistically, I admit, this will be very hard to tease apart........

posted by: vinod on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

So, what does an astroturf firm pay in compensation?

posted by: p mac on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

Your piece at TSC is excellent. However, I wanted to make sure that you are aware that the position that the US is the world's largest emitter of GHGs is arguable.

Fan's paper [S. Fan, et al., Science 282, 442 (1998)] argues that CO2 concentrations fall from west to east as we move from the atmosphere off the west coast of the US to the Atlantic. He calculates a terrestrial carbon sink as large as 1.7+/- 0.5 Pg annually. This would mean that the US is a net sink for CO2.

Other authors dispute Fan's view. See, for example Holland (Holland, E. A., Brown;, S., Potter, C. S., Klooster;, S. A., Fan, S., Gloor, M., Mahlman, J., Pacala, S., Sarmiento, J., Takahashi, T., Tans;, P. (1999). North American Carbon Sink. Science 283: 1815a-181) who argues that direct estimates of carbon uptake yield much smaller numbers. However, those authors cannot account for the observed drop in CO2 from west to east accross North America.

Like much in climate science this is not a setled issue. However, I suggest it is a mistake to accept it as settled in favor of the anthropogenic warming hypothesis.

posted by: S.C. Schwarz on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

Mr. Schwarz,

Yout quote from learned papers so that I assume that you also understand that science takes a much more nuanced and cautious approach toward definitive answers than politics does. In short, it is certainly would be over-stating the case to that say that Global Warming is directly to attributable to human activities.

However, it is also a mis-statement of current scientific knowledge to say that human activities do not contribute to Global Warming. The current climate change may be part of a natural trending cycle, but there is little doubt that human beings are having some impact and that this impact is not a stabilizing one. Furthermore, while current emissions levels may or may not drive the current climate change trends, it is certain that in the next two decades as the third world develops that we will massively increase emmissions.

Therefore, it is probably true that whatever impact we are having today will massively be amplified within the next generation. If we take a status quo approach, this essentially adds up to a huge gamble of enormous proportions regarding all life on earth with the odds not in our favor as to a benign outcome.

This being the case, arguments regarding the minutae of global warming impact are sort of irrelevant in the broad scheme of things. In science one can always find small anomalies, some not yet understood phenomena, and corrections regarding improving the state of knowledge we have. This does not mean that large clear and firm conclusions cannot be reached.

posted by: Oldman on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

Congratulations on your appointment. There is a lot for you and your colleagues to consider.

Regarding foreign aid: sure the US could do a lot more in an official way; but do not consider official state-to-state transfers as an unalloyed good. Since many, maybe most, less developed countries are run by governments that are not very accountable to their citizens, a lot of foreign aid ends up in the pockets of the rulers, and goes from there to Swiss bank accounts or Mediterranean villas. I suppose the Europeans get a lot of credit for all the money that they have pissed away on Arafat's kleptocracy, and the US gets no credit for its support of the only democracy in the Middle East.

Another point regarding foreign aid: as you note, openness to trade swamps foreign aid as a contribution to development. Whatever a rich country gives out in official foreign aid (of which a goodly portion may wind up in the governing elite's Swiss bank accounts) ought to be netted against the impact of that country's barriers to imports from poor countries or the impact on poor country producers of the rich country's subsidy regimes.

Regarding migration: why is "brain drain" or the tendency of educated persons from poor countries to migrate to rich countries considered "bad" and blamed on the host country? "Brain drains" arise from lack of opportunity in one's native country. Sometimes the lack is due to the poor economy, but religion, ethnicity, and politics often play a role as well. Why should rich countries that accept immigrants from poor countries that underappreciate the immigrant's talents be penalized?

The bottom line is that this stuff should be about helping private individuals in poor countries to lead better lives and not about shipping funds to dominant elites.

Good luck.

posted by: Jim Linnane on 12.12.03 at 12:34 AM [permalink]

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