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Global Health Policy Blog


Matthew Yglesias says that he is a proud member of the reality-based community. And he is right: here he is in Prospect writing about the war on measles

The key lesson here is debunking the widely held belief that foreign aid "doesn’t work." It's true, as aid critics say, that many past aid programs have been ineffective. It's also true that long-run economic development depends more on poor countries' own efforts to get their institutions set up properly than on how generous donors are. Nevertheless, in even the most corrupt and backward despotisms of the world, a program aimed at vaccinating kids against preventable diseases will save lives — that works. Conversely, even a reasonably well-governed democracy like India will have a lot of difficulty coping with all its public-health problems without outside assistance.

... It bears mentioning, of course, that such a campaign would, at the end of the day, serve American interests. Fewer dead kids will be good for Third World economies, especially the ones like India that are institutionally well-positioned to seize advantage of opportunities. And with anxiety about the economic impact of globalization reaching new heights, it’s clear that a big part of the solution has to be a sustained effort to achieve rapid growth in the Third World, boosting wages along the way.

What’s more, Americans have spent a remarkable amount of time since September 11, 2001, pondering the not-so-hard question of how to make us better liked. The evidence indicates that the solution is pretty simple. When we do things that are popular with foreigners — like contributing generously to the tsunami relief effort in Indonesia — we become more popular. When we do things that are unpopular with foreigners — like launching invasions of Iraq — we become less popular. Spearheading an effort that, while massive in some respects, is actually trivially cheap in the context of American defense expenditures would pretty clearly wind up filed in the "popular" drawer.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.