Saturday, August 2

The most bang for billions of bucks

I really like, as I've said before, Bjorn Lomborg's approach to world challenges: what will give us the best return on our investment (including results sooner rather than later)?

I think, though I cannot confirm, that I first stumbled on his thinking on MetaFilter back when we were living in Tulsa. Could have been this post - First things first :: prioritizing the world's problems - but, again, I cannot be sure.

(Part of my point in my Lomborg time speculation is that I'm pretty sure I came across his stuff before Tom's, but the similar approach is part of what attracted me to Tom's thinking.

All of that to say, Lomborg's apparently running a similar series in the WSJ. The first article is very good: How to Get the Biggest Bang for 10 Billion Bucks. If you are not acquainted with Lomborg's thinking, I urge you to read it! A small taste:
In poor countries, where heart disease represents more than a quarter of the death toll, these cheap drugs are often unavailable. Spending just $200 million getting them to poor countries would avert 300,000 deaths each year. The lower burden on health systems, and the economic benefits, mean that an extra dollar spent on heart disease in a developing nation would achieve $25 worth of good. ...

It makes sense to combine prevention options like bed nets with subsidies on the new treatments for poor nations. Spending $500 million would save 500,000 lives a year -- most of them children.

Each dollar spent on ensuring people are healthier and more productive would generate $20 in benefits.
Compare this with global warming where, given current approaches like the Kyoto Protocol, 'for each extra dollar spent, we would get 90 cents of benefits'.

Please, people, can't we see reason here?!
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