Sunday, November 13, 2011

Conservative foreign aid?

Sometimes I can't tell whether something is a "conservative" idea or a "liberal" one.

Last night Rick Perry proposed that all countries requesting foreign aid from the United States should have to make plans and explain how they are going to use the money. Others on stage agreed with this "new idea."

But liberal technocrats like Jeff Sachs have been advocating that countries develop poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) for years and, of course, that donor countries read and fund them (if good). That sounds a whole hell of a lot like Rick Perry's idea.

I think the best way to look at it that both sides agree with the concept of cost-benefit analysis and analyzing trade-offs which is what analyzing the requests or PRSPs would amount too. The preference for making good choices and analyzing them scientifically isn't what makes someone liberal or conservative. Differences in values make you liberal or conservative.

The difference between the two sides is that after reading the requests many conservatives would only agree to give a pittance (or nothing) to Africa and billions for Israel's military. Liberals would give billions to Africa treat AIDS and a pittance (or nothing) to Israel.

There's another theory that says liberals and conservatives don't disagree about values but rather that they will disagree about what is likely to happen. Liberals might believe that if the PRSP is funded poverty will  decline while conservatives might believe it empower dictators and post-pone political reform (increase poverty). I think most of the time those difference in opinion about how the world works are driven by differences in values so it basically amounts to talking about different sides of the same coin.

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