The false dichotomy of population and consumerism in Laudato Si’

The lauding of Laudato Si’ in the development community reflects the sympathy that many beyond the Catholic fold feel for Pope Francis and his clear concern for social justice, poverty, and equitable development. It is also being lauded as evidence that science and religion can work together, and when they do, they agree on the importance of tackling climate change.

Much of Laudato Si’ sends a good message, but there is a gaping hole in it: the issue of population, and population growth. The silence on this is damaging and dangerous, and reflective of a broader failure of Catholic social teaching to tackle seriously issues that impinge on its historic doctrine. Continue reading

Risking development? Further thoughts on Cost Benefit Analysis for global development challenges

Introduction

In this post, I look again at the use of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) for ranking and prioritizing global development challenges. While it was written in the context of the ongoing debate over Bjorn Lomborg and his Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC), it is not written as a critique of that specific approach. Rather, I am seeking to engage with the general methodological issues around development priorities, and I do so in this post with a particular focus on the issue of risk. Nonetheless, given the context and the fact that I have been reading through the CCC output, it is my clear and explicit referent for the discussion. Continue reading

Consenting to inequality: The distributional consequences of Copenhagen Consensus approach

Introduction

Bjorn Lomborg is, undoubtedly, seriously concerned with poverty and inequality. Both in the work of the Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) and in his popular writings, this is a common theme. In this context, he has championed some very progressive ideas, including eradicating barriers to international migration.[1] Unfortunately, he has also used rather distorted arguments about inequality to attack some of his favourite bugbears, such as subsidies for renewable energy.

The problem I want to address in this post is that the central methodology of Lomborg and the CCC is at best blind to inequality and, in its application, could tend towards policy prescriptions that increase inequality. Moreover, as we shall see, there are good arguments to suggest that if we take a broader view of inequality to include intergenerational equality, the CCC methodology is not even equality-blind; it is equality averse. Continue reading

Gates Foundation is too big to ignore the politics of poverty

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2015 annual letteroutlines their vision for global development and poverty reduction. The letter outlines four areas where they expect breakthroughs over the next 15 years to transform the lives of the world’s poor for the better.

However, critics accuse them of being complicit in a “tyranny of experts”, which reduces development assistance to quick-fix solutions that do nothing to resolve the political problems that are seen as the main underlying cause of poverty.

Is the Gates Foundation, which spends more on development aid than most governments, doing more harm than good? How can this philanthropic body and others be encouraged to tackle the political as well as technological challenges of development? Continue reading