Friday, April 23, 2004

The Price of Peace

The Economist alludes again to the Copenhagen Consensus project, the joint enterprise between it and Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute. The effort appears to be an uninhibited application of cost-benefit analysis to the world's biggest problems. Among these are the horrific civil wars in some of the world's poorest places, averaging losses (all things considered, including the dollar value of lives lost) of $128 billion per year.

What to do? By a wide margin, the study's authors conclude, the most efficient policy is "military intervention by a foreign power."

Economic analysis, by definition, leaves out many considerations. And in the year of Iraq and elections, the infeasibility of the prescribed policy may be underscored.

Yet, in hindsight, reasonable people seem to agree that the Rwanda genocide was preventable and should have been prevented. In a better world, this discussion would take place first, way ahead of the ones that otherwise preoccupy most of us.