How Nice Should Aid Commentators Be?

I wanted to respond today to your very helpful comments on yesterday’s launch, but of course I have to be very selective. To summarize a few areas of agreement and disagreement: I agree with:

(1) Those who said they liked the new blog. You get a free cup of coffee made with my hand-powered $20 espresso maker next time you are in Greenwich Village.

(2) Lucas who said I do need positive examples of aid working. Yes! Please send me more documentation on the Filipino example you gave, and I am happy to feature it. Positive examples are welcome from everyone reading this (but some kind of evidence and documentation is required.)

(3) Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development on the counterproductive fixation with “0.7 percent of GDP” as an aid target. He is too modest – what he says is based on a killer article he did with Todd Moss also of CGD. The journal summary practically burns up the page:

First, the target was calculated using a model which, applied to today's data, yields ludicrous results. Second, no government ever agreed in a UN forum to actually reach 0.7 per cent – though many pledged to move toward it….The 0.7 per cent goal has no modern academic basis, has failed as a lobbying tool, and should be abandoned.

Clemens and Moss might have been a good reference to check before two opeds by Mr. Zoellick that mentioned “0.7” five separate times.

I disagree with:

(1) Jim, who said I was being too mean to Mr. Zoellick. First, I won’t be mean to YOU, Jim, I’m happy you gave me some tough criticism, debate is a GOOD thing.

Which is also my response to your criticism, which is that debate is a GOOD thing. Debate is good in academia, and it’s good in politics, and both kinds are usually fierce. It wasn’t a personal attack on Mr. Zoellick, it was a big disagreement about big issues.

We fiercely debate domestic spending bills that waste affluent taxpayers’ money with a few millions on a bridge to nowhere, so why should we be NICE when the head of the world’s premier aid agency outlines virtually zero accountability for helping the world’s poorest people?