The Copenhagen Consensus and its critics

Abhijit Banerjee, Angus Deaton, and Esther Duflo are all upset.  You might recall the most famous recommendation of the Copenhagen Consensus was to invest in anti-HIV/AIDS programs as a higher priority than global warming.  Banerjee writes:

Similarly, the proposal on HIV/AIDS seems to have entirely missed the mounting evidence…that we do not really know how to get people to behave in ways that would reduce the transmission of HIV.

Angus Deaton writes:

Lomborg’s Consensus does not even identify the "we" who are to spend the $50 billion, although it certainly shares Sachs’ confidence in the usefulness of social engineering by well-meaning outside experts.

Maybe that criticism is unfair; Lomborg might say he is playing by the rules of other people’s games.  Esther Duflo writes:

…to my knowledge there is very little rigorous evidence on effective [HIV-AIDS] prevention strategies in Africa.

The three reviews are all in the Journal of Economic Literature, December 2007.  The bottom line is that $50 billion doesn’t go as far as you might think. 


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