How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place

How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place (2013) by Bjorn Lomborg is a short summary of The Copenhagen Consensus project that got experts in various areas to work out the cost benefit ratios of various forms of aid and then got a panel of economists including multiple Nobel Prize winners to judge them. It’s a great idea and remarkable because cost benefit analysis seems to have been little used when thinking about aid spending.

The book is not a good read. The solutions are presented, the conclusion described and then five Nobel Prize winning economists present their ideas. Then the cost benefit ratios for all the options are briefly described. The book is a collection of essays with the most important parts being the cost benefit ratios that are essentially just presented.

The best options for spending have been, in order, micronutrients for children, fighting malaria, immunisation, deworming, fighting TB and R & D spending on agriculture.

The idea behind the Copenhagen Consensus is a really good one and the basic idea, that of applying standard accounting and economics practices to evaluating aid is a really valuable contribution. Micronutrient spending seems to have benefited from people reading the conclusion.

The weaknesses of the approach are in the accuracy of the cost benefit analysis and trying to apply it to things like reducing corruption and increasing free trade. These things would increase wealth substantially but are very difficult to achieve in practice.

The book may be worth having as a reference but it’s not nearly as interesting or as well put together as Lomborg’s other books.


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