Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Department of "Huh ?" meets obligatory daily link to Matt Yglesias (who is well over half my age so there)

"Leon Wieseltier, plumping for war per usual, asks: 'Did our inaction in Rwanda reduce the frequency of malaria in Africa?'"


I took a triple take at the Weiseltier quote, because I think that the answer is obviously yes. Malaria's main enemy is our sense of guilt. Failure to help Rwanda made us feel guilty. The US massively increased spending fighting infectious diseases in Africa not all that long after the Rwandan genocide. I never considered the possibility that it might be a coincidence. So also did Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. Not to mention Bill Clinton who has been working on helping Africa and not, say, mothers who used to get AFDC.

OK the Justice department played an important role first by making Bill Gates eager to do good sooner rather than later and second by maybe convincing him that Microsoft the huge firm being watched by the anti-trust division would be better off if he spent more time trying to beat AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria and less time trying to beat Google and Apple.

The point is that Americans feeling good about ourselves for bombing Qadaffi loyalists reduces the already low support for foreign humanitarian aid. It's not the money. We really have plenty of money in the USA, even if it doesn't seem so. It's the sense of responsibility towards foreigners, of which we have very very little and none at all to spare.

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