Wall Street Opinion Journal Kimberely A. Strassel July 8, 2006
NEW YORK–Bjorn Lomborg is a political scientist by training, but the charismatic, golden-haired Dane is offering me a history lesson. Two hundred years ago, he explains, sitting forward in his chair in this newspaper’s Manhattan offices, the left was an “incredibly rational movement.” It believed in “encyclopedias,” in hard facts, and in the idea that mastery of these basics would help “make a better society.” Since then, the world’s do-gooders have succumbed to “romanticism; they’ve become more dreamy.” This is a problem in his view, and so this “self-avowed slight lefty” is determined to nudge the whole world back toward “rationalism.”
Well, if not the whole world, at least the people who matter. In Mr. Lomborg’s universe that means the lawmakers and bureaucrats who are charged with solving the world’s most pressing problems–HIV/AIDS, malaria, malnutrition, dirty water, trade barriers. This once-obscure Dane has in recent years risen to the status of international celebrity as the chief advocate of getting leaders to realize the world has limited resources to fix its problems, and that it therefore needs to prioritize.
Prioritization, cost-effectiveness, efficiency–these are the ultimate in rational thinking. (It strikes me they are the ultimate in “free markets,” though Mr. Lomborg studiously avoids that term.) They are also nearly unheard-of concepts among the governments, international bodies and aid groups that oversee good works.
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