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June 26, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another New York Times Edition)

Paging Gail Collins: today having this clown show on your op-ed page cost you 25 of your limited supply of reputation points.

Henry Farrell deals with David Brooks in the appropriate way:

Crooked Timber : David Brooks on the merits of Bush's Africa policy.

The Bush folks, at least when it comes to Africa policy, have learned from centuries of conservative teaching -- from Burke to Oakeshott to Hayek -- to be skeptical of Sachsian grand plans. Conservatives emphasize that it is a fatal conceit to think we can understand complex societies, or rescue them from above with technocratic planning. ... The Bush folks, like most conservatives, tend to emphasize nonmaterial causes of poverty: corrupt governments, perverse incentives, institutions that crush freedom. Conservatives appreciate the crooked timber of humanity -- that human beings are not simply organisms within systems, but have minds and inclinations of their own that usually defy planners. You can give people mosquito nets to prevent malaria, but they might use them instead to catch fish.

The crucial... disingenuous... qualifier is "at least when it comes to Africa policy." Even Brooks doesn't have the chutzpah to defend Bush's overall foreign policy approach as an exemplar of Burkean prudence....

But even on Brooks' chosen turf -- the Bush administration's Africa policy and the Millenium Challenge Account initiative -- there'9s little positive to be said from a principled conservative stance.... [T]he Millennium Challenge Account has yielded plenty of airy rhetoric, but no practical results... for the simple reason that it still scarcely exists.... [T]he Bush administration has obligated only 2% of the Millennium Challenge funds. Nor has the administration requested the $5 billion that Bush promised.... As of April 29 not one dollar of Millennium Challenge Account money had reached a developing nation....

While an appreciation... [of the limits of] technocratic planning% is a fine... place to begin thinking about... development aid, it can also be a highly convenient excuse for doing nothing. For all the bluster about Burke, Hayek and Oakeshott, the development-aid-as-vaporware approach seems at the moment to be well explained by a simpler theory... [conservatism's] primary characteristic is "the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Posted by DeLong at June 26, 2005 07:59 PM