Browsing articles from "March, 2010"
Mar 29, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Politics surprise two economists

I am getting a little tired of economists who continue to be surprised that foreign aid serves donors’ political ends. The latest: Political Aid Cycles by Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus:

Understanding the effectiveness of foreign aid is a top priority for development re-search. But effectiveness at what? Research has focused on how foreign aid affects poverty or growth, but anecdotal evidence suggests that donors often use aid for other ends. We test whether donors use bilateral foreign aid to influence elections in developing countries. We find that recipient country administrations closely aligned with a donor receive more aid during election years, while those less aligned receive less…

These findings have important implications for the literature and policy discussion on aid’s effect on growth: if a significant portion of aid is given for the purpose of influencing recipient country politics, it should not be surprising that the literature has not found a robust effect of aid on growth.

Yes, I suppose this is true. It’s also nothing new…and the evidence is far more than anecdotal. Did they really write anecdotal evidence! Do Afghanistan, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, and Pakistan – some of the largest recipients of US foreign aid – provide only anecdotal evidence that donors use aid to further political objectives? Have these guys ever watched how Congress makes the US foreign aid budget? (Pulling hair out!) This reminds me of a joke: economists are people who see something in practice and wonder if it works in theory.

But there is a larger issue here. Economists always like to talk about how incentives are one of the strongest forces that motivate human behavior…and I agree. (Incentives matter, blah, blah, blah…) Yet this same group of people continue to be shocked! shocked! to find that aid serves political, not altruistic, ends. (Banging head on desk!)

Mar 29, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Terrorists rock Moscow

From the New York Times:

Female suicide bombers set off huge explosions in two subway stations in central Moscow during the Monday morning rush hour, Russian officials said, killing more than three dozen people and raising fears that the Muslim insurgency in southern Russia was once again being brought to the country’s heart.

Mar 27, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Obama must engage the Jews

Dan Brumberg, co-director of the MA in Democracy and Governance, writes that Obama’s must engage with Jews to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his Washington Post blog:

…what Obama and his advisers have not fully grasped is the emotive landscape of the Israeli-Jewish psyche. Despite Israel’s extraordinary financial and military prowess, many Israelis perceive their homeland to be under existential threat from a powerful alliance of state and non-state forces whose chief patron (Iran) is busy enriching uranium…

Obama never forged a coherent strategy for helping Israelis understand how Muslim world engagement could be fully consonant with a robust U.S.-Israeli relationship. That consonance could only come from mobilizing Jews and Muslims behind a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

To join the Jewish and Muslim tracks, the administration needs a Jewish World Engagement that parallels its still-to-be-realized pursuit of Muslim World Engagement.

Obama…must explain why the U.S. is determined to help Israelis and Palestinians make –and protect– the historic decisions that will ultimately provide real security for both peoples…Two engagement tracks– bound together by a clear strategic vision to which a re-energized president is dedicated in both words and most of all deeds–this is the great challenge that now awaits Obama.

I agree fully and have been asking Joel Rubin at Democracy Arsenal to write about the failure of progressive Jewish organizations – like J Street – to get behind Obama’s plan more forcefully. Joel knows better than I do that Obama’s plan for a two state solution can’t succeed if the president doesn’t have the support of at least some of the Jewish community in the US. Joel can explain this much better than I can, but if he doesn’t do it soon, I’ll do it myself.

Mar 26, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

A Practitioners Guide to Washington Lunches

If we haven’t eaten wheat bread, we’ve seen it in people’s hands. – Persian Proverb

People who host events in Washington, DC know that providing food is important if you want to draw a big crowd. Food is an especially important consideration for cash-strapped graduate students, research assistants, and hill staffers. One of my students has complied a helpful guide. Policy lunches below are sorted by institution and ranked from one apple core (irredeemable) to five delicious sandwiches (prime).
USIP: One apple core
  • Two miserly samovars of coffee is all that you can ever expect from USIP.  Ever.
Brookings: 4 Sandwiches
  • A nice assortment of sandwiches from the Corner Bakery.  The turkey sandwich with cranberry bread is a particular favorite.  Canned soft drinks, cookies and other desserts.
Capitol Hill Briefing Lunches: 2 sandwiches
  • Though my experience dates from ’04, at that time these lunches were a serviceable selection of ham, roast beef,or turkey sandwiches packaged in a happy-meal-style box with a bag of Route 66 chips and a cookie or brownie.  Canned sodas were also available.
Carnegie: 5 sandwiches
  • Essentially the same as Brookings; Corner Bakery half sandwiches; cold pasta salad; cookies, other baked desserts.  What puts the Carnegie Endowment over the top is its soft drink (!) bar service with bartenders in black bow ties.  You stay classy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Heritage Foundation: 2 sandwiches
  • Reportedly, Subway sandwiches.

Human Rights Watch: 3 sandwiches

  • Potbelly sandwiches, soft-baked cookies, two-liter bottle soft drinks.
NED: 4 sandwiches
  • Corner bakery, pasta salad, and dessert on the Brookings model; canned soft drinks.
The Pew Charitable Trust: 5 sandwiches
  • Pew earns five glorious sandwiches for a catered lunch featuring actual plates and silverware, stuffed chicken thighs, rice pilaf, and salad.  Admittedly this was back in September ’08 for a two-day conference, not a lunch lecture, but I remain confident that the spread is undeniable.
Mar 25, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Democracy during war is the new normal

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on the increasing involvement of military contractors, like Lockheed Martin, in D&G work. Why are military contractors working on these programs? Continue reading »

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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