William Easterly en Aid Watch se refiere a dos noticias publicadas en el NYT en las que varios investigadores cuestionan la efectividad de determinados tratamientos médicos, y contrasta la naturalidad con la que se aceptan estas críticas con la hostilidad que generan las críticas a las políticas de "ayuda al tercer mundo" (Easterly lo sabe bien porque somete a escrutinio crítico constante estas políticas).
Suppose these critics were operating in the aid world. Aid defenders would accuse the critics of not being constructive – these studies were 100 percent negative (so what’s your plan for eliminating prostate cancer deaths, you fancy-pants researcher, if you don’t like ours?) They would accuse them of hurting the cause of financing cancer and AIDS treatment. The attacks on the critics might even get personal.
If this were the aid world, the mainstreamers would dismiss the arguments over statistical significance as some obscure academic quarrel that needn’t concern them. How do I know this? I have criticized Paul Collier on numerous occasions for failing to establish statistical significance for many of his aid & military intervention results. I have argued that he is doing “data mining,” which is pretty much the equivalent of producing lots of results on the AIDS vaccine and reporting only the positive results. But I have yet to find anyone who cares about these critiques – on the contrary the whole American and British armies seem to base their strategies on Collier’s statistical results. In contrast, it’s almost comical to see the heroic lengths to which the writer Donald McNeil Jr. goes in the latest NYT AIDS vaccine story to explain statistical significance to NYT readers. He is saying, hey you really have to get this if you want to know: Did the vaccine in the trial Work — or — Not.
The other feature of both stories is that both throw doubt on excessive confidence in simple panaceas – screening and vaccines. They suggest reality is more complex and that we need to think of new ways of attacking difficult problems like cancer and AIDS. If you are familiar with the aid world, you will know the analogy is exact to how we discuss solving difficult problems like poverty.
So why does medicine welcome critics and aid hates them? Perhaps us aid critics are just not as good as the medical critics. Or perhaps it is because we care so much more whether medicine really works than whether aid or military intervention really works?Easterly también tiene una buena entrada defendiendo soluciones "bottom-up" para promover el desarollo: What must we do to end world poverty? At last, an answer (HT: Capella). En Aid Watch puede leerse una réplica sensata que matiza el argumento de Easterly: Big Plans vs. Real Plans.