The Smartest Ways to Save the World

If you had $75 billion to spend over the next four years and your goal was to advance human welfare, especially in the developing world, how could you get the most value for your money? An expert panel of economists, including four Nobel laureates, would tell you to invest mainly in nutrition and reduction of chronic disease.

COPENHAGEN – If you had $75 billion to spend over the next four years and your goal was to advance human welfare, especially in the developing world, how could you get the most value for your money?

That is the question that I posed to a panel of five top economists, including four Nobel laureates, in the Copenhagen Consensus 2012 project. The panel members were chosen for their expertise in prioritization and their ability to use economic principles to compare policy choices.

Over the past year, more than 50 economists prepared research on nearly 40 investment proposals in areas ranging from armed conflicts and natural disasters to hunger, education, and global warming. The teams that drafted each paper identified the costs and benefits of the smartest ways to spend money within their area. In early May, many of them traveled to Denmark to convince the expert panel of the power of their investment proposals.

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