radical philanthropy

Does the New York Times offer a German-language edition?  Well, Der Spiegel runs an English-language edition, and it carried an intriguing report on radical aid to Africa.  The idea is to simply give every man, woman, and child 9 euros a month, no strings attached.  Everybody gets it — rich or poor, black or white — so it’s not welfare.  Hillary Clinton proposed something along these lines for the US when she said that every newborn US child should start with a $5000 government contribution to its college fund, left to swell untouched until age 18.

Some German churches and aid groups have funded a trial village in Namibia, and 9 euros a month has been enough to create a game-changing stimulus package.  Nobody was told how to spend their money, but for the most part people fed their families, sent the kids to school, and invested the precious leftovers.  By “invest” I mean buying chickens to breed, flour to start a bakery, or a bus ticket to town to buy scraps of fabric for dressmaking.  It’s like micro-finance for all (and consequently much easier to administer).  My only skeptical eyebrow on this glowing report is that all the case studies are, predictably, about women doing the right thing.  Read more here.

At Der Spiegel, you can also see the weirdly normal watercolors of Adolf Hitler.  So. Quaint.

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2 responses to “radical philanthropy

  1. Wow, that sounds like a solution so simple it might just work. I never thought that simpleness was innately good policy until the cash for clunkers program took off psychologically and economically, simply because it’s wholly within the realm of public understanding… while universal health coverage is apparently not. But then I read the Economist piece on cash for clunkers, and I don’t know what to think. I mostly buy the idea that in a depression, it’s better than nothing to pay people to dig holes and fill them back in, so if you get anything more out of policy than that, bonus. No compromising parties could ever write a perfect plan…
    The watercolors: totally, totally creepy.

    • If you read the article, the best part is where the German-descent Namibian plantation owners (Namibia has the highest inequality in the world, as measured by the Gini co-efficient) gripe that, “If you give them money, they’ll just drink more.” Apparently the farmers are spreading counterfactual info in the media, just like the conservatives at home. The evidence is right in front of them, but they don’t like the idea of more taxes (a 3%-6% VAT hike would pay for a countrywide program) or having to pay their workers 2 cents extra in case people get used to not being dirt-poor.
      *rolls eyes* 3%-6% is so little to pay in order to build capacity for future development. Cheap at half the price.

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