…wrapped up in a layer of heartwarming and tied with a ribbon made of pure feel-good.
- The story of GiveDirectly (Marginal Revolution)
I’m a big fan of direct transfers — if we’re going to be either giving charitably to people or organizations or causes (or whatever), or supporting them via wealth transfers, I’d rather assume that they know better what they want to spend their money on than we do. Furthermore, it seems to me that most of the proponents and critics of charity and entitlements come at them from a position of smug superiority — we can’t just give them money or they’ll spend it on hookers and blow, we have to make sure they spend it on what we know is best for them. (The anti- position is “if we give them food stamps they’ll just spend their regular income on hookers and blow”, which at least has the benefit of noticing that money is fungible.) Giving, in other words, is more about affirming the status of the giver than improving the welfare of the recipient.
So it warms the cold withered cockles of my — well, whatever a heartless libertarian uses to pump blood around — to discover that GiveDirectly simply gave people money. And further, those people actually spent it on life-improving things — not that hookers and blow don’t make you feel good for a few hours at a time, but we’re talking about things like
food and home improvements that can vastly improve quality of life, such as installing a weatherproof tin roof. Some families have invested in profit-bearing businesses, such as chicken-rearing, agriculture, or the vending of clothes, shoes, or charcoal.
It’s a natural experiment that affirms my preconceptions, but more importantly it actually makes people’s lives better.
Also, have some Korpiklaani. It’s good for you.