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Just give poor people money

They know what to do with it

Nov 12, 2018

The Economist published an article a couple of weeks ago1 about how cash is replacing other forms of humanitarian aid, even in war zones. While suitably cautious, it also welcomed, as one might expect, giving people the freedom to make their own choices about what they needed and encouraging entrepreneurs to supply those needs.

It made sense to me, and reminded me of a couple of pieces I wrote almost exactly nine years ago. So I dug them up and present links here for the sake of completeness.

The first considered the gesture politics of the World Food Summit in 2009 and offered a crazily optimistic alternative. The second reflected a bit more and suggested just giving poor people money, by mobile phone transfer.2

Looking back, I'd still like to see someone -- possibly even GiveDirectly -- try an annual random giveaway, just to see what would happen. As GiveDirectly says: "No, they don't just blow it on booze."

  1. Delivery here is sporadic, reading time too. 

  2. I'm not sure I knew this at the time, but GiveDirectly had apparently been founded the year before, in 2008. 

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Jeremy Cherfas

Freelance Communicator

In essence, I see myself as a translator. I speak Science, and I speak English, and I work hard to make the two understand one another. Mostly, I like to help people tell their stories. I'm a biologist by training and by inclination, and my main joy is applying that to food and the agriculture and industries that supply it. I also have side interests in economics and many other things.