02 August 2013

Hey Angus! That's why we give directly!

Angus Deaton has a new book (via Tyler), which will no doubt provide a magisterial lesson in economic history, but I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree on policy.

He starts off well (there are a couple of pdf chapters online at the publishers' website here)
I believe that we—meaning those of us who are fortunate enough to have been born in the “right” countries—have a moral obligation to help reduce poverty and ill health in the world.
And then gives a rehearsal of some of those old aid arguments - yeah maybe individual projects are good for people but what about all those bad political incentives. Essentially the balance of evidence really falls on neither side, so it kind of comes down to personal judgement, or taste, or whatever, and Angus had decided that despite sending kids to school and saving lives (for sure) the negative political impacts of aid (possibly) are larger, making for a net negative total impact.
The concern with foreign aid is not about what it does to poor people around the world—indeed it touches them too rarely—but about what it does to governments in poor countries. The argument that foreign aid can make poverty worse is an argument that foreign aid makes governments less responsive to the needs of the poor, and thus does them harm.  
... Those who advocate more aid need to explain how it can be given in a way that deals with the political constraints.
Well guess what PROBLEM SOLVED Angus - you can skip the government and send yo money DIRECT TO THE POOR PEOPLE RIGHT HERE. Do try and keep up now, GiveDirectly.org have been in business for TWO YEARS already. 

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