09 November 2013


Really excellent stuff from Jishnu Das, tearing apart a recent Economist article on cash transfers:
recall that in welfare economics there are two rationales for government interventions to make people better off. First, governments fix market failures. ... Second, governments redistribute income by giving cash to the poor. ... Within this framework, giving cash always increases the welfare of the recipients; what we also worry about is the extent to which market failures circumscribe the ability of society to do better.
“does giving cash work well” is a well-defined question only if you are willing to say that “well” is something that WE, the donors, want to define for families whom we have never met and whose living circumstances we have probably never spent a day, let alone a lifetime, in. 
Has our hubris really taken us that far? What happened to respect for the poor? 
From there The Economist article degenerates, with “findings” that CCTs “work well” when the conditions are on things that people would not purchase without the conditions (I am serious; cut through the jargon, and that’s what it says). If by now you are tearing your hair out, join the club.
Health is not welfare, neither is education. So, can we please stop making judgments about what poor people should and should not do with money that is redistributed to them?


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