Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Magic Bullet

I read an article a few days ago - it's appeared a few more times in my Facebook feed.

In it, they claim that to fight poverty, you give people money. Get rid of the aid workers and just give people the money.

Here's the problem for me: The examples they look at exist at the extremes. People who have been living in conditions where their choices are based upon the knowledge that they may not have the resources the following week in order to make those same decisions. In other words, their decisions are based upon quite specific criteria.

Come over to New Zealand and we have a very humane system. Except that it does have its problems. For example, the choices made by people are somewhat limited and based upon a regular weekly income. If I were to try and do my $2 meal thing based upon a weekly income as opposed to having the option to buy things in bulk, I would fail. I don't think it would be possible. Not without having to try and skimp in the first few weeks in order to have enough saved in order to do it.

Within a state dependency cycle, that is, multi-generational state dependency, this has an over all effect on the way that decisions are made. The money you have now can be spent as they'll be money next week... That's very different from living on the street or having that money based upon the capacity to work.

In other words, this goes into my whole cause/symptom rant. The solutions need to fit the cause, not the symptom. The solution arrived at under one set of circumstances won't necessarily fit another set of circumstances.

It bears some testing and thinking about - if the best solution in a lot of scenarios really is to essentially do a money drop, then that's great. But can we please stop looking at the solution as a silver bullet? There are a lot of scenarios in which this wouldn't work. The solution is not always giving away free money...

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