Ari, thanks, I probably need to study this http://www.cgap.org/p/site/c/donors/ and make sure I know my well-intended help is not driving the recipients to despair. What do you think about the United Nation’s World Food Programme ?
Yeah, I think probably most of it is okay. There does seem to be some issues though. It seems hard to find out and there were some transparency issues that may have been fixed. Also, I think my inner contrarian was getting annoyed by how Kiva was often being portrayed as a panacea for poverty. But I guess people can say donating to NGOs isn’t really the answer either.
As for the World Food Programme, I’m not one of these Dead Aid people so it does important work even if there are probably some decent criticisms of it. I prefer to give to more targeted organizations even if some of them are also large. But not that big. I set aside about $1500 dollars a year to give to NGOs every year. This year, I’m splitting it between Doctors Without Borders, Partners In Health, Food Not Bombs, Human Rights Watch and a few other country-specific smaller ones.
Ari, I’ve heard of Food Not Bombs and Doctors Without Borders. Will look into the other ones and educate myself about the issues you’ve raised. Thanks, again.
Latest Kiva loan:
Paytsar is involved in an agricultural business in the Tandzaver village. She breeds cattle and chickens and grows vegetables and fruits. Paytsar sells her farm products, such as milk, beef, eggs, vegetables and fruits, in the cities of Kapan and Kadjaran. Paytsar is 23 years old. She lives with her husband and his parents in the Tandzaver village of the Syunik region. Her husband works in the village community and also teaches history in a village school. His parents are retired. The entire family helps Paytsar to run the agricultural business, thanks to which they support the family. Paytsar needs a loan in the amount of 800,000 dram to buy three bulls in order to expand her agricultural business and also to buy potato seedlings and diesel fuel to organize sowing work.Translated from Russian
I read through that bullshit blog to get to this.
And why has Kiva, like most other microcredit fundraisers, succeeded while mythologizing the power of microcredit? You already know: storytelling works. Indeed, the most misleading thing about kiva.org is not obfuscation about sequencing that this post has dwelled upon but the smooth telling of the simplistic story about microcredit. In this Kiva is not unusual. The borrowers are all “entrepreneurs” even though we know the poor often use loans to pay for food or school. Meanwhile, as I have discovered over the last year, the evidence on the effects of microcredit on poverty and empowerment is rather ambiguous. “Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.” What part of that home page slogan is grounded in reality?
Carol Adelman, among others, has argued that private philanthropy is superior to government aid in many respects because it is more flexible and subject to a market test. But we see here that we all, as private philanthropists, have our irrationalities too. Private aid therefore cannot perfectly substitute for public aid. No doubt it is best to do some of each, while striving to improve both.
No doubt Kiva should tell people about how the sausage is made….
^ Yeah, you’re right. That blog was such bullshit that even Kiva had to respond to it (and agreed to many of the criticisms and even attempted to rectify some of its institutional practices in order to respond to them).
OMG Ari – private philanthropists, have our irrationalities too
And if KIVA buys a 30 a day-old loan, what the hell is the problem with that?
They need a huge banner on their website that says: warning dumbass – narrative being deployed !
And you have to check that little box that says you have read it before you can get happy about doing a good deed.
It is not entirely true that NGOs are free from corruption or controversy either – so don’t go feeling good about yourself !
Yeah, it’s a tough life being a critic…
^ Oh, no worries, Peabody. I don’t feel good about myself. That’s more or less the point. I don’t believe in giving money to NGOs to alleviate a sense of guilt or to pat myself on the back. And at least I don’t get my money back – what a false form of generosity. NGOs are what they are – some worse than others in terms of effectiveness or skimming off the top – but I’ll take a good NGO any day of the week over Kiva. No backsies.
And, from what I understand, the main problem with Kiva is that it can potentially become what it is critiquing (in regards to loan-sharking). Like the BBC story I linked to reports, microfinancing has been linked to a rash of suicides by people getting into debt that they can’t repay. Maybe they can link that with your “warning dumbass” message – check the box that you understand that capitalism can’t cure capitalism’s sins in the developing world.
I don’t feel good about myself.
As a critic, what you feel good about is the adroitness of your perspective. In this case, it is to say that your NGOs are better than KIVA – which is not true.
One of the cornerstones of American exceptionalism is the rule of law. More than handouts and capitalism, what these less-developed countries need is law schools.
India has lots of law schools – what that article points to is that the world is an imperfect place – there are risks.
One of those risks is that a leader embarks on centrally controlled program that kills millions of people – not a ‘rash’, but millions.
That is precisely the thing market-based KIVA avoids and a weakness of bureaucratic NGOs.
As a critic, what you feel good about is the adroitness of your perspective.
Haha, Touché but that describes a lot of us. In any event, I was talking about giving to NGOs. In fact, I have to put aside some of my critical perspectives when I do give them because, like you mentioned, they have a lot of problems. But I’m a cynic with a heart of gold. And I’d rather give freely than give with expectations of getting my money back.
As for NGOs versus Kiva. Let’s just say Kiva doesn’t provide essential health services, famine relief, healthy drinking water, so I think that point proves itself. Of course you can measure Kiva against Economic Development NGOs. I think the evidence is mixed on that but there is an essential ideological assumption if you believe that Kiva works better without any. Your point about bureaucratic NGOs might be true of some now and definitely true of many in the past, but most reputable NGOs today recognize that there’s not a single solution for any single problem and that they need to look for local solutions based on the context rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
And this is what kinda annoys me about Kiva and Kivites.
Let’s take your friend Paytsar for example. Kivites assume that it’s better to loan Paytsar money for her bulls than to just give them to her. Loans create entrepreneurial spirit, self-reliance, a harder work ethic. “A hand up rather than a hand out” mentality that denigrates the roles of government and charitable giving in helping people’s lives (nice how it fits with current right-wing US views on the role of the state). I call this out as bullshit (pun intended). Anyway, I don’t need to teach the poor anything. Paytsar can probably teach us more than we can teach her about life.
I’d rather give someone a chicken rather than lend them money to buy one (Yes, I’m one of these assholes who have purchased goats for families in Africa rather than giving a gift to relatives on holidays. The critic in me shuts down at that point).
For the life of me, I can’t tell whether you’re sometimes being facetious or not but the world needs more lawyers??? like the US? American exceptionalism is rule of law? Like they don’t have that elsewhere? The question of US debt is an interesting one based on the current global economy (one that we see is broken at its core).
Yeah, if you don’t understand the ‘real’ problems, it seems facetious.
Here’s how I would bet the absence of the rule of law will affect Paytsar in her attempt to form a capital base.
She gets her herd and then the local potentate will demand one of them for ‘protection services’.
She will pay, but one of the young in her village will register this as an injustice. She can’t do anything about it, but the next generation will do something.
This is bottoms up reform – you can’t get that reform solely from top down chicken and goat giving.
The missing component is the rule of law – a law school for the young to attend and thereby make structural reform.
Go visit the Kurds and find out if they consider the rule-of-law progressive.
Don’t assume so much, Robert. I understand “real” problems but your conflation of “rule of law” with “lawyers” is baffling to say the least. I understand the use of lawyers in society. I have in fact unfortunately had the occasion to make good use of one recently when I fell victim to an aggressive tax audit and their aggressive tactics made me feel compelling to hire legal counsel in order to eventually prove that I owed the government absolutely nothing. Of course, it cost me a small fortune to prove that.
Yeah, lawyers are great for those who can afford them. They are not the privilege for people like Paytsar to defend their rights – they work well for professional middle-class. What Paystar needs is a strong state with transparent institutions that can provide protection for her and her property. It’s not the lawyers – it’s the state that makes the rule of law. I don’t know how you can fail to recognize that. Lawyers are good to protect one from the state, like in my case, but that’s a very different matter entirely. In fact, in the case that you mention, it’s the thugs who steal cattle or take protection money who generally make the best use of the lawyers (think Tom Hagen). To state the obvious, lawyers can be used to subvert the rule of law as much as they uphold it.
Lots of wayward lawyers in Rhode Island. The solution?
Start a law school.
Why doesn’t that make sense to you Ari?
The solution to wayward lawyers is a law school to produce more lawyers? Or are you saying they just need a new law school for better training? The problem with lawyers is that most people who go into law go into it not because of idealistic commitment to the poor ad marginalized and unrepresented but because of the huge salaries. I’m not sure how more corporate lawyers will help anything other than corporations (and I’m not one of those people who make lawyer jokes and moan on and on about tort reform).
Who teaches at law schools, crooks or is it people who see the law in terms of the ethical treatment of society’s ills? In Rhode Island the profs form ad hoc ethics committees and issue press releases, because they are people who care about what goes on in society.
The school watches over its ‘brethren’.
^ hehe, isn’t Rhode Island well known for being the most corrupt state in the entire United States?
Spreading the holiday cheer in Mongolia.
Bazarragchaa Darhan, Mongolia :A loan to to purchase large amounts of barley to produce barley flour during winter.
Bujin Suhbaatar, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia : A loan to to purchase more inventory to meet clients’ orders and she is also planning to purchase a car for both family and business