Foundation Friday: How to give away big bucks

Well, this is refreshing: a philanthropist’s response to the question, “What would you do if you had $100 billion to give away?” that gets beyond the self-referential (“Give every person in the world a computer”) and jargon-infected (“I try not to be top-down”) to the ultimately simple: “Give everyone in the world $100. Some people will waste it but most of them won’t.”

There are all kinds of reasons why this isn’t the right answer, either:

  • With the world population at 6.8 billion, in fact $100 billion would provide only about $14 a person–enough to sustain the poorest people in the world at their current level for two weeks. That wouldn’t buy people enough time to change their lives.
  • In much of the world, the problem is less lack of money than lack of resources; there’s no point in giving people $100 apiece if there’s only $2 apiece worth of product available for their purchase and consumption, unless we want to inflate the costs of everything 50-fold.

But the notion that what’s wrong with poor people is not that they’re lazy or pathetic or misguided or ill-behaved but simply that they’re poor is one that can’t be reiterated often enough–because the more we reiterate it, the more we’ll be inclined to alleviate poverty not with instruction or programs but with money.

Thus endeth this week’s lesson.

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