Thursday, August 20, 2009

On development, Seth Godin gets it...

On the difference between charity and markets:

From a fundraising point of view, this endless emergency is exactly what a non-profit needs to find and close donors. A dollar donated today will save someone’s life. It will. One dollar, one life. That’s urgent. As urgent as it gets.

The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t save that person's life forever, it saves it for today. Tomorrow, there’s another emergency, and yesterday’s dollar is gone. So you need another dollar. Two billion people, two billion dollars. Every day. Today, tomorrow, the day after that. It’s an endless emergency, and it never gets better. [...]

How to prime the pump of the system to improve productivity enough that things get better [sustainably, moving away from the constant emergencies]?


When two people trade, both win. No one buys a bar a soap unless the money they’re spending for the soap is worth less to them than the soap itself.

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three harvests a year instead of one.

Where I think those who favor government spending trip themselves up is in thinking that they can spend better than the poor. You have to ask yourself if they really believe in empowerment when they ask questions like "but won't they buy a pack of cigarettes instead of that bar of soap?" Now, if only Godin would apply his same level of logic to areas where private markets can play a greater role like healthcare and education.

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