January 20, 2008

Hey, I can give a damn about this!

As I read both of the books by both Harford and Cowen I always kept in the back of my mind something that Dr. Paul Ballantyne told my intro to macroeconomics class a few years ago. He said that Economics most important aspect is that it can be used to make peoples’ lives truly better off. I have always remembered this because it seems so important that it should always be strived for. While reading both of the books I was searching for ways to understand my inner economist to help make myself better off. Yes, I’ve learned a great deal on how I should look at the world and find ways to make the best decisions for the choices I have. However while reading Harford’s book about the people of Cameroon and how he thought that those people could be helped, it seemed that there were no real answers that could be realistically achieved in a relative short amount of time.
I took 214 pages of Cowen’s book for something to really hit me and make my inner economist get the goose bumps. He mentioned something I had never heard of and that was micro-credit. My inner economist has always steered me away from giving to charities because I can just sense that hardly any of the proceeds actually get to the people who really need it. I feel that a charity like the Red Cross that has really nice offices, high paid officials and gobs of resources just doesn’t sit right with me. I understand that most people that work for these charities are paid and probably paid very well because it is their career not a volunteer position. So my inner economist says to me “Me, if you did give money, what percent actually would do what you want it to do? And I would tell myself “Self, probably not much” and I would go on about my way without giving.
But, Cowen had introduced me to a new way of helping others out with what seems to be a more efficient way. And as economists we understand the benefits with finding more efficient ways. Muhammad Yunus’s idea of micro-credit just seemed to speak right to me. I do believe that the idea of giving small loans to poorer people in other countries can be extremely beneficial. This gives people in those countries real options to better their lives. Just in my own life I can see that having a loan can be a life changing opportunity, I could not have attended college without a loan and by doing so I have opened doors that would not have otherwise been opened. By giving the less fortunate the same opportunities to better their way of life I feel is way more efficient then sending them food.
Like Cowen said to be really effective when giving to a charity, a real importance is to get behind a cause and give a damn and continue to give a damn. The micro-credit idea is something that I can give a damn about, because it squashes my apprehension of having my donations squandered, ether by the charities themselves or the governments of the receiving country. Not only can my donation help someone but after the loan has been completed that same money can be loaned to others and continue to help people. Is it really possible to have our cake and eat it too? I hope so.

1 comment:

Douglas Loeper said...

A year ago or so I saw an interview on 'The Daily Show' with Muhammad Yunus. It was a compelling interview and reading Cowen's book reminded me of it. I agree with you Robbe, it's real genius. And the best part about it, with Mr. Yunus winning the prize is it's something that the general public can wrap their head around and get behind, and the results are more readily trackable and traceable back to the creditor.