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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rich young rulers think about charity

Interesting article from the NYT Freakonomics blog:

The year-long process taught me a lot about the civic sensibility of the modern American elite. Perhaps most illuminating: the donors had very rigid ideas concerning the capacity of poor people to change their behavior. When they met poor families (in Chicago and New York), they expected that their money would have magical powers. I exaggerate only slightly.

They believed that poverty was largely a result of resource deficiencies and organizational inefficiencies: if the poor had more money and their service providers could simply manage their giving more efficiently, change would happen. None placed much emphasis on feelings of self worth, the long-term nature of behavioral change or, most important, that staying above water is itself an accomplishment for a poor household. Everyone modeled their expectations after their family business or other corporate workplaces where they saw the “bottom line” motivate people to meet certain standards of achievement.

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