Re: GiveDirectly

1

I'll plug a charity called Modest Needs, which gives grants to the working poor and people living on fixed incomes* for things like unexpected car repair or medical bills.

* And also occasionally other charities: "our soup kitchen had a fire and we need help rebuilding" sorts of things.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:13 AM
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atrios is all about the "just give people money" thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:14 AM
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We were looking for scalable, disruptive ideas but weren't convinced this particular leap would be successful

Why TF does everything have to be "disruptive", it is so stupid


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:18 AM
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To be stupid about it: if my job paid me 1/3 as much, I'd be in poverty. If my job paid me 3x as much, I'd be doing very well. (Pretending for a moment that I'm in a single-income household.)

I don't know how much one-time grants can substitute for an income stream, but really, most people earning a decent wage are not in poverty, and most people earning a poverty wage are in poverty, and that's the long and short of it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:19 AM
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Also why didn't they even mention Just Give Money to the Poor?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:19 AM
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That's certainly the case, but getting hit with an unplanned $500 repair bill can be the difference between keeping your head above water and losing your job.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:21 AM
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Is 6 to 4?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:23 AM
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Twenty five or 6 to 4?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:23 AM
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getting hit with an unplanned $500 repair bill can be the difference between keeping your head above water and losing your job

Especially if the bill is made of rebar and your job is not drowning.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:27 AM
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If money can be given on a large scale without too much individual groveling, paperwork and so on, then certainly. But I am actually part of a social sphere where there is a need driven "individuals all chip in a little bit to individuals via the internet" culture (someone in your tumblr or blog network needs medical care or back rent or a lawyer or money for visa stuff or books for class) and I don't actually like the situation that much. Partly because it's really dependent on the self-marketing skills of the individual, so that the more adroitly you have built up your network, the more easily you can raise money (or help your friends to raise money) and if you are for whatever reason unable or unwilling to do that, you're much more vulnerable. Partly because it creates this sort of maoist "if we can dream it we can do it" mentality, where we believe that if everyone in this small subset of people who aren't actually that rich is just generous enough, we can take care of all of each others' needs - as if we can stand in for progressive tax policy, social services, hospitals, scholarships. Partly because there's perpetual demands and perpetual guilt and honestly it becomes compassion-fatiguing for me to think, every time I get a candy bar, that only today I saw a new plea for someone's medical bills and do I really need that Milky Way? On a selfish level, I end up feeling bad about myself a lot, since there's this perpetual moral narrative about how no one would be doing without surgery or rent or whatever if we were all individually better people, and if I gave five dollars, why didn't I give ten?

I like the idea of giving people money with liberality and relative disregard for bureaucracy as long as it doesn't indirectly create a moral economy or more work for poor people.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:35 AM
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9 made me snort a bit of water out of my nose. Which I guess just goes to show that even if you can keep your head above water, you still might drown a little.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:36 AM
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10 -- I think the idea is that this service provides direct cash transfers to people in very poor countries without a need for them to do marketing -- a way out of the random cash transfers to acquaintances model.

To the article linked in the OP, GiveDirectly sounds great. And I definitely would rather have charities be "data driven" rather than the reverse. But something about the overall tone and approach left me hoping that this person ends up as a Komodo's dinner. Why is it so annoying?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:44 AM
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10: This makes it seem strangely reasonable to reinvent the local parish, the agreed-on tithe, and the vicar and vicar's wife who manage most of the parish's externalities, from the almshouse to the parish bull.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:47 AM
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While this program has several good points, there is a difference between "Here's some money from a pilot program. Let us monitor what you do with it so we can encourage more people to give money to you/your family/your village/other people like you" and just "Here's some money." Which is not to say that the latter wouldn't be able to do a whole lot of good for a whole lot of people, just that we have to be a little bit careful about assuming that the results from the pilot program would automatically scale up to the latter.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:48 AM
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10 reminded me of the local-church model, too, but in the opposite manner of 13: it seems to have all the standard flaws of the church model - only plugged-in people receive help, and it stands in the way of an actual progressive reform.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 8:52 AM
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Are local churches generally against progressive reform, when they aren't in anti-progressive regions? I've been around plenty of refugee-sheltering, tent-camp-hosting churches.

(The Episcopalians in Capitol Hill had a tea-and-finger-sandwiches neighborhood party when the tent camp got to their parking lot.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:05 AM
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The other thing is that there's a huge variety of "the poor" in the world and I'd expect that direct cash transfers are differently effective in different populations -- likely most effective for subsistence farmers who can put some or all of the money back into the farm (note that Unfogged novel favorite Independent People is both a relevant and cautionary tale here), perhaps less effective elsewhere. But presumably someone has a data driven study of all of this somewhere.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:07 AM
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Oh, 16 is a fair point. Local conservative churches in conservative small towns.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:08 AM
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I know some people who work with a town in Haiti, and they have had various problems with the Catholic diocese wanting to protect their charitable turf.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:12 AM
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Consumers and workers do not have pricing power. This has been the story since the late 70s, and Volcker and Reagan were in part about reducing and eliminating pricing power while sustaining the illusion of more cash by cutting taxes.

In other words, give people who are in weak negotiating positions cash, and prices of essentials (education, health care, housing) will rise while employment, wages, benefits and the commons/safety net will be cut. Capital reads the news and banksters are great at grabbing the surplus.

Only with full employment and a very strong commons can cash transfers be welfare-enhancing, and I am not optimistic about that. I think the lower quintiles will need political power.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:24 AM
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Heebie, yes, I believe 6 is to 4.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:28 AM
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With customers who do not have jobs, prospects or credit, for instance the laid-off folks who have been foreclosed, what will the management of the only-choice residential hotel do when he reads that his clients have received a check or Basic Income Guarantee? Raise his rents, of course, he has a captive clientele.

And I haven't even mentioned expectations.

The gov't should provide jobs and direct goods and services, to create competition for the private sharks, and put people in more secure negotiating positions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:33 AM
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Reposting thread jack from The Other Place.


Does anyone have access to this article? It looks like it could be the topic of a great case study in the miscommunication of scientific results. How did the website Science 2.0 summarize the results? "True Blood is killing your marriage." (Apparently Science 2.0 is more sensationalistic that regular old science.) The culprit in this miscommunication of science? The Taylor and Francis press release, which asserts a causal relationship between watching TV and your marriage falling apart.

|>


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:38 AM
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4 wasn't refuting 1, for the record. I'm clear that when someone is financially insecure, a small crisis quickly becomes a gigantic crisis. I was just musing about what it takes to actually lift someone out of poverty.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:41 AM
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23: Apparently, I need to wait 18 months before I can get the article. That's strange.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:45 AM
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Rob, I've got it. Email me at the linked address and I'll send it along.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:49 AM
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I was just musing about what it takes to actually lift someone out of poverty.

Bootstraps, obvs.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:50 AM
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18, 19: local groups reproduce local judgement, & large bureaucracy defends itself. This leaves no-one to carry out 22.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:52 AM
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scribd has the paper, indexed by author name


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:53 AM
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I believe what Bob McM is saying here. I think if everyone in Pennsylvania suddenly became $400 richer, there would be a competition between Comcast, the electric companies and the cell phone companies to see who could siphon that off in increased bills fastest.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:53 AM
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The gas companies, they really care.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:56 AM
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http://www.santafe.edu/news/item/workshop-bowles-hooper-social-network-inequality/


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 9:57 AM
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Yeah, I wanted to make a point similar to bob's 20.1: In the DRC where my cousin's project operates, people were growing rice, but to get it hulled, they had to have it trucked to and from the rice huller 30 kilometers away. Gasoline is something like US$10/liter. So (a) you'd have to shell out quite a bit of money to get all the individual farmers enough money to buy gas, and (b) you're just adding inflationary pressure that probably screws over the people in the next village even worse. Alternatively, if you can round up $30,000 for a rice huller to install where the rice is being grown, you don't need to buy expensive gas to have it hauled 30 kilometers to the county seat.

Direct cash payments would be good for, e.g. getting people cell phones in areas where there is no (or completely unreliable) landline service.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 10:09 AM
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The hauler to the huller can make you want to holla until you're hollow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 10:17 AM
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RIEN N'EST POSSIBLE SANS LES HOMMES. RIEN N'EST DURABLE SANS LES INSITUTIONS.


Posted by: DOGMATIQUE JEAN MONNET | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 10:36 AM
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If everyone gets money, then there will be inflation, but surely the channel matters in terms of distributive effects. Right now, instead of giving money to poor people the government is trying to cause a small amount of inflation by buying assets held by rich people. Some of both efforts will be erased by the resultant inflation, but the rest should benefit the targeted groups. As a corollary, the more effective the government's effort is at causing inflation, the less profit the targets will see.
Bear in mind, of course, that I went to the same school of economics as Halford.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 10:37 AM
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I never know what to do with/about scribd. Do other people here use it regularly? If so what nature of account do you have?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 10:55 AM
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I was actually thinking about this in terms of the hunger stuff. It always strikes me that as an upper middle class person who was set up in life with a few useful items (a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, an energy efficient fridge, peelers, cutting boards, etc.) it's distinctly easier for me to spend less per healthy meal than someone not set up with these things. Barbara Ehrenreich points this out in Nickeled and Dimed (she can't make the big pot of lentil soup without the big pot and the fridge to store it in) and it also jumps out at you when you note that a lot of developing countries using poverty surveys with certain "consumer durables" -- in particular higher efficiency stoves and pressure cookers. There's a family in "A Place At The Table", Barbie I. and her two kids in Philadelphia, that's first on food stamps and then kicked off when she gets a job. Her kitchen seemed incredibly bare to me---not just of food, but stuff. Obviously this isn't the case for every potential food stamp client household---the other household in the film, in rural Colorado, seems to have all the equipment but no access to good groceries--but it seems like some percentage of SNAP beneficiaries would benefit from a one time grant of ~ $1000 for the sort of basic household items that most upper middle class parents help their kids get when their kids are first setting up house. Instead of just supplementing their monthly income, it would actually be an investment in getting them to a new regime of health and savings. In general it seems like we don't think in terms of "capital investments" in families and households that much, even though that's exactly how the rich get richer.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 11:20 AM
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1: I too have been very impressed with Modest Needs, but this note on the Charity Navigator website recently gave me pause:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=10708

The concept seems very good though.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 11:21 AM
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38, true.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 12:06 PM
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I agree with Bob, Frowner, and everyone else that this would be no substitute for a better government safety net. But the more interesting comparison seems to be against other forms of charity. Microlending or cash? The Heifer Project or cash? Scholarships or cash? It's not obvious that cash is always the right answer, but it's worth thinking about.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 12:09 PM
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So the paper in 23 explains that ladies who love soaps are more likely to value an alternative to a commited relationship.

a) Isn't this just the kind of cost-benefit analysis so often mocked here, except without the clarifying benefit of prices, so everything is based on self-reported utility?

b) Maybe joining/starting a Paolo Coelho book group would be a good idea.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 12:54 PM
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One of the things I emphasized in class is that the result tells us nothing about the order of causation. It may be that people who already percieve relationships as having high costs will then view TV shows as portraying romance accurately.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 1:14 PM
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I just dumped a whole bunch of leftover (plain) macaroni noodles into a casserole dish, with a bag of frozen peas and shredded carrots, and a bag of shredded cheese, and stuck it in the oven. Where do I pick up my Midwestern Mom Cooking Badge? Will they penalize me for not adding ground beef?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 3:36 PM
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I was told cream of something soup was supposed to be involved.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 3:39 PM
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Oh right. I'll keep practicing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 3:45 PM
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Will they penalize me for not adding ground beef?

Yes.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 3:54 PM
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Maybe top it with crushed potato chips or those fried onions from a can.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:12 PM
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Will they penalize me for not adding ground beef?

An important feature of midwestern cooking is that it is both heavy in carbs and fats and not vegetarian.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:26 PM
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||
I just spent 4.5 hours at the cardiologist. Now I'm on a heart monitor for 24 hours. My autonomic system is getting weirder and weirder, apparently. WHEEEE.
|>


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:32 PM
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50: yipes. I hope it finds everything healthy, happy, and good. "We've monitored your heart, and it contains nothing but sunshine and roses."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:37 PM
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I'll keep you in my thoughts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:42 PM
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Dinner was roundly well-received, confirming the inverse law of effort to payoff.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:42 PM
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Whoa, E. Hope alls well.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:43 PM
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38: There you're getting into a lot of cultural predilections too. Lots of basic kitchen stuff is available for pretty cheap at the thrift store -- maybe not a working pressure cooker or a big, efficient refrigerator, but almost all of the small, hand powered stuff. But lots of people wouldn't buy that kind of thing at the thrift store because it's not "nice". And of course convenience food, high fructose corn syrup, mumble mumble.

41: Isn't one of the big concerns with microlending that the cash dispensed winds up being used to cover living expenses or emergency outlays and not actually as capital? Also, my animal libber friends don't like the Heifer Project.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:45 PM
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There is definitely something wrong with my circulation, and maybe also something wrong with my actual heart. I doubt I'll find out anything else about all this before next Thursday (follow-up with primary care doc) and, in my pessimistic opinion, likely not then either.

But thanks! I like words & thoughts anyway.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 4:50 PM
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Hope your family enjoyed the salad of death and weakness you offered to them.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 5:16 PM
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Oh whoops inappropriate. Get better, E. Messily!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 5:16 PM
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Halford are you having some sort of breakdown?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 5:24 PM
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Hope you feel better, EM.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 5:37 PM
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I feel (physically) the same as I ever did. I'm pretty cranky and dispirited about the overall scenario though. Thank you!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 5:39 PM
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I feel (physically) the same as I ever did. I'm pretty cranky and dispirited about the overall scenario though. Thank you!

I hope some interesting new insight actually manages to arise from all of this tilting and prodding and monitoring. It would be novel!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04- 4-13 6:06 PM
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Hope things go well, EM. Keep us posted.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 7:17 AM
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To the OP, interesting story about mortgage loans in Cambodia for low-income workers without the Cambodian equivalent of W-2's: New Mortgage Program Helps Cambodia's Poor Find Better Homes.

As a side note, I like that Daniel Zwerdling.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 7:23 AM
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Let me add my voice to the chorus wishing Messily good health.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 7:37 AM
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Good wishes for your good and improved health, E. Hang in there.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 2:30 PM
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38: Hmm, maybe. It seems to me that part of it might be that it's not getting worth getting some of the smaller things without the bigger thing. Also, I doubt the market of used cheap bigger things is really functional enough to serve the need, given the numbers. And I definitely don't want to encourage people to buy broken stuff that they can't fix. "They had a broken keyboard/I bought a broken keyboard" is a bad habit I have that poorer people do not need. '

41: I think that's a big concern, but perhaps too big a concern. And it depends on the amount. For different places, different amounts are going to be the magic "high enough to make you think of investing in capital than wasting on a spending spree." And there's the whole idea in the microlending world to make these loans to women.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 5:24 PM
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38: Hmm, maybe.

This is a weird way to begin a comment on a comment that you yourself wrote.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 5:37 PM
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woops, I always do that. 67 directed at 55. I have a hard time holding arbitrary numbers in my head when I'm thinking verbally.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 5:43 PM
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woops, I always do that. 67 directed at 55. I have a hard time holding arbitrary numbers in my head when I'm thinking verbally.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 5:43 PM
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70 to 69.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04- 5-13 5:49 PM
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I hope you are better EM! I asked girl x, who is interested in politics, if I had to help a lot of people who were poor, and some of them didn't have enough to eat, but other people had a really bad cavity in their teeth, or whatever, what would be the best way. she thought for about 3 seconds. "just give them money?"


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 04- 7-13 9:56 PM
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