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  1. abby jean
    abby jean November 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm |

    yay for cash grants without restrictions! this comes up a lot in the U.S., too, when low-income folks relying on government benefit programs find they don’t have money they’re allowed to use to buy things they need. for example, both food stamps and WIC (benefits for women with infants or young children) are restricted and cannot be used for diapers – which is something that people with infant children need a lot of. but since there’s no specific “diaper stamps” government benefit, they can be near impossible to afford or purchase.

    thanks, Cara, for highlighting the importance of this issue for both industrial and developing countries.

  2. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin November 1, 2010 at 2:46 pm |

    An effective pro-choice argument, to me at least, is “Trust Women”. In this circumstance, “Trust People” would seem appropriate.

    The problem is that we really don’t trust other people, and the real tragedy is that we often don’t even trust ourselves.

  3. Mike
    Mike November 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm |

    I’ve studied programs like S6 in Sub-Saharan Africa and Kiva/various other microloan operations that have seen substantial success in a lot of less-developed nations. It would be interesting to compare those programs to this; obviously, the microloan programs require repayment, which would seem a more restrictive restraint than a school attendance requirement, but from what I recall, the default rates are stunningly low (something like 3%) and I know they’ve done a lot of good. I’d like to see some qualitative comparisons.

  4. Dana
    Dana November 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    Wow, it’s so good to read something positive, even when it’s a drop in the bucket. I am so inclined to focus on the many, many roadblocks to helping people that I just avoid thinking about it. :/

    I still find it absolutely mind boggling that “socialism” is a dirty word in the US. I didn’t know that until I worked with a USAian a couple of years ago, well into my 20s! Sure, there are conservatives in NZ who are anti-socialism but it’s not a byword for *bad* here, and in fact I cannot imagine people being willing to *say* they dislike socialism because that’s like saying they dislike helping other people? Because? O_o

  5. Dank
    Dank November 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm |

    It’s a legacy of our long conflict with the Soviet Union. Anything associated with our arch-enemy was painted with the same ‘evil’ brush, which is turning out to have several interesting consequences since the USSR broke apart.

  6. Caroline
    Caroline November 1, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    I can’t come up with a though provoking comment, but I think was beautifully written.

    I will say, having done social work teens in court-ordered rehab, another analogy is all the issues with prison-industrial complex in the US. How the “we” need to “solve” crime (punish people) by locking people up, and further not helping them and in term breaking down their communities. (obviously a very incomplete breakdown)

    Or the USs great history of attaching welfare to birth control. And on and on.

  7. Rkel
    Rkel November 1, 2010 at 6:54 pm |

    Dank, NZ and other more socialism-friendly countries were WELL within the western bloc during the cold war; we fought with the USA in Korea and Vietnam.

    It’s not really a legacy of the conflict, there is something more to it. Red scare was big business down here too, and in other western bloc/NATO countries during the Cold War.

  8. karak
    karak November 1, 2010 at 6:57 pm |

    There’s a saying about how we hate most in others what we see in ourselves. Middle-class Americans live an entire life engineered by credit. Our ability to obtain good credit is a linchpin in our current social organization. And, as people who live on credit, buying bullshit we don’t need on credit, and living in a world wherein credit is absolutely vital to our existence, we can’t fathom how one of THOSE PEOPLE could possibly manage and spend money appropriately—because we don’t. And we honestly don’t have to. So, the assumption that “those poor people” are going to buy crap is a reflection of the fact that we middle-class and wealthy people often buy crap. But, see, WE’RE allowed to have crap, because our ability to buy crap without consequence makes us better people! (this logic is used about why those on welfare don’t deserve soda or lobster).

    I wonder about how these cash-transfers affect local economy. My guess is that it would stimulate it, creating a need for more goods and services, and (maybe) even help the locals get out of poverty–or at least take a step away from it.

    (The “we” I’m using refers to myself and the social class I belong to, not the lovely readers here at feministe, who are often not members of that over-privileged “we”.)

  9. Diana
    Diana November 1, 2010 at 6:58 pm |

    I’ve been aware of the impact that microloans make for awhile, and it’s significant. That such a small donation can make such a difference speaks volumes against the attitude that “giving a handout increases the problem.” This allows for these people to gain real independence. Yay!

  10. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm |

    Rkel: Dank, NZ and other more socialism-friendly countries were WELL within the western bloc during the cold war; we fought with the USA in Korea and Vietnam.

    It’s not really a legacy of the conflict, there is something more to it. Red scare was big business down here too, and in other western bloc/NATO countries during the Cold War. Rkel

    I think Dank is on to something…not that it was the natural outcome of the cold war, but the way USian society processed the red scare was extremist. We basically reformed our entire society to hate communism, communists and anyone who had the smallest connection to either. I think that combined with the rise (in political power) of evangelical christianity has a lot to do with the current love of unfettered capitalism. Jeff Sharlet’s The Family is pretty interesting in that regard.

  11. abby jean
    abby jean November 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm |

    historically, the idea of the “deserving poor” – who are awarded aid based on their circumstances and aid is usually quite restricted to certain purposes – goes back to at least the 16th century and the creation of almhouses to provide shelter and food to people who were out of work. they were given aid in kind – space in a shelter and limited food – rather than cash. that’s the trend in the US, also, with our first welfare system developed as an aid to widowed mothers in the early 1900s to help keep their kids out of the juvenile delinquency system, where it would cost the government more to care for them. so while the cold war and the current rise of evangelical christianity have certainly exacerbated those tendencies, they’ve existed for a long long (long!) time. (if you’re really interested, i can’t recommend the cloward/piven book ‘regulating the poor’ highly enough.)

  12. April
    April November 1, 2010 at 11:44 pm |

    I think karak is onto something.

    Also, it’s interesting, because it is really so counter-intuitive, at least as far as prevailing Western, middle-class thought is concerned. In light of the new laws banning soda from being purchased with food stamps, I think this says a lot.

  13. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking November 2, 2010 at 8:49 am |

    Which is more important:

    Actively finding good places to use government funds, or avoiding misuse of those funds?

    Giving money to people who need money more than you do, or avoiding giving money to people who don’t need money as much as you do?

    And so on.

    In the U.S. many people have a strong bias against doing the “wrong” thing, and are willing to lose a lot of opportunity in order to avoid it.

    In some other countries, they have never really managed to do the “right” thing, so they are granted greater flexibility in accomplishing it, and can take risks which work on average.

    Imagine that the U.S. gave money (instead of food stamps) to 100,000 people. Even if it vastly improved the lot of 99,900 of them, there would surely be 100 people for whom it would create a problem: maybe they’d spend it on booze or gambling or smokes, and not buy food for their kids, or whatever.

    Overall? It’s still a huge benefit. In the hypothetical, it’s only 1 out of 1,000 people who has such a problem.

    But we all know that the papers would pick it up, and those 100 problems would be featured no the front page and would kill the program even in light of the 99,900 improvements.

  14. Jadey
    Jadey November 2, 2010 at 9:45 am |

    It still boggles my mind that there are people out there (as is in the world, not on this thread) who are opposed to these things solely on the grounds of the work disincentive effect, even when that effect takes the form of “a person receiving income support will work one shitty job instead of three”. Because somehow a narrowly defined vision of meaningful “work” (raising kids? Not real work) is the most important thing – if poor and working class people aren’t busting their humps 24/7, then they aren’t earning their keep. But then no one ever calls them workaholics or suggests that maybe their priorities are wrong if they aren’t spending time at home with the family enough. Stress leave? Vacation? Time off? Early retirement? Only if you’re in the right income bracket do those concepts even begin to apply, apparently. Otherwise it’s pure “laziness” to even want it.

  15. UnFit
    UnFit November 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm |

    Reminds me of this time, a while back, when I gave some small change to one of the many junkies who hung out in my old neighborhood.
    My friend said, “you know he’s gonna spend that on drugs, right?” I just looked at him and said, “Really? Says the one who just bought cigarettes from his unemployment check?”
    Somehow, even though he was living off other people’s tax monies at the time, my friend still felt entitled to make the rules for people even worse off than him.

  16. SharonKayMac
    SharonKayMac November 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm |

    While we contemplate global poverty, there is a great holiday prayer on the subject:

    And then comes the New Year and a prayer from Eleanor Roosevelt:

  17. Grace
    Grace November 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    Thanks for this Cara! I’m a second year geography and development student currently doing loads of really depressing readings about the failures and problems with aid and it is so nice to read something that a. is positive and b. reminds me why i care about this degree in the first place – that i believe that development and equality can happen and make people’s lives better, not whether i take a ‘methodological populist’ or ‘ideological populist’ approach to development! Breath of fresh air and I agree with every word xxxxx

  18. Do Something! Or, What Helps: Part II « Beyond Rivalry

    […] “Cash-Transfer Programs Show Remarkable Success in Fight Against Global Poverty” (1 Nov.  2010) at Feministe, Cara comments on the Newsweek article: “The strategy is rooted […]

  19. Cash in Hand; No Strings Attached « VMG

    […] giving money to those in poverty, the antithesis of sorts within America, has had positive results. One of the […]

  20. Eghead
    Eghead November 7, 2010 at 5:50 pm |


    Are you serious? “The poverty of having too much and sharing too little and having the burden of nothing to carry.” Oh my GOD (irony intended). Not to mention how utterly offensive it is to even think that praying helps in the first place.

    Just, no.

  21. Muse142
    Muse142 November 8, 2010 at 6:33 pm |

    Eghead: @SharonKayMacAre you serious?“The poverty of having too much and sharing too little and having the burden of nothing to carry.”Oh my GOD (irony intended).Not to mention how utterly offensive it is to even think that praying helps in the first place.Just, no.  


  22. The Good, The Bad, and The Silly « Stowaway

    […] to tell them how to spend it. But those characters may have been on to something — apparently giving people even a dollar a day that they can spend any way they like is more effective than any o… at getting more poor kids in school, for example. Sure, some people will spend that money on drugs […]

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