Sunday, April 15, 2007

Charitable Black Holes

Charitable organisations (charities, governments) help those that fall down through the cracks found between the meshes of markets which sustain most of us in our daily lives.

The problem found when charitable organisations work in these cracks is that there is a strict dichotomy between those with the needs (the poor) and those with the means of need fulfillment (the donors).

Normally those with needs also possess means of fulfillment. For example, if I feel in need of a holiday, I can fulfill that need by booking a ticket to Manado; if I feel hungry I will order a Chinese or Italian meal, and so on. If a poor housewife in Jakarta needs to pay hospital fees she may not have the wherewithal to fulfill that need.

I, as a well-off person (by some standards) could fulfill her need, but have no idea of the desperation she may be in. Even if she stopped me, explained her situation and asked me to help; I wouldn't really know whether she is for real or whether she is just a good con-artist with a villa up in Punjak Pass.

Charities may have a better idea, but they are merely middlemen. The donors are still separated by a firewall from the needy. I may donate money to a charity, but I have no idea what good my donation is doing. Generally, all I have to go on is a hailstorm of marketing which the best charities diligently provide and indulge their most important donors with (maybe the charity's directors are just suited con-artists with a good taste in BMWs and villas in Punjak pass). Contrast that to when I invest in a company, I need only to glance at how much the stock price has gained or lost since I purchased.

The needy live in the economics version of a black hole.


Denica said...

definitely agree.

even here, when i drove and met some beggars who asked for money, all i want is just to open my window and give him a quarter. but yet im afraid. that he might actually blackmail, rob, and other horrible things we're being confronted everyday in newspapers.

TII. this is indonesia.


johnorford said...

yeh it's tough. i wonder tho how things could be improved, how information could flow freer between donors and the needy.

ur blog does suck now -- go back to the old layout dongggggggggg! :P

Denica said...

lol how can you know the word 'dong'? lol. haha. you're a funny man, john. OH MY GOD MY BLOG IS KILLING ME.

johnorford said...

i also know aja, lah -- but still wondering when and where to use them :)

Kana Haya said...

I once have received a email said that we have to stop the habbit of giving those people money when they asked us. instead, lets give them some food like biscuits or even rice.

I myself dont think its a good solution. since i am very sure that those people will not take it. or, even they took it, they'll just throw it away and pay nothing else to those things we gave.

waddaya think?

p.s. well, i'm sure you know the synonym of aja in English (which is the word "only") so you can use it when you want to say only =p

johnorford said...

true, maybe it's only a little better than giving them money as the food is could also go to waste...

hrm, maybe i'm mixing up "aja" with something else. i always used to see aja after advertising slogans on billboards in jkt -- could well have mixed up something tho...

Denica said...


triestiy said...

here's what I do, I go up to the person, ask him/her if they want something to eat or whatever, and buy something for them... no waste. Or, buy their magazine (they are selling magazine to earn money for shelter over here).

you use 'aja' correctly. saja = only. but 'saja' as in sama saja = exactly the same.. pilih saja = just choose..

hmm Indonesian isn't as easy as I thought.

i tried msg-ing you on msn, did u get it?

Berly said...

There is an interestig WP in NBER with Economics of Charity as focus.

Take a look here

johnorford said...

Denica: Singlish? Hehe, most of the time I can't speak English properly, nevermind being able to speak a heady concoction of languages :)

Triesti: Yeh, I don't think it is easy, but I have yet to start in earnest so can't be sure... thx for the explanations tho!

I didn't get your msg. if u send me your msn contact email addy then i'll add u to my contacts!

Berly: I am an amateur economist, therefore don't have a subscription to NBER. but will see if I can get a pal to download that paper for me, thanks!

miund said...

wah mas John tampak semakin familiar dengan bahasa Indonesia ya. bagus dong :)

i can teach you how to sound like an Indonesian, John. my method is called: Bahasa Indonesia and Beyond - a practical way to speak like a native 'gaul' person.


johnorford said...

"Bahasa Indonesia and Beyond - a practical way to speak like a native 'gaul' person."

Whahahah! -- or should that be Bwahahakhakhakhak!! :P:P:P