Today’s Solutions: July 21, 2024

Moniek Zegers says we shouldn’t be giving more but taking less.

Marco Visscher | December 2007 issue
Charity is in. Bill Clinton has written a bestseller about it and rock stars are organizing concerts. But Moniek Zegers, co-founder of the recently launched Dutch Comité tegen Goede Doelen Gekte (“Committee against good-cause lunacy”) says we shouldn’t be giving more but taking less.
What’s wrong with charity?
Moniek Zegers: “Western idealists often know far too little about the local culture of the region they want to help. They usually live with other expats and the local elite in an upscale part of the city, while the biggest problems are concentrated in remote villages. Moreover, good causes keep themselves afloat. If their governing strategies were effective, everyone involved would be out of a job. But this keeps fundamental problems from being solved.”
Fundamental problems?
“Charity is part of a sick system that is barely even up for discussion. Corporations exploit farmers and labourers in developing countries and political leaders pretend development aid ends up with the people who need it, while donor countries often actually profit from it.”
And charity organizations don’t do enough to about this?
“They create the impression that we can all save the poor from ruin if we fly in somewhere and build a school or drill a well. They rarely point out the inconvenient truths.”
Such as?

“That even fair-trade coffee is processed in the West while coffee-producing countries should not only supply the raw materials but the end product. Or take the fact that our fish consumption has prompted Western companies to move into African coastal areas, taking jobs away from local fishermen—who are going hungry.”
So what does work?

“A different global economy, changes to global politics. And if this sounds too abstract, let’s try to behave like responsible world citizens. You can affect the lives of poor people every day with your wallet or savings or pension fund —which is much more effective than being charitable.”

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