Alms Bazaar: Altruism Under
Fire—Non Profit Organizations and International Development by
Many arguments excoriate AID.
AID increases dependency and moral hazards, harmfully interfering in
economies, encouraging corruption and
incompetence. AID benefits bad interest groups. Many NGOs know little about development.
Ian Smillie writes that we had the year of the woman and
decade of the woman, yet life gets worse for women in poor
countries. Illiteracy increased 10 percent for women and one percent for men
during the 15 years leading up to 1985. (Maybe we need a century of the woman.)
Other problems include abortion of female fetuses and restrictions on female property rights. Writing in a brisk, readable style, but with little evidence, Smillie argues for increasing locally
available credit to poor women.
Smillie considers many items
important for development: Moral education, vocational education,
health policy, family policy, high rates of saving and investment, vigorous
private sectors, solidarity, sustainable development, strong local institutions,
public-spiritedness, open and vigorous evaluation, and actual reciprocal relationships rather than merely a rhetoric of reciprocation.
Smillie asserts that complacency is worse
than misplaced alarmism; that even the
best performers create mistakes; that governments, communities,
families and individuals all have important roles; that communities must be more
than providers of services. Communities must integrate citizens,
citizenship organizations, and self-help societies.
A history of associational life should build trust networks for civic engagement and enlightened
self-interest. “Being as a consequence of doing” matters. Not letting defeat, fatigue or depression harden into cynicism, despair or lazy self-righteousness matters. Eliminating unwieldy bureaucracies and limiting misplaced technologies should be high priorities, not to mention altering deeply ingrained attitudes.
One lesson: citizens should thoroughly
research any organization before giving them money. Mere “It’s for charity,” is wrong. We should make a priority of finding and replicating beneficial practices--emphasizing standards, monitoring, and enforcement.
286p (H) 1996
—Book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated July 23, 2009