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Giving plain old money to people – Cash in the News

Zev Minsky-Primus wanted to give some of his Bar Mitzvah money away, but he didn’t know how. After looking at the evidence, Zev decided to give “plain old money to people” through GiveDirectly, no strings attached, and let them decide for themselves. Elsewhere in the news, cofounder Michael Faye talks about direct giving on a macro level, saying, “we could be the generation that ends extreme poverty.”


FROM THE BLOG

1. The decision making of a teenager
GiveDirectly blog, Zev Minsky-Primus, June 3, 2016
I recently had my Bar Mitzvah, and as you might expect, that came along with a lot of gifts. And let’s be real, a few thousand dollars is more than a 13-year-old knows how to spend, so I decided to give a one third of it away to charity. I eventually decided to give it to GiveDirectly. I first stumbled across GiveDirectly while listening to an episode of This American Life. Up until I heard that podcast, I always evaluated charities with my gut, and GiveDirectly’s approach of just giving money to poor people in Africa didn’t feel right to me.


GIVEDIRECTLY IN THE NEWS AND BLOGS

2. The revolutionary changing the way you do development
Devex, Catherine Cheney, June 6, 2016
The co-founder of GiveDirectly, the nonprofit behind unconditional cash transfers to mobile phones, and Segovia, the software technology platform that streamlines payments to emerging markets, shared the unifying motivation behind all of his projects: ending poverty with digital payments. Faye is not just a radical dreamer in the global development sector who challenges worn out proverbs of the “teach a man to fish” variety. He, and his longtime collaborator Paul Niehaus, are revolutionaries actively challenging the way development professionals work today. Together they’re putting money in poor people’s pockets without the intervention of aid agencies, NGOs, or aid workers.

3. Basic income advocates lost the battle in Switzerland. They’re winning the war.
Vox, Dylan Matthews, June 6, 2016
While they opposed implementing one immediately, 77 percent of Swiss poll respondents said they’d support a test of basic income, and on that they’re getting their wish. Finland is gearing up to launch a large-scale trial next year, and a more limited effort is current underway in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Y Combinator, the US-based investment company, is doing a pilot in Oakland, California. The government of Ontario, Canada, is launching a test this year, and GiveDirectly, a cash transfer charity, is doing a test in Kenya.

4. What Would Happen if We Gave Everyone Free Money
VICE, Arielle Pardes, June 2, 2016
But right now, basic income is experiencing what is perhaps its biggest moment ever. Tuesday’s basic income lottery event comes on the heels of two major announcements—one from the tech incubator Y Combinator, which will sponsor a five-year basic income experiment in Oakland, California; another from the charity GiveDirectly, which will pilot a decade-long basic income program in Kenya. Later this week, Switzerland will vote on whether or not to guarantee every citizen about $2,500 per month, which would make it the first country to put a basic income program into practice.

5. Universal Basic Income Is the Best Tool to Fight Poverty
Huffington Post, Scott Santens, June 2, 2016
Be wary of any article against basic income that doesn’t include any supporting evidence. Applicable experiments have been done. We have studied the work disincentive effects in the US and in Canada in the 1970s where the results were quite interesting. Fully universal basic incomes have been tested in Namibia and India, where the results of both were more work, not less. The charity GiveDirectly has given basic incomes to people in Uganda and Kenya, where the results in both locations were more work, not less. Unconditional cash transfers are being used more frequently all over the world entirely because of their successes, and in places like Liberia and Lebanon where they ended up being like basic incomes, they too show more work, not less.

CASH TRANSFER NEWS

6. Why do the poor make such poor decisions
Medium, Medium, Rutger Bregman, June 3, 2016
A world without poverty — it might be the oldest utopia around. But anybody who takes this dream seriously must inevitably face a few tough questions. Why are the poor more likely to commit crimes? Why are they more prone to obesity? Why do they use more alcohol and drugs? In short, why do the poor make so many dumb decisions?

7. Lessons from NYC’s Randomized Conditional Cash Transfer Program
CATO Institute, Charles Hughes, June 2, 2016
The research organization MDRC recently released its comprehensive evaluation of Opportunity NYC- Family Rewards, a conditional cash transfer (CCT) pilot program with the goal of helping families break free of the cycle of poverty. This program is particularly notable because it is the first comprehensive CCT program in a developed country, and it was a large-scale randomized control trial.

BASIC INCOME

8. ​Swiss reject universal basic income in public referendum
Tech Crunch, Natasha Lomas, June 6, 2016
The people of Switzerland have rejected a proposal to give a universal basic income (UBI) to every citizen, with almost 77 per cent saying ‘no’ vs 23 per cent in favor. They were voting on the idea in a referendum after an independent group, Bien-CH, gained enough signatures on a petition to trigger a vote, per Swiss law. The idea of a future need for a UBI to grease the wheels of the capitalist economies has been gaining ground with some economists and technologists, driven by the notion that tech-fueled automation will result in fewer jobs — leading to the obvious question: how will people earn money to pay for the goods and services that will fire future economies if there aren’t enough jobs to go around?

9. A Guaranteed Income for Every American
The Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray, June 3, 2016
When people learn that I want to replace the welfare state with a universal basic income, or UBI, the response I almost always get goes something like this: “But people will just use it to live off the rest of us!” “People will waste their lives!” Or, as they would have put it in a bygone age, a guaranteed income will foster idleness and vice. I see it differently. I think that a UBI is our only hope to deal with a coming labor market unlike any in human history and that it represents our best hope to revitalize American civil society.

10. Universal basic income in the OECD
The Economist, June 3, 2016
In a world in which drudgery has been delegated to robots, the welfare state may need to be reimagined. One option is to pay out a universal basic income, a simple cash sum, without any nannyish strings attached. Many have dismissed the idea as a non-starter—to provide everyone with enough money to live on would be cripplingly expensive, they argue. But much of the rich world already raises plenty of taxes to hand back to citizens as benefits. Suppose the government did decide to reconstruct the benefits system—how much basic income would it get for its buck?