Every now and then, The Economist magazine will write something that makes sense. In the current issue, there is a headline about the Tea Party's latest "victim" (Luger) and David Cameron's mid-term crisis, so I braced for the run of the mill attack on prosperity, independence and individual rights. But there it was, a piece on a page labeled Free Exchange-hope springs a trap titled "An absence of optimism plays a large role in keeping people trapped in poverty." My goodness, I could have written this for them from experience and study. The article discusses an MIT study of data from a microfinance program in West Bengal. The BRAC program made loans to locals stuck in deep poverty.
It was assumed the loans wouldn't be paid back.
These loans were in the form of a farm animal like a cow, or a couple of goats or chickens. There was a stipend as well to deter recipients from eating their assets. The folks were taught how to tend and manage their animals to produce a small income. Long after the program ended, the randomly selected recipients were still going very well:
> 15% eating more
> 20% earning more each month
> Skipping fewer meals
> Saving more money
The trick to this longer term success was A) these people worked 28% more hours B) their work goes beyond the assets they were given and C) researchers found mental health improvement. These were extremely poor people that are now seeking new opportunities. The very smart people at MIT came to the conclusion that the absence of hope kept these people in penury while BRAC injected a dose of optimism. I've argued the difference between hope and optimism is that the former relies on an outside force to save the day while the latter relies on the person in the mirror to make it happen. The article went on to discuss the fuel of self-belief.
I love that term...it makes for the perfect replacement for the notion we can only make it as a collective.
Of course, while there is an occasional positive surprise in liberal rags, the world of academia never fails to surprise in their efforts to strike the idea of accountability from human check list to a fulfilling life.
These MIT mavens could have saved a lot of time and money by just reading an old Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him to fish and he eats every day.
My Brain Made Me Do it
I remember the skit Flip Wilson used to do on his eponymous named show where a female character named Geraldine's excuse for poor behavior was "the devil made me do it." As it turns out it's not the devil but
Charles V. Payne is a regular contributor to the Fox Business and Fox News Networks.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Principle Analyst of Wall Street Strategies, Inc. (WSSI)
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