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Creative giving

December 30th, 2004

Especially in the aftermath of Christmas, not everyone has ready money to give in response to a disaster like that which has struck our region. But there are lots of different ways to help My Crooked Timber colleagues, John Holbo and Belle Waring are donating the proceeds from their Amazon Associates Account for the quarter[1], and Henry Farrell is doing likewise.

If anyone has seen any other creative ideas on positive ways to respond to this crisis, or has any suggestions of their own, I’d be glad to link to them. Meanwhile, the default option of sending money is a good one.

fn1. I have started an Associates account, but I don’t think it has made any money yet. When it does, I’ll look around for a good cause, perhaps something related to reading or literature. Suggestions welcome.

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  1. harry clarke
    December 30th, 2004 at 18:40 | #1

    A Red Cross leader in a TV interview this evening again stated that the best thing Australia could provide the countries that have experienced the disaster is money so that food and other supplies can be purchased locally within the affected countries.

    I hope he was not being serious and that it was merely a slip of the tongue.

    This is bad policy since purchasing food and other items within the devastated economies will do nothing to increase supply. It would be better to provide food and other items from international markets such as Australia that are not affected directly by the disaster. This does increase the supply of essential items.

    It is encouraging to see Australians being so generous in the face of this horrific catastrophe but the money should be spent in a way that will provide advantage.

  2. John Quiggin
    December 30th, 2004 at 18:51 | #2

    Harry, PML has already raised this comment, but I’m not sure about its validity. The destruction is huge but localised so there’s no reason to suppose that there’s an absolute shortage of necessary supplies in the affected countries (unlike say the case of a famine caused by crop failure). If buying from local suppliers pushes up demand, presumably that will prompt a demand for imports both from other parts of the country and from overseas.

    In the immediate emergency, the aim should be to mobilise supplies from all sources, so a mixture of approaches is indicated, I think.

  3. December 30th, 2004 at 19:28 | #3

    John, Perth readers can drop off donations of non-perishable food, milk powder and medicine at the Ceylon Style Cafe in East Victoria Park. Details here.

  4. harry clarke
    December 31st, 2004 at 07:56 | #4

    The extent of damage in Sri Lanka is a significant section of society — maybe 5 per cent. I think emergency food and other supplies should be shipped in from overseas ASAP. Buying locally might eventually induce imports and advantage those unaffected by the tsunami but will have slow effects in helping survivors in desparate need.

    On another issue.

    The religious brigade have created a debate (in the Age newspaper) on the age-old ‘problem of evil’ in relation to this disaster. How could a compassionate God who loves his children have allowed such misery to be inflicted on innocents? Are God’s powers limited or is there some meaning in the misery that only the all-seeing eye comprehends? Mere mortals will never understand why God inflicts suffering on the innocent.

    I liked the comments of Brent Howard in this morning’s Age. “Its time to forget about God and simply help the tsunami survivors”.

  5. Peter Fuller
    December 31st, 2004 at 16:31 | #5

    This isn’t precisely on topic, but the following link descibes a heart-warming practical response to the catastrophe by the townspeople of Albany.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200412/s1274588.htm

  6. January 1st, 2005 at 20:45 | #6

    Harry, JQ, the Red Cross comment is OK in my book but what Tony Eggleton of CARE Australia said was far worse.

    JQ’s assessment of the Red Cross thing is accurate, and I expanded on the point of how buying in Bangkok can help Phuket in a reply I made in Brad DeLong’s blog. But Eggleton didn’t allow for that – he just said “locally”, and as JQ acknowledges the disaster is localised.

    But for precisely that reason, in my book Eggleton was talking about just precisely what Harry feared – spending in the disaster area. Now, either Eggleton didn’t know what he was talking about or he didn’t know what he was doing. That’s why I suggested people check which was which. But if the Red Cross thinks “spending locally” means spending in the countries, it does know what it is doing; it just doesn’t know what it is talking about – “local” is the localised disaster area, and talking like that is going to frighten off people like Harry and me, unless it is clarified. (Not that I have anything to offer, myself.)

  7. John Quiggin
    January 1st, 2005 at 20:50 | #7

    I haven’t seen all the comments, but I think at least some were simply making the point that it’s better, as far as aid agencies are concerned, to give money than to give goods. I don’t want to run down the option of giving goods, especially for people who have goods but not money to spare, but I think money will get there quicker.

  8. January 3rd, 2005 at 23:08 | #8

    Just cough up already and work out the optimal equations later, would be my advice. The people sitting under palm trees in coastal Sumatra don’t have a whole lot of time to wait. (Everybody has something to spare and it takes not a huge amount to actually save a life.)

    Not suggesting that anybody here is a case in point, but I have run across a few egs in the past few days of ppl anguishing over whether or not the money they could theoretically donate would “actually go to those in need”. The possibility that their own personal $50 might get earmarked to pay for someone’s phone bill seems to choke their charity impulse so severely that they would rather just not take the chance that it might also rehydrate a life-endangered child. We shouldn’t need a picture. We have an imagination to go with our heart.

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