Wanna help the poor? Give them some money!

In May 2009, a small experiment involving 13 homeless men took off in London. Some of them had slept in the cold for more than 40 years. The presence of these street veterans was far from cheap. Police, legal services, health care: Each cost taxpayers thousands of pounds every year.

That spring, a local charity decided to make the street veterans — sometimes called rough sleepers — the beneficiaries of an innovative social experiment. No more food stamps, food-kitchen dinners or sporadic shelter stays. The 13 would get a drastic bailout, financed by taxpayers. Each would receive 3,000 pounds (about $4,500), in cash, with no strings attached. The men were free to decide what to spend it on.

The only question they had to answer: What do you think is good for you?

“I didn’t have enormous expectations,” an aid worker recalled a year later. Yet the homeless men’s desires turned out to be quite modest. A phone, a passport, a dictionary — each participant had ideas about what would be best for him. None of the men wasted his money on alcohol, drugs or gambling. A year later, 11 of the 13 had roofs over their heads. (Some went to hostels; others to shelters.) They enrolled in classes, learned how to cook, got treatment for drug abuse and made plans for the future. After decades of authorities’ fruitless pushing, pulling, fines and persecution, 11 vagrants moved off the streets.

The cost? About 50,000 pounds, including the wages of the aid workers. In addition to giving 11 individuals another shot at life, the project had saved money by a factor of multiples. Even The Economist concluded: “The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them.”

What if this pilot program has broader implications? Societies tend to presume that poor people are unable to handle money. If they had any, people reason, the poor and homeless would probably spend it on fast food and cheap beer, not on fruit or education. This kind of reasoning nourishes the myriad ingenious social programs, administrative jungles, armies of program coordinators and legions of supervising staff that make up the modern welfare state.

We like to think that people have to work for their money. In recent decades, social welfare has become geared toward a labor market that does not create enough jobs. The trend from “welfare” to “workfare” is international, with obligatory job applications, reintegration trajectories, mandatory participation in “voluntary” work. The underlying message: Free money makes people lazy.

Except that it doesn’t.

In recent years, numerous studies of development aid have found impressive correlations between free money and reductions in crime, inequality, malnutrition, infant mortality, teenage pregnancy rates and truancy. It is also correlated with better school completion rates, higher economic growth and improvement in the condition of women.”The big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money,” economist Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in June. “It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem.”

In the 2010 report “Just Give Money to the Poor,” researchers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development give numerous examples of money being scattered successfully. In Namibia, malnourishment, crime and truancy fell 25 percent, 42 percent and nearly 40 percent, respectively, after grants were given. In Malawi, school enrollment of girls and women rose 40 percent in settings where money was given with or without conditions on its use. From Brazil to India and from Mexico to South Africa, free-money programs have flourished in the past decade. More than 110 million families in at least 45 countries benefit from them.

It is time to apply these lessons to rich but increasingly unequal societies. A world where wages no longer rise still needs consumers. Middle-class purchasing power has been maintained through loans, loans and more loans. The Calvinistic reflex that you have to work for your money has turned into a license for inequality.

Legend has it that while Henry Ford II was giving a tour around a new, highly automated factory to union leader Walter Reuther in the 1960s, Ford joked: “Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?”

Reuther is said to have replied: “Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?”

No one is suggesting societies the world over should implement an expensive basic income system in one stroke. Each utopia needs to start small, with experiments that slowly turn our world upside down — like the one four-plus years ago in London. One of the aid workers later recalled: “It’s quite hard to just change overnight the way you’ve always approached this problem. These pilots give us the opportunity to talk differently, think differently, describe the problem differently.”

That is how all progress begins.

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FYI: Unless you…

Unless you:
 
– have no tattoos,
 
– believe that death should be the punishment for prostitution, blasphemy, adultery, practicing astrology, putting semen anywhere but in a vagina, and cursing one’s parents,
 
– refuse to allow a man who has lost or injured a testicle or penis into a church,
 
– have never worn different types of fabrics at the same time, …
 
– have never cut the hair on your temples or beard,
 
– have never sold land “permanently”,
 
– believe in forcing all rape victims to marry their rapists,
 
– support men having multiple wives,
 
– support daughters being sold into marriage,
 
– have never eaten or touched shellfish,
 
– have never eaten pork, eel, or the fat or blood of meat,
 
– have never touched the carcass of a pig, rodent, snake, lizard, or “unclean” bird… and this includes traditional footballs (i.e. pigskins)
 
– believe that exile should be the punishment for having sex with a woman on her period,
 
– have never gone to church within 33 days of giving birth to a boy, or 66 days for a girl,
 
– have never picked up grapes that have fallen on the ground in your vineyard
 
– have never born a grudge
 
– have never held the wages of your employees overnight
 
– have never stood in the presence of the elderly
 
– have never mistreated foreigners (uh oh)
 
– and support slavery,
 
THEN YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY THAT THE BIBLE SAYS THAT GAYS ARE EVIL!

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down

By cutting off federal funding for research and stymieing data collection and sharing, the National Rifle Association has tried to do to the study of gun violence what climate deniers have done to the science of global warming. No wonder: When it comes to hard numbers, some of the gun lobby’s favorite arguments are full of holes.

Myth #1: They’re coming for your guns.
Fact-check: No one knows the exact number of guns in America, but it’s clear there’s no practical way to round them all up (never mind that no one in Washington is proposing this). Yet if you fantasize about rifle-toting citizens facing down the government, you’ll rest easy knowing that America’s roughly 80 million gun owners already have the feds and cops outgunned by a factor of around 79 to 1.

Image

Sources: Congressional Research Service (PDF), Small Arms Survey

Myth #2: Guns don’t kill people—people kill people.
Fact-check: People with more guns tend to kill more people—with guns. The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114% higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Also, gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements. Update: A recent study looking at 30 years of homicide data in all 50 states found that for every one percent increase in a state’s gun ownership rate, there is a nearly one percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.

Image

Sources: PediatricsCenters for Disease Control and Prevention

Myth #3: An armed society is a polite society.
Fact-check: Drivers who carry guns are 44% more likely than unarmed drivers to make obscene gestures at other motorists, and 77% more likely to follow them aggressively.
• Among Texans convicted of serious crimes, those with concealed-handgun licenses were sentenced for threatening someone with a firearm 4.8 times more than those without.
• In states with Stand Your Ground and other laws making it easier to shoot in self-defense, those policies have been linked to a 7 to 10% increase in homicides.

Myth #4: More good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys.
Fact-check: Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 30 years: 0
• Chances that a shooting at an ER involves guns taken from guards: 1 in 5

Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicidesuicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
• 43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boyswho found a handgun pulled the trigger.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.
• In one survey, nearly 1% of Americans reported using guns to defend themselves or their property. However, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50% involved using guns in an aggressive manner, such as escalating an argument.
• A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.

Myth #7: Guns make women safer.
Fact-check: In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
• A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.
• One study found that women in states with higher gun ownership rates were 4.9 timesmore likely to be murdered by a gun than women in states with lower gun ownership rates.

Myth #8: “Vicious, violent video games” deserve more blame than guns.
Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what’s up with Japan?

United States Japan
Per capita spending
on video games
$44 $55
Civilian firearms
per 100 people
88 0.6
Gun homicides
in 2008
11,030 11

Sources: PricewaterhouseCoopersSmall Arms Survey (PDF), UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Myth #9: More and more Americans are becoming gun owners. 
Fact-check: More guns are being sold, but they’re owned by a shrinking portion of the population.
• About 50% of Americans said they had a gun in their homes in 1973. Today, about 45% say they do. Overall, 35% of Americans personally own a gun.
• Around 80% of gun owners are men. On average they own 7.9 guns each.

Myth #10: We don’t need more gun laws—we just need to enforce the ones we have.
Fact-check:
 Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.
• Around 40% of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don’t require background checks. 40% of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them this way.
• An investigation found 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn’t pass a background check.
• 20% of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal “straw” buyers.
• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has not had a permanent directorfor 6 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.

Mother Jones