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Charity That Hurts

People and organizations seek to serve the material poor out of a good heart. However, we must be aware that good intentions are not enough. We must think through the probable results of our charitable actions and seek to avoid damaging, unintended consequences. 

Below are several Issue Articles that highlight how charity can hurt its intended beneficiaries more than help them. Equip yourself with knowledge of these issues so you can avoid charity that hurts. 

Universal Basic Income

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) would provide every citizen with a minimum income from the government. Proponents of a UBI argue that such a policy would secure human flourishing by protecting people from economic turmoil and job losses brought on by technological advances. Advocates also point out how such economic security would allow people to pursue activities that make them truly happy. Poverty would also be reduced. While an interesting proposal, UBI undermines the dignity of work and fails to understand the human person holis…

Cash Transfers

Cash transfers are a simple idea. Instead of going through the time-consuming, administratively-involved, and costly processes associated with traditional aid distribution, why not simply give money directly to people in poverty? This would eliminate many of the costs that befall traditional aid and allow people to spend money on what they think is most needed.

Studies have shown that cash transfers are more effective than one would think; however, they still position the material poor as the receiver and are inherentl…

Agricultural Subsidies

Agricultural subsidies and tariffs have caused damage to global trade and have subsequently undermined wide-spread wealth creation for centuries. The same is true today. Subsides are typically tax-funded payments from a government to a business entity, such as an agricultural company. Tariffs are simply a tax on imported goods, such as foreign produce.

Both agricultural subsidies and tariffs are often touted as tools that serve and protect small, struggling farmers in the United States and…

Charitable Giving

Charitable giving is the voluntary, benevolent giving of goods, services or money toward perceived or real needs, needs that may or may not be addressable through business and market activity. How we understand charitable giving can make a profound impact on the effectiveness of our giving.


In the context of political economy, corruption refers to an illegal transaction that harms the group the agent is obliged to serve through the transaction. For example, a construction company may offer a kickback to a government official (agent) in return for winning a contract outside the normal bidding process. The official has harmed the government he serves and, by extension, the people it represents because the government probably will pay more for the job than it would have under a competitive proce…

Foreign Aid

The term foreign aid may refer to any form of assistance that crosses national boundaries. In many policy discussions, including the following exposition, the term refers more specifically to government-to-government transfers of funds to developing nations. Such aid is also called official development assistance.

Promoted by celebrities, political leaders, and religious figures around the globe, foreign aid has become a popular—and controversial—subject. Proponents insist that wealthy nations have a moral duty to assist poor countri…

The Zero-Sum Fallacy

The "zero-sum game" is a Game Theory illustration of instances in which one player’s win necessitates the other player's loss; in other words, there is no such thing as a win-win scenario where both players benefit. Some view the free market economy as a zero-sum game in which individuals and nations can enrich themselves only by impoverishing other individuals and nations. This is an elementary error, however, since it fails to take into account the basic principles of voluntary exchange and wealth creati…


Malaria is a disease with enormous human cost: 2.7 million people die from the disease each year in developing nations, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. In terms of numbers affected, it is a plague equivalent to AIDS. Those who do not die from the disease often experience long-term and debilitating effects from it. Beyond the immediate tragedy of human loss, malaria stands as a hurdle in the way of development. When potentially productive citizens are unable to live out full, healthy lives, a nation’s prosperity suffers. Every person who perish…

Population Control

There are two fundamentally divergent views of human beings’ impact on the world. One sees humans as creative and resourceful, as actors capable of solving the problems that confront us. The other sees people primarily as the source of the problems; humans are consumers of the earth’s resources. In this “zero-sum” view, the addition of each human life represents a threat to the wellbeing of every other human being and to the planet.

Rethink Poverty

Subtitled in 15 languages, this six part video series that will change absolutely everything about how you approach charity and missions.