Arguments in favor of harmful aid

Blogger “J” writing at AidSpeak recently experienced another round of lousy arguments in favor of harmful aid. He developed an inventory of the bad arguments in play.

I’ve mentioned “J” a number of times on my blog. He has helped me stretch my understanding in general and especially on the difference between doing aid well and causing harm & hurt by doing aid poorly. We rarely consider the risk of unintended consequences when helping others. Check out some of my articles:

His detailed explanation of great reasons to do aid that hurts is A Taxonomy of Arguments in Favor of Bad Aid.

What does he include in the population of harmful aid?

…by “bad aid” I specifically mean the unqualified volunteers (you may know this as #voluntourism), the #SWEDOW, the pet orphanages, the church/school/other building missions, and all the other (because there are simply too many to list individually) sloppily envisaged and shoddily executed self-serving amateur do-gooding boondoggle somehow packaged as “help” and foisted off onto a comparatively poor recipient community, most probably in another country.

(Hmm. I wonder how he really feels!)

I’d love to go through each argument of his inventory in detail, but will let you read his article for that. I’ll list the major reasons and my feeble one phrase summary:

  • Wide-eyed wonder (general lack of understanding, especially about the risk on unintended consequences)
  • Destiny’s Child (a variation of manifest destiny, meaning I know everything and those poor helpless people are ignorant)
  • It’s all about me! (the aid provider is the main beneficiary)
  • You s*** (non-aid people know better than people with experience in the field)
  • Nothing really matters (relief and development is so easy anyone can do anything)
  • Doing anything is better than doing nothing (the world is such a mess that anything I do will make things less bad and any unintended consequences can’t make anything worse)

Check out the article for detailed explanation of each type of argument, their adverse impacts, and how to counter those bad arguments which might be countered.

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