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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. 

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.

Enterprise Solutions to Poverty

Today’s poor need all the connections they can get...Often the poor are better off moving from rural isolation to dense urban networks where they’re connected both with economic opportunities and with support systems.

Rethink Poverty

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

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