How to Promote Long-Term Choices In a Short-Term World

What happens when you’re a parent in the developing world who can only provide for the family if you take your kids out of school and have them work?  Not giving them an education will sacrifice their long-term potential, but sometimes short-term needs are just too urgent. Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) attempt to make that … Continue reading

Microcredit and the Alternative to “Job Creation”

When money is lent to the right people under the right conditions, it can transform lives and even entire communities.  This principle has been driving a revolution in international development: the microcredit revolution. Normally, the only financing available to impoverished communities comes from loan sharks, who require such exploitative rates that borrowers can never escape … Continue reading

Freedom From? Or Freedom to Do and Become?

The dominant trend in international development today is to provide individuals with the means to climb out of poverty on their own terms.  The key theorist responsible for this trend is Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen. In his 1999 book, Development as Freedom, Sen proposed a new definition for development. Rather than thinking of development … Continue reading

Charter Cities Attempt to Reduce Poverty by Providing Options

The dominant trend in international development right now is to provide individuals with greater means to climb out of poverty on more or less their own terms. NYU development economist Paul Romer has pioneered what may be the latest, and perhaps craziest, idea in this trend.  What if we provide individuals with greater means to … Continue reading

Sticking with Love

I am enjoying the fruits of other people’s labor. 15 years ago my parents collaborated with a woman named Mia Scarlat to start an organization for children in Bucharest who needed a safe place to go. Mia had the expertise, my family had the concerned American donors, and with a very small budget the group … Continue reading

The Global Impact of Debt and the Arts

After Chen Guangcheng’s epic escape from house arrest in China, I wrote about how debt can keep us from doing good in the world. At the same time, I’m often writing about how important the arts are for human rights, and vice versa. So it should come as no surprise that all three are connected: … Continue reading

A Zagat for Bleeding Hearts

Next time your waiter brings you that side of fries, how do you know she hasn’t coughed a nasty stomach virus onto it? Who can a busboy talk to about having his wages stolen from him? When a line cook leaves work, does he have a place to call home? Earlier this month, Restaurant Opportunities … Continue reading

Good News Friday

It’s Friday again, and a day for good news. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been looking forward to a little pick-me-up. So here’s a rundown of some great things happening: Anti-Trafficking Laws Passed in Tennessee On Tuesday, the governor of my favorite state signed a series of bills meant to protect victims of … Continue reading

Let the Little Sparrows Die

It is freezing in DC right now, and I spent the afternoon yesterday watching rain turn to snow from the cafe where I was working. Rain, then sleet actually, then slush, then snow. I was finishing the outline for one last final go at the screenplay I’m adapting from Hungarian playwright Andras Visky’s Juliet. It … Continue reading

Come, Mister Tally Man

A few years ago, I was walking through the fruit section of my local co-op. I was in upstate New York, so it was no surprise that to my left I saw apples and berries. But set out on a little table in the middle I also saw some bananas, hailed as local grub from … Continue reading

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