Sustainable Distribution of Abundance or Why I Don't Haggle in the Third World

Holding Hands

I read somewhere recently that bloggers should be transparent to ensure authenticity. It made me think about my own writing and question whether or not I was being fully transparent with you, my readers.

I wondered, what does it mean for me to be more transparent? Since I'm traveling, does it mean writing about the little things that I generally avoiding talking about? Does it mean sharing my thoughts more often?

Perhaps I could write about my worries of running out of money or the several cases of mild travelers diarrhea that have started to get annoying. I could write about how I sometimes feel guilty for spending too much time in high-end cafes, enjoying the air conditioning and delicious coffee when I should be outside exploring the small local shops. (In my defense, it was a safe place to work on my laptop.)

What about writing how I felt for ignoring the handicapped guy with no legs who extended his hand and asked for money while I was in the beach town of Gokarna? If I help him, I thought, why shouldn't I help all of them? How do I choose who receives help?

What about the mother holding her undernourished child in her arms who approached me begging for money with a desperate look in her eyes? I looked her in the eyes and smiled. I wanted to at least treat her human; if nothing else, that was the least I felt I could do. But it almost made me feel evil, as if I was smiling at her misfortune.

Or what about the little boy who came to my seat when the train stopped at a station between Surat and Ahmedabad, who repeatedly tapped on my shoulder for five minutes asking for money while I looked out the window trying to pretend I didn't know he was there?

Or the little girl with scraggly black hair and skin that looked like it hadn't been washed in weeks who stood in front of me putting her tiny hand to her mouth trying to tell me that she was hungry? I gave her all my remaining crackers but she still stood there asking for money. What should I have done then?

What about the young man from Jaipur, about the same age as myself, who approached me on Marine Drive in Mumbai and walked with me for ten minutes while we chatted together about where we were from and how we came to be in Mumbai. He talked about how difficult it was to find work without proper paperwork and that he was forced to take up the only job he could find: shining shoes. Towards the end of our chat, he asked me again if he could shine my shoes. Ten rupees? Five rupees? He says he is hungry. He just wants to eat.

What do I say to him?

No matter how many times it happens, it's just as difficult each time. I wonder if I'm being cold-hearted turning these people down. What is the right thing to do in such situations? What is the moral thing to do? I can't possibly take everyone out to eat or give money to every person that appears to need it.

The more poverty I see, the more my brain goes crazy looking for solutions -- looking for ways to help all these people. There must be a way.

There is so much wealth in this world that nobody should need to go hungry. No mother should need to beg to keep her undernourished child alive. No child should need to plead with strangers for food.

Why, with so much abundance in the world, is there such a large population of human beings who are living in poverty and fighting for the most basic human needs?

Why, with so many natural resources and so much scientific advancement, is planet Earth slowly decaying and becoming a galactic waste dump?

Why, with so much understanding of the human body and medical know-how, are people becoming less healthy and more sick?

It's absurd. It makes absolutely no sense.

Sustainability? The priorities are all wrong!

Start with a bigger cup

Photo credit .MegLynn.

There is so much talk about sustainable energy and economic growth because politicians and businesses see those as the most profitable ones to talk about. They allocate money, energy, and time for those and ignore everything else.

What about sustainable growth of the human race?

What about sustainable diets and sustainable health? What about sustainable agriculture? Anyone who does the math can see that meat-based diets are not sustainable long term; we will simply run out of room and resources to feed the animals.

What about sustainable wealth? Sustainable equality? Sustainable living? Sustainable relationships? Sustainable families? Why don't we hear discussion for sustainability stretching out 200, 300, or 400 years? Why the short-term perspective of only a few decades?

The accumulation of abundance is something that comes naturally to us, but sustainability is something we need to work at. We need to plan for sustainability. It needs to be a forethought, not an afterthought.

We can't obtain abundance and then think about sustainability. It just won't work. By the time we start thinking about sustainability, our abundance will already be slipping away. You can't fill a small cup with a gallon of water and then decide to get a bigger cup. You need to start with a bigger cup in the first place!

Life is the same way. Abundance will come. Wealth will grow. Science will advance. Populations will expand. What we need to be focusing on is how to make that abundance sustainable long-term.

On an individual level, the abundance we accumulate -- be it in the form of wealth, possessions, knowledge, and even skills -- should only be accumulated to the point where we can provide for our families. Anything beyond that point should be given back to the community, to those who need it.

Wealth of any type, just as love, must be shared to be fully realized.

Giving back to the community

Give back to the community

Even though haggling comes naturally to me (I come from a family known for getting the best deal), when I purchase something from a local market here in India, I don't haggle the price. I realized something traveling in a third world country for the past three months: The one sustainable way for me to help those in need is through the local businesses.

If I give the local shop owners extra money, I'm improving their lives in a small way. They in turn are more likely and more able to support the people who are even poorer. (Of course when it's obvious that I'm getting ripped off, I might haggle the price a little lower, but for the most part I don't argue.)

Of all the people in the world you could haggle with, why would you do it with those who need the money the most? Penny-pinching big corporations, chain stores, or people who are genuinely greedy and already living above their means is understandable. But haggling with people who will use the extra money to feed their undernourished children? That just seems morally wrong.

As I travel the world, my own excess value -- the abundance that I have too much of that needs to be given away -- is beginning to emerge. I see that I have a unique perspective, endless ideas, and the ability to communicate to others through writing.

In comparison to the entire world population, my technological knowledge and ability to use a computer -- the ability to publish online, to connect with people from all over the world, and to spread ideas -- is extremely valuable. I am extremely fortunate to be in a such a position.

How can I use those skills to help the poor people who are trying to feed themselves? What can I do that will improve the world?

Over the course of my entire life, where can I put my time and energy to ensure that I leave behind an Earth where people don't have to beg to survive; where all children get education and food; where everyone has equal opportunities?

I find myself asking these questions more and more with each passing day and my head is simultaneously flooded with ideas for things to try and frustration for being unable to flip a switch and instantly make everything right.


The first thing each of us needs to do is identify what we have in excess and figure out the most efficient way of passing that on to those who need it.

Think about what you have a lot of -- be it physical things, monetary things, knowledge, skills, experiences, ideas, wisdom, love, happiness, anything -- and ask yourself, how can you give that value to someone who needs it?

Hoarded abundance isn't sustainable; shared abundance ensures there will always be enough to go around.

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  1. Beautifully written, Raam. Ryan and I love good deals. But when it’s down to people that are poor, I many times don’t have a heart to bargain. When I know the price is a rip off and it’s still too expensive than I’m willing to afford (they do sometimes put the price really high), I will cut the price down. But when it comes to the level that spending that money means very little to me, but for them it means a lot, and this is still way higher than the real price, I don’t have a heart to bargain further. I think this is a nice easy way to do little charity as we travel. Of course this doesn’t apply to successful business people/corporation (I’m poorer than them)

    • Thank you, Dina.

      I think the thing to remember is the level at which we value our money. For us, $1 (or 1 Euro, or 1 Rupee, etc.) represents a particular value. When we’re visiting a poorer country where the value of our money is greater, our ability to help others instantly increases. Hoarding that value and trying to get the most for our money is just being selfish.

  2. Wonderful, thought-provoking post. I agree that some people take haggling to the extreme – I once watched in pain as a Canadian backpacker I was in the markets with fought over the equivalent of 5 cents for a papaya. As he walked away proudly clutching his dirt-cheap fruit he told me it was “the principle of the matter”, obviously failing to notice the look of disgust on my face. On the other hand, if the local custom is to haggle, I make a token effort. I don’t mind paying a bit more, after all that money means nothing to me compared to them, but I always wonder if just automatically handing over inflated sums of money reinforces a “tourists as a target” mindset. It’s an incredibly tough call, though, and if somebody can tell me with 100% certainty what the answer is I’d love to know!

    • Thank you, Camden!

      Great addition to the discussion. I had not thought about how automatically handing over the money might reinforce the “tourists as a target” mindset. But to flip that around, I also wonder if the “targeting tourists” mindset that tourists bring to a poorer place is skewed as well. Maybe we’re unnecessarily being defensive because we’re told that people are going to attack us and try to take away all our money.

      If we go with a mindset of, “How can I help those in need?”, then maybe we won’t feel so targeted.

      The abundance in the world is held up in too many individual hands. It needs to be spread out more. I can imagine a future world where tourism is used as a method of balancing that imbalance. Those with “extra abundance” get to directly improve the lives of others while simultaneously getting value in return (vacationing, visiting tourist destinations, etc.). This already takes place, but it’s an indirect side-effect. It’s not seen as a “reason” to vacation. I’ve never heard anyone say “I want to go on vacation to give away some of my abundance.”. Instead, it’s all about “Me, me, mine; what can I do to make myself feel better.”

      Of course one problem with that vision is figuring out how such money can be funneled to all the people who need it. For that, I think education, combined with technology, is the answer. More of the world population needs access to education and technology so they can join the modern world and have access to all the available opportunities.

  3. This is a really thoughtful post. It’s quite a dilemma to figure out what to do as you can’t help everyone. I didn’t haggle with the native woman in PanamΓ‘ when I was buying a mola for my mom, but I thought for a moment that I was being a sucker for not. Like Dina, I didn’t have the heart to drive a hard bargain with a woman who was obviously impoverished.

    Since I can’t travel all the time, I am a fan of Novica. It lets me buy from artisans around the world, and they get much more money from me than if I bought from a regular store. When I read the artist bios on the website, they invariably mention the fulfillment from doing something they love, the ability to meet their family’s needs now, and the fact that they hired others to work for them. This seems like a great way to turn the materialism of Christmas celebrations into a better life for others.

    • Thank you, Jennifer!

      I think ideas like Novica are absolutely awesome. Giving people ways to do what they love while receiving suitable compensation is exactly what we need more of in the world. Now we just need ways to expand that idea to more people and more professions.

  4. Raam, this is an incredible post. I respect your vision of creating a better world so much – one where there is no poverty or lack. I wish you all the best in finding effective ways to accomplish that vision. I recently wrote about reducing personal oil dependence as one way to can make a difference in the world. Many of us have taken the big steps to lessen oil dependence, but there is so much more we could all do. Wishing you the best.

    • Thank you, Sandra!

      Your post on reducing oil personal oil dependence is excellent. Real change starts with the individual and posts like that build awareness. Unless people are educated, they won’t see the point of caring! That’s why I think education (both in general and in sustainability) is one of the main pillars for global change.

  5. Raam,

    This is a great post and brings back some old memories.

    Distributing excess resources amongst the needy people is a dire need, however, an important aspect of this is to accomplish that through a proper channel. It becomes hard to distinguish between a poor child who has been forced to bring back some money for his dipsomaniac or a sick father and in most of the former cases, the child is beaten for whatever meager amount he was able to collect.

    Government agencies try to regulate this, however, due to problems like corruption, eventually a small amount is able to reach those in need. Moreover, it becomes hard to eliminate such things, and in such a situation, non-profit associations play an extremely crucial role.

    As you rightly pointed out, educating the rural community, along with access to technology would be a great solution and certainly would help our planet a lot! However, that again demands a big initiative, or since many initiatives already exist, it is pertinent to conglomerate their effect and to form a plan.


    • Hi Ankur,

      I think you’re absolutely right about needing to be careful that money doesn’t go into the wrong hands and end up supporting things like drug addiction or child abuse. I actually wrote about that in the post originally, but removed it because the post was getting too long!

      That’s one of the reasons I think it’s best to give money to local businesses. At least that way the chances are better that the money goes to good use.

      The only way to change the overall system long-term is through the children and younger generations. They’re the ones who will still be around when you and me are gone. That’s why I think education and figuring out ways to get technology into their hands is so important. This is where projects like One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) are so awesome. I just wish there were less political issues in the way and that money wasn’t such a limiting factor. Governments need to be doing more to fund projects like OLPC.

      The funny thing (and perhaps a bit scary) about all this, is that it seems the best way to actually change policies is to get into politics. Either that or start a revolution. πŸ™‚

  6. These questions… the disparity of wealth have bugged me most of my life. They don’t any more thank God because I know that happiness (more like “state of being”) is more important and valuable and not to be looked down on or traded, even in face of death.

    Don’t ignore them. That would be worse than shooing them away. Am I too brazen with my advice?

    Feeling what others feel is called “noble quality.” The Indians have it big time and you can tell.

    I used to act on this all the time. I’d get upset when my white middle class family would laugh at my angst over their apparant lack of concern for the world at large.

    But the truth is you’re not an alien and the things that are in front of you are your responsibilty only… help the guy in front of you without regard for the billions of others.

    It’s also a subconscious affirmation which will spread through the planet and affect everyone else… you know… 100 monkeys?

    • I don’t believe advice can ever be too brazen.

      You’ve challenged my belief a little and I may experiment with giving something (or doing something for) every person who approaches me for a little while.

      My argument is that it’s about being smart with your value. If I can help more people using my money to support a lifestyle that involves promoting ideals that have the potential to improve the lives of millions, does it make sense to be focusing my attention or money on the one or two beggars who approach me, who may very well use the money for evil instead of good? Wouldn’t that be considered selfish?

      Changing the world one person at a time is a noble act, but is it always the best place to focus our attention?

      This reminds me of the philosophical debate that I get into sometimes over the value of one life in comparison to thousands. If there’s a choice that needs to be made between one life and a thousand, doesn’t it make the most sense to save a thousand? (The problem with this thinking always arises when you try to determine at what point the balance shifts, in which case it makes more sense to simply say one life is just as important as a thousand.)

      Tough subjects, but I think these are the things that need to be discussed. This reminds me of a post I wrote several years ago called My Naked Body and Money where I ask whether a person who consumes the equivalent of 100 people (thereby indirectly causing the death of 100 people) is committing murder.

      I believe a time will come when anyone contributing to the misfortune of others, even if indirectly, is punished.

      • Yes good point that’s not how you really change things, but the place where you are at that moment is the most important – if we can’t excel there we won’t excel in the future!

        It means being open to our own humanity.

        • Agreed. Change begins with us, in the moment, wherever we are. But I think there are times when you have to ignore people.

          There is a certain unspoken language that people who are begging understand. If you start talking to them, they immediately take that as an indication that you’re more likely to give them something. If you have no intention of giving them something, why get their hopes up? Why waste their time when they could be increasing their chances of finding someone who will give them something?

          That’s why I simply shake my head and give them the most I can, a look in the eyes and a warm smile. If they keep asking, I simply ignore them and usually at that point they move on.

          • Yeah. It’s impossible to do the right thing when the situation is so wrong. I had this picture in my head of you on the train ignoring this person and I could imagine how uncomfortable it would be. Wishing you well.

  7. Hey Raam – This is something that I have pondered for many years as I’ve wandered around the globe and I have yet to reach a conclusion that suits me.

    At one point in time I felt that my simple act of traveling to poorer nations is the root of the problem. After all, if an endless stream of wealthier foreigners aren’t parading into your market every day, you won’t start dreaming of owning the same clothes, having the same freedom to travel or the money that the foreigners have. So therefore, I must be the problem.

    And I think that we must consider this – how do we determine what is ‘enough’. Where does the line of abundance fall?

    I have met endless people in India who live in slum-like dwellings but have enough money for basic food, basic clothes and to send their children to school. And many of these people are quite content and happy with their lives. So the question is, do they have enough or do they deserve more? How about the shop owner that is even better off than that?

    And what standards do we use to determine this?

    I don’t haggle too often, but in countries where it is considered a part of business, I do partake. I’m definitely curious to hear your thoughts on this but I’m not convinced that paying a highly inflated tourist price for something will help someone lead a better life.

    From personal experience, paying higher prices leads a shop owner to want even more the next time, and then into a cycle of greed that alters their attitude towards foreigners. Foreigners then become ‘money’ and are no longer fellow human beings (which is evident in any touristy place where travelers constantly over-pay) and I’m not so sure this does much good in the end.

    Anyway, that’s just some random thoughts that popped into my head. With all of that said, you’re an absolutely inspirational traveler Raam. Your challenging me as if I was out there in India myself right now.

    • Hey Earl,

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment! My exposure to these ideas is very new in comparison to yours and I think your experience traveling the world over the past decade really shows!

      With regards to determining what is “enough”, I think we can only discover that when we get close to it. With such a large population, it simply isn’t possible without implementing a global totalitarian society that sets and enforces the standards. But I think we can start with the basics: Education, health, living standards.

      I’m all for a simplistic lifestyle of living off nature and minimal possessions, but I think the inertia moving us in the opposite direction is too strong to change it. Rather, we should be looking for ways to ensure everyone gets an equal share of abundance (if they want it). I don’t think anyone would turn down free education, healthcare, or good living conditions for their children.

      As for your point on haggling ensuring a balance for greed, I again feel a lack of experience. We can’t fight greed with greed, but at the same time I see your point about shopkeepers simply assuming they can get more from tourists the next time around. It’s a tough call. I think as long as we go in with an attitude of compassion and not greed, we will be improving lives either way.

  8. Hey Raam!

    Love your posts and sympathize with this one big time as I’m preparing to join you in Locational Independence, heading down the road on a bicycle soon after giving away, selling or storing my possessions (mainly books and computers).

    As a traveling magi (astrologer) my mission is to spread the word about cosmic consciousness wherever I go, doing people’s astrology charts and offering the wisdom of the heavens wherever I go.

    I’m heading north from Boulder on Saturday on my bike armed with a DROID phone, and I-pad, and a MAC book pro and a solar powered charger! I’m riding all the way to Nelson British Columbia (Canada) and then later over to Vancouver, and then down the Pacific Coast to San Fran, then Hawaii, and eventually Asia. I want to do the Megellan on a bike trip!

    In getting rid of most of my possessions I’ve encountered homeless people here in Boulder, Colorado who often stand on the sidelines at stop lights holding signs that say Anything Helps. So I started dropping by and unloading boxes of clothes, backpacks, sleeping bags, etc from my storage locker. The people that receive your old stuff are extremely excited and grateful! So even in our own country we face these issues.

    It’s tough in foreign lands because if you give one kid a dollar here comes the pack of pirana-like hands grabbing for more…until you join them like Mother Theresa or something and you stand there begging too… I don’t think that is the spiritual intention of this journey, but it might be liberating and interesting…meanwhile you are offering inspiration to people on this forum who are now thinking of these issues and changing our lives…so by not giving and struggling with it, you are inducing spiritual contemplation in your readers….so thank you very much!

    By the way what camera are you using for your videos it seems like it’s very good quality. I thought of getting one from Amazon for my TavelingMagi journey…

    Kelly Lee Phipps

    • Kelly, thank you so much for the comment! Astrology has always fascinated me and your mission sounds like it will help a lot of people.

      At the most basic level, I think we can help others by not being bigger consumers than necessary. If we really don’t need a car, why own one? If we don’t wear all of our clothing every week, why not give some of it away? Living simple, with only a few things, means others — hopefully those who need it — will have more.

      Your bike journey sounds awesome and the Megellan trip sounds like it would be epic! Can I join you on that one? πŸ˜€

      By the way, the camera I’m using is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (that’s an affiliate link). It’s an incredible camera and I wouldn’t want to have anything else with me while I travel. I’ve been a photographer most of my life and I’ve seen a lot of different cameras. The GF1 is just awesome.

  9. Wow, that was amazingly heartfelt, sad and inspiring all in one. I know what you mean, when you’re presented with this situation of people that are truly in need yet you can’t help them all.

    Whenever possible, I think it’s a good thing to at least try. Made a little extra money this month? Give it to those who need. Got something free? Give it away.

    Just recently I received a free order of hamburgers from Omaha steaks because I wrote a nice review and business insight of them on my blog. They were appreciative and sent it over. However, before I unboxed everything I thought about it and decided to give it away.

    I think if we get extra kickbacks we should assess if we actually need them. If not, by all means give it to those who do.

    I agree on your point about not haggling especially when the conversion rate is so different. It makes sense if you lived in the area but if you’re coming from a rich country, don’t nickel and dime the locals; you’re already getting a great deal ya know?

    I appreciate you writing this post. Not many travelers talk about this side of the story.

    • Thank you for the comment, Murlu.

      You’re absolutely correct about giving things away that we receive for free. If we don’t need it — and most of the time we probably don’t — why not redirect that energy to someone who does need it?

      It’s all about greed. If we’re genuinely not greedy, then we won’t feel the need to hold on to excess stuff.

  10. What an incredible call to action. So many try and haggle prices down over a few cents. Money is just money in the end. Some have more than others. If they can just be the tiniest bit generous on there travels, the domino effect may occur as you suggest. The only thing that bothers me about giving away money are those that do just target you because you are a tourist. Here in Italy, men come around to tables selling flowers for a euros. They stand just waiting for the guy you are with to give in. I have noticed though they only head to tables of foreigners here.

    • Hi Suzy,

      That’s why when I say “local businesses”, I’m referring to the brick-and-mortar businesses (or at least those with some type of fixed location). The people walking around trying to sell things by targeting foreigners are barely a step away from the beggars, and giving money to them only reinforces their unsustainable business model.

      The local businesses exist to support themselves through the community. By giving extra money to them, they turn around and redistribute that to their community, through purchasing food, clothes, and other services for themselves offered by other businesses. Even the local businesses that exist to feed off of tourism end up redistributing the money to their community.

      People are generous at heart, so the owners of the local businesses will no doubt occasionally give to the people who are even less fortunate than them (the beggars).

  11. Hi Raam,

    What a fantastic post! Your argument is compelling and very well constructed. I feel slightly embarrassed now for the haggling I did today πŸ˜‰

    Having said that I very much support the argument that it creates target out of tourists. We are currently travelling in Vietnam and it is by far the worst experiences of targeting tourists that I have experienced to date.

    I was sitting in a pub with @driftingkiwi & @JohnnyVagabond the other day in Saigon and some of the touts were hassling us to buy something. When we said no the nice little 8 or 9 year old Vietnamese girl told us to “go get f*&ked”. Combine this with the looks on the ladies faces when you say no to their offer of useless goods. The face is petulant and accusing! I have no desire to purchase of someone who is selling almost useless stuff to me simply because I am a tourist.

    I think there is a fine line between not haggling over what equates to a few cents or perhaps even a dollar, but when prices are inflated by 1000% simply because you are white or look like you have money then, well it’s time to get your haggling shoes on or just move on to the next vendor!

    Cheers, hoepfully we can catch up in Vietnam over the next few days.

    Thanks again for the post…


    • Hi Colin,

      Thanks for sharing that story. I’m mentally preparing myself for what it will be like when I arrive in Siagon… less than 32 hours from now!

      The unfortunate truth about the targeting hawkers is that we just need to ignore them. There is no immediate solution to that problem. Until they realize that targeting tourists doesn’t work (which will only happen if all tourists stop giving in to them), they’re going to continue doing it. As long as it remains a viable source of income, there will be people using it (and promoting it).

      One major root of the problem stems from peoples’ desire for useless stuff. Nine times out of ten, these hawkers are selling JUNK — stuff that has no real value. If people stopped buying stuff that had no value, then all the people who sell the stuff would stop selling it!

      Every time we see something we “want”, we need to think about the bigger picture and determine how much value that thing actually holds. If in the long-run it’s just going to promote the creation of more junk, we should avoid it at all cost.

      Thanks again for the comment. I’m looking forward to meeting you in Vietnam (hopefully!). πŸ™‚ Cheers!

  12. There is an answer to poverty namley alternative currencys.
    An example is you do this in India on a large scale it would have a massive impact.

    No debt or interest, just a symbol for a common exchange of energy.

    • Hi Dan,

      That sounds like an interesting idea. I think alternative currencies can do a lot of good for the world, but I think it would be rather difficult to implement, especially on a scale of something like India, where over a billion people rely on the current system in one way or another. Also, there needs to be enough demand by the public for an alternate currency for there to be any chance for implementation.

      What I wonder is if alternate currencies will automatically appear and get used as technology continues spreading and more and more of the world gets online and connected to everyone else.

      • Yea the points you raise are the same problems I see with it. It may arise more organically like you say as technology evolves. It would be interesting to ask the dibspace founder how he first got people involved.

        Its possible that soon websites like facebook will realise their virtual currencys can be used for far more than just the exchange of useless virtual goods.

        The problem the world has is that it has confused what value actually is for a long time. The pound the dollar or even the gold coin is NOT the value its the common form of exchange. The value is the energy and time of people therefore quite simply we need to develop a money that allows for the common exchange of that value without added interest or centralised control. then we can begin to see an upwards spiral of wealth creation rather than the downwards spiral of wealth destruction we currently see.

        When we see the further collapse of the current finacial system this november the lack of confidence in our money will vastly increase and peoples need for security will naturaly push them into considering alternatives…. hopefully.

        The abundance that could be had is potentialy immense, beyond what anyone could accept as real at this current time.

  13. I have no sympathy with some of this. I have given away about $106,000 to poor people in Africa and while it has certainly helped others, it has left me now, at 68, almost destitute. I don’t see why market sellers should charge a wealthy Ethiopian American a fair price but try to cheat me because I am a European. In Vietnam, where I paid taxes, why the hell should I have had to pay a fee to walk through a park where Vietnamese paid nothing. I am sick of racial stereotyping.

    • But Ben, you weren’t really “giving away” $106,000 then, were you? If you gave away money to poor people in Africa and don’t like how it left you, then it was a conditional gift, dependent on how it left you. A true gift has no strings attached. (I’m not saying we shouldn’t analyze the effects of giving or that we shouldn’t question what’s the best way to spread wealth. I’m only pointing out that gifts cannot come with expectations if they are truly gifts. Investments, on the other hand, can and should certainly come with expectations.)

      I agree that markets are skewed and that value often isn’t reflected in a “fair way”, but I believe that’s a product of our current monetary system. If there was one currency for all of Earth–one whose value did not fluctuate at the whim of those with the ‘authority’ to print money, which results in $1USD being worth X in the United States but Y in Vietnam–then maybe we’d be a little closer to a system that was fair for everyone. (The most hope I’ve seen for such as system is Bitcoin.)


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  • Michael Searles March 17, 2014