A current experiment involving universal basic income in California and a recent large study using cash transfers in Kenya show that giving people money without conditions on how they spend it often contributes to a better quality of life for those people. It turns out that trusting people to do what’s best for themselves in their specific situation results in people actually doing what’s best for themselves. This is one of the reasons that I give some of my economic justice donations to individual people, not just organizations.
There’s a lot to think about when giving money away to individuals, and I haven’t worked through all of my feelings about it myself. For instance, I was recently asked by a friend to contribute to a pool of money for a person of color who had done some things that I didn’t agree with. My friend and I talked about the fact that gifts like these shouldn’t be contingent on our feelings about the person; that the racial wealth gap that exists in the US has nothing to do with whether I like someone or not. In the end I gave to the fund, but I had a lot of feelings about it, mostly grumpy ones.
That said, I honestly don’t need the recipient to be grateful for my gift, nor do I need them to show me what they did with the money or how much better it made their life for a moment. But getting to the point of not needing positive feedback took some reflection on my part. I finally realized that the gift isn’t about my ego; the gift is about what’s right or just. I remind myself of that every time I waver in my commitment to give without strings.
©2019 Judy Blair LLC