In Christian circles we sometimes talk about being "good stewards." This can mean several things, from environmental awareness to financial matters. It should not be only a Christian idea, though. When we give to charity it behooves us to make sure that the object of our donations uses the money wisely. That is why using sites like Charity Navigator are the responsibility of every thinking person.
A few days ago I wrote a post with the title, "Why Don't You Care About the Poor?" People on the left are often well meaning but when their policies actively hurt the people they were intended to help, we do no one any favors by softening our critical rhetoric. Is a "good person" really good if they continue to endorse damaging policies, even if they do so through ignorance?
This brings us to Africa. There is an economist from Zambia by the name of Dambisa Moyo who wrote a book called Dead Aid. In the book she explains that after years of receiving more than $1 trillion in aid, the people of Africa are much worse off than they were before the aid (the reasons for this baffling turn of events tend to be predictable: aid dependency, corruption, and so on).
Her book caused a flurry of media attention and a lot of chest thumping from celebrities who have made Africa their pet projects. Now, though, a study from Lancet posits that aid to Africa might just be, well, detrimental. That old corruption thing again (the link is to a post written by John Hood in The Corner).
This brings us back to our old liberal/conservative disconnect. We ALL want to help. But in the real world, solutions are almost never simple or easy. We do no one any favors by ignoring the fact that sometimes pain MUST be felt in the short term in order to effect significant, meaningful change. Simply throwing money at a problem (whether it's African poverty or health care in America) never, ever works.