Microfinance is a big deal these days.  The principle behind it is that one of the biggest barriers to rising from poverty is initial capital.  Many poor people run small businesses that could making much more money if they had, not a gift, but a loan.  This loan provides the initial start up costs that allow people to expand their buisiness and eventually get out of poverty.  Read more on it here: Wikipedia on Microfinance.  (Dammit.  Apparently Wikipedia thinks the entry on microfinance sounds too much like an ad.  So instead, here is an article by the Economist on microfinance.)

So I found this website called Kiva.org from a personal finance blog I read called “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”.  This site allows you to personally make Paypal loans to entrepreneurs in other countries.  You can read a profile on who you are giving a loan to.

I made a $25 loan to María Pilco, who has been running a General Store in Equador since she was young.   My$25 is a portion of the $925 dollars total that she is asking for.  When she gets all the money, then the loan will begin.  It would be repaid in 6-10 months.

I think you can see her profile here.

I think that microfinance is in a way, better than charity.  You are forcing people to be accountable with the money that they recieve, and I think that that will make a big difference on the results they get.

Jeffery Sachs is a man with a plan. He wrote the book “The End of Pover ty” which I am going to buy today on Amazon. He is also the director of the Earth Institute in Columbia University and is a special advisor to Kofi Anan. You can read his wikipedia entry. Incredibly, there is no wikipedia entry for Sachs, so I started a short one. I’ll have to send you to his organization instead.

Anyways, the reason I am talking about him is because I stumbled upon a website supporting Sachs for President of the United States. One of their resources is an awesome pdf called A Simple Plan to Save the World. It was written for Esquire Magazine, by Sachs himself. It’s informative, clear, and slightly liberal. But most importantly it is optimistic.

This whole saving the world business can get you down. I’d be the first to tell you. But reading this article made me feel hopeful and motivated to make a change more than ever. So check it out.

CNet.com article: In a New York Times story about billionaire Warren Buffett’s relationship with Bill Gates and their common disdain for inherited wealth, Buffett bluntly dismissed the idea of giving the bulk of his billions to his three children.

“I don’t believe in dynastic wealth,” he said, calling those who grow up in wealthy circumstances “members of the lucky sperm club.”

Click here for full story.


What is the Lucky Sperm Club?

I think most people would say the Lucky Sperm Club are people who have been born into wealth, fame or power.

Paris Hilton. George W. Bush. (these are the two that come quickly to mind)

But I would argue that most people reading this post is also part of the Lucky Sperm Club. Not me, you think. I didn’t inherit a legacy of millions of dollars, chauffers, paparazzi or the ears of decision makers.

Well, consider that nearly half the planet consists on less than 2 dollars a day, or an annual salary of around 100 dollars.

Think about that.

Do you think you could blow through a Benjamin in a day, or at least in a week? You’re spending more than 3 billion people make in a year.

It’s almost like a coin is tossed before you come into existence. Heads, you have a good chance of growing up in a developed nation. Tails, you live a life of extreme poverty.

Takeaway: You, your family and everyone you know, is part of the lucky sperm club.

One With Nineveh : Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future (Paperback)
Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich

Paul and Anne Ehrlich are professors in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford. I was enrolled in Paul Elrich's course "Human Biology and the Environment", unofficially known as "The world in 18 lectures". It was a fascinating class based on this book and another book he wrote called Human Natures. Unfortunately, I had to drop the class because I didn't have time in my schedule. But I promised myself I would read the book over the summer.

Synopsis: Earth's resources are being consumed much faster than they are being replaced – this is causing world wide issues of poverty, energy shortages and climate change (among other things).

Summary: Basically what the authors are saying is that we as a country (America) and as a planet have overpopulated and overconsumed the planet. Greenhouse gases from agriculture and transportation is causing global warming. The burning of fossil fuels is leading to energy shortages. Increasing population rates in developing countries is causing the poor to get poorer. The destruction of rainforests is causing the loss of biodiversity. Continue reading