Teach him to fish

Friedrich von Blowhard writes about moments that made him think.

* I ran across a lefty woman acquaintance. She'd just gotten back after a couple of years with Oxfam in Africa. "How'd it go?" I asked. "Did you manage to do some good?"

She gave me a look. "I'm not sure," she said.

"What do you mean?"

She explained. According to her, there's a terrible moral bind you get in when you try to help starving people. If you supply relief over and over, they not only start to expect it, they lose the ability to look out for themselves. "You'd be amazed how quickly they lose their skills," she said. "They forget how to feed themselves." Instead, they become specialists at getting themselves fed by other people. "And at that point, you're no longer doing good, really. You aren't helping them out in an emergency. You've simply become their regular food-provider. You've turned them into clients and dependents."

"But if you don't help out, they die, right? So what do you do?" I asked.

She shrugged. She'd thought about that too, she told me, and really didn't know what to say.

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