Opinion

Felix Salmon

Don’t donate money to Japan

By Felix Salmon
March 14, 2011

Individuals are doing it, banks are doing it — faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.

Please don’t.

We went through this after the Haiti earthquake, and all of the arguments which applied there apply to Japan as well. Earmarking funds is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations and ensuring that they have to leave large piles of money unspent in one place while facing urgent needs in other places. And as Matthew Bishop and Michael Green said last year, we are all better at responding to human suffering caused by dramatic, telegenic emergencies than to the much greater loss of life from ongoing hunger, disease and conflict. That often results in a mess of uncoordinated NGOs parachuting in to emergency areas with lots of good intentions, where a strategic official sector response would be much more effective. Meanwhile, the smaller and less visible emergencies where NGOs can do the most good are left unfunded.

In the specific case of Japan, there’s all the more reason not to donate money. Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it. On top of that, it’s still extremely unclear how or where organizations like globalgiving intend on spending the money that they’re currently raising for Japan — so far we’re just told that the money “will help survivors and victims get necessary services,” which is basically code for “we have no idea what we’re going to do with the money, but we’ll probably think of something.”

Globalgiving, it’s worth pointing out, was created to support “projects in the developing world,” where lack of money is much more of a problem than it is in Japan. I’m not at all convinced that the globalgiving model can or should be applied directly to Japan, without much if any thought about whether it’s the best way to address the issues there.

That said, it’s entirely possible that organizations like the Red Cross or Save the Children will find themselves with important and useful roles to play in Japan. It’s also certain that they have important and useful roles to play elsewhere. So do give money to them — and give generously! And give money to other NGOs, too, like Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which don’t jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices. Just make sure it’s unrestricted. The official MSF position is exactly right:

The ability of MSF teams to provide rapid and targeted medical care to those most in need in more than 60 countries around the world – whether in the media spotlight or not – depends on the generous general contributions of our donors worldwide. For this reason, MSF does not issue appeals for support for specific emergencies and this is why we do not include an area to specify a donation purpose on our on-line donation form. MSF would not have been able to act so swiftly in response to the emergency in Haiti, as an example, if not for the ongoing general support from our donors. So we always ask our supporters to consider making an unrestricted contribution.

I’ve just donated $400 in unrestricted funds to MSF. Some of it might go to Japan; all of it will go to areas where it’s sorely needed. I’d urge you to do the same, rather than try to target money at whichever disaster might be in the news today.

Update: Some bright spark has set up a “Socks for Japan” drive. I’m not making this up. I trust that none of my readers are silly enough to send socks to Japan, but this is a great indication of how wasteful a lot of well-intentioned giving can be.

Comments
318 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Your point is well made, but many charities are now wise to the problem and specifically point out that overflow funds will be used as part of the general fund.

E.g. the British Red Cross appeal for the Christchuch earthquake says this:

“In the event that we receive more donations to the Japan Tsunami Appeal than the Japanese Red Cross and International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can reasonably and efficiently spend, any surplus funds will be used to help us prepare for and respond to humanitarian disasters both here in the UK and overseas. For more information visit http://www.redcross.org.uk“

Posted by patricio | Report as abusive
 

Felix,

Does your boss Peter Peterson know Japan is “printing money”. Maybe he needs to go on an emergency mission go tell them they can’t do that!

Oh, wait, there’s no such thing as “printing money” with a fiat currency and a floating exchange rate.

Posted by petertemplar | Report as abusive
 

Dear Felix,

perhaps you could explain the following to me, since I am by no means an expert in financial matters. Why are we to donate money to this or that NGO if Japan can just print that money ? Why would anyone donate for any one cause for that matter ? The only reason I can think of is that printing money actually costs a bit of … money. But since the central banks are so “generous” anyway, why should the population at large bother ? We can’t print money so we would actually give away value that can’t be replaced, unlike the banks which are only too happy to do so. I’m sorry but am I the only one trying to find an answer to this ?

Thank you!

Posted by fireflood | Report as abusive
 

Has anyone noticed the irony that Thomson Reuters is appealing for donations on behalf of the Red Cross for the Japan relief effort on its Twitter site?

Posted by globalnomad | Report as abusive
 

Reminds me of September 12th, 2001 when people started donating food (perishable and otherwise) to NYC. I remember a photo of some relief worker with stacks of cookies around them. As if all the Duane Reades somehow disappeared.

Good intentions are not always smart intentions.

Posted by dtc | Report as abusive
 

The help Japan needs is supplies of specialist search and rescue teams and equipment, not cash. It isn’t generally regarded a poor country – but then if the UK govt send overseas aid to countries with space programs and nuclear arms (India) then perhaps the world has turned upside down and socks are the solution…

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive
 

The help Japan needs is supplies of specialist search and rescue teams and equipment, not cash. It isn’t generally regarded a poor country – but then if the UK govt send overseas aid to countries with space programs and nuclear arms (India) then perhaps the world has turned upside down and socks are the solution…

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive
 

Only $400… you really are cheap. Where is your compassion?

Posted by TinyOne | Report as abusive
 

Fire,

No central bank can “print money”. That disappeared with the gold standard.

Ideally all governments would be efficient and ethical with foreign aid. Since they are not, donating to something like MFS is one way to make a difference.

Posted by petertemplar | Report as abusive
 

Hi Felix,
My name is Kevin Conroy and I work for GlobalGiving.org. Thank you for raising these questions as we also agree it’s important to make sure that international aid, be it for a disaster or another cause, is done in an efficient, transparent manner.

GlobalGiving has a long history of raising funds for international disasters and disbursing them to high-impact organizations. For instance, here are all of the projects we supported after the Haiti earthquake. http://www.globalgiving.org/haiti-earthq uake/ As a part of our platform, we require all projects to post reports noting what we’ve done with the funds. You can read about the impact these projects had here: http://www.globalgiving.org/haiti-earthq uake-updates/

For Japan, we set up a fund to collect donations from the public and will be distributing those funds to a variety of organizations on the ground. As of this moment, these funds with go to International Medical Corp, Save the Children, and Mercy Corps and their partner Peace Winds Japan. We are also sourcing grassroots organizations in Japan that are NOT getting the same kind of media coverage that the Red Cross is getting. It is our goal to support community-based efforts around the world and provide transparent updates. We will be posting more details to our fund as they become available.

We are very happy to discuss this with anyone. Feel free to email me at kconroy@globalgiving.org or tweet at us at http://www.twitter.com/GlobalGiving.

Thanks,
Kevin Conroy
GlobalGiving

Posted by kevinconroy | Report as abusive
 

Indeed this comment is absolutely nonsensical. I thought a reuters blog would have people writing who would understand a little bit about what they write.
1) Japan is NOT printing any money at all. (That would lower the exchange rate and increase inflation and be overall very bad to the economy. On the contrary, Japan is buying yens abroad. If you see the yen has actually increased value.
2) I donate money to organizations like the Japanese red cross that give money to the people directly. No matter how rich the country, and in Japan the people don’t have that much money (specially if you lost everything, money is always needed.
3) Of course there are lots of crisis areas in the world. I donate to japan because i have a particular relationship to japan.
4) the text begins with do not donate money, and then the writes says he has donate money.
I am not reading reuters blogs again, and i just bothered to go through the registration process because the article is revolting wrong.

Posted by francisco8104 | Report as abusive
 

I for one have no objection to charities like the Red Cross using the excess to ofset their own expenses. In order to donate money there has to be someone in that chair to take your money. Even if the person is free, the building, utilities, and insurance are not.This costs money. Japan is overwhelmed with needs right now such as food, water, potties, blankets, and medicine; the only way to get those items to them immediately is (you guessed it)money. So if Japans needs are met, then any excess can be put to the next disaster; where it occurs.

Posted by bixbysbigsur | Report as abusive
 

Felix Salmon, you irresponsible, self-righteous ass. I am looking at your blog post from the staffroom at a high school in Northern Japan. Your headline is extremely offensive.

Donate to the Red Cross and donate now:

http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/jap anquake2011.html

Posted by bschlabs | Report as abusive
 

“Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster.” So no countries of this plant should have helped U.S during Katrina, is that right?

9600 of my country’s people haven’t eaten anything since Friday meanwhile you are drinking Starbucks coffee and rich fat food… You disgust me.

Posted by megumi203 | Report as abusive
 

“Don’t donate money to Japan” is a terrible thing to say.
Obviously you have chosen the title of this article to get hits.

You’re basically saying don’t give them money, they are rich and can pay for everything.
As if to suggest they can afford to rebuild everything back to the way it was.

If you actually did any research, you will find they are actually in debt by 200% of GDP.
The only way the country could be described ‘rich’ is by it’s assets.
I’m not sure if you noticed, but a fair chunk of those assets are now gone.

Posted by mrgreen999 | Report as abusive
 

I can’t believe either the post or people’s response. The comments seem to indicate that people didn’t actually read the entire post, which indicates that donations are a positive, but donations earmarked to a specific target – “Japan-only” donations are not a good use of money.

On the other hand, most of the post is just begging for people to take offense. Seems awfully foolish to me. What could possibly be gained by offending people with inflammatory statements like this?

Posted by m741 | Report as abusive
 

BOJ may tehnically not be printing money, but it’s announced a JPY 15 trillion liquidity injection, which has the exact same effects and is often nick-named money-printing in media. Effects of this will be, in the long run, a weakened yen. francisco8104 above said that this would be bad to the economy, but matter of the fact is that both the BOJ and the GOJ have been trying to lower the high yen rate since the Lehman shock, but have been unable to because of political pressure from abroad. Japanese industry is very export-oriented and has taken a big hit because of the high yen. The same poster also said Japan would be hit by inflation because of this, but this will also be good news in Japan as the country has been battling deflation.

Jesper Koll, MD & Head of Japanese Equity Research at JPMorgan Securities Japan: “You are actually going to get an all out attack that actually is going to add to economic growth that may actually just do the trick of pulling Japan out of deflation”

Posted by morkas | Report as abusive
 

Felix Salmon makes outlandish statements to pump up a his own circulation. To say that Felix Salmon is an idiot would be an insult to all the idiots in this world. Felix Salmon cultivates more following even at the cost of people trying to cope. Good job Mr. Salmon. I would not call you a vulture because I do not want to insult the vultures.
You say government can print money to pay for the recovery. If it is to easy, why don’t you tell our own government to print more money to pay off the national debt, fully employ everyone, provide shelter for all our needy. You know it cannot be done. You pretend to be stupid on purpose to make your indecent remarks. To call you stupid would insult those who have no control of being stupid.

Enjoy you meals. Enjoy your meal ticket. It came at the expense of all those who follow your advice.

Smarter charity giving is important. Any body else would have worded better. Just think of all those extra Japanese missing out of water, food, shelter from the freezing cold, a life lost here and there. Felix Salmon of Reuters in a Felix Salmon.

Posted by nemesia | Report as abusive
 

Just who do you think you are, Felix Salmon?

How very dare you even think to belittle our country of Japan, let alone the work of these amazing charities and rescuers.

If you are giving your money begrudgingly (and boasting about how much) then we do not want your help.

Right now, the issue is not about nuclear power, it is not about apparent wealth. The issue is about respect and care and help for a nation traumatised by these awful events.

How can you even think of writing such a hurtful, stupid and pointless blog?

How dare you?

Posted by kasukabeshi | Report as abusive
 

Just who do you think you are, Felix Salmon?

How very dare you even think to belittle our country of Japan, let alone the work of these amazing charities and rescuers.

If you are giving your money begrudgingly (and boasting about how much) then we do not want your help.

Right now, the issue is not about nuclear power, it is not about apparent wealth. The issue is about respect and care and help for a nation traumatised by these awful events.

How can you even think of writing such a hurtful, stupid and pointless blog?

How dare you?

Posted by kasukabeshi | Report as abusive
 

The headline will grab eyeballs – which is a good thing, because the message is important. I only wish more people would actually read what the post says, and I wish people would stop making uninformed comments on matters they only have shallow knowledge of. The article is 100% correct.

Posted by morkas | Report as abusive
 

nemesis, why don’t you actually read up on economics 101? It’s common for governments/central banks to print up money in times of crisis. In the case of most economies, the long-term effects will usually be bad, but in the case of Japan, this could actually be great news.

Posted by morkas | Report as abusive
 

I’ll show my cards here; I work at Save the Children Australia and we’ve been working round the clock since Friday to help our team in Japan. From Haiti to Qld floodings, we’re responded to countless natural disasters and we’re learnt two things. First, the needs of children always get overlooked. Indeed, they are often not even counted on the ‘missing’ stats that get published by the hour. Second, dollars spent *before* an emergency in disaster readiness are worth many times more than a dollar raised after a disaster strikes. Which is why Save the Children work hard via our Children’s Emergency Fund to figure out the needs of families, kids and communities before the worst happens. Right now we’re setting up ‘safe areas’ for kids to be kids again, which in turn frees up the parents to figure out what on earth they are going to do next. It’s a cause worth giving to.

You can follow :

- our work on the ground through our one of our emergencies team in Japan.

http://www.savethechildren.org.au/blogs/ 957-the-spectre-of-a-nuclear-incident-lo oms-large-in-tsunami-affected-japan.html

Or on twitter @iansave

For my part, I’m happy to keep building the case for supporting and investing in the children in Japan and their families.

Posted by kenn.coleman | Report as abusive
 

Irresponsible “journalism”, at best. Reuters, shame on you! How many people will read just the headline and say, “Hey, I read in Reuters that we shouldn’t donate!”

As for the “Japan is a wealthy country …” line, gee, so countries should not have come to America’s aid during 9/11 or Katrina? After all, we are (or at least were) a “wealthy country.”

As much as it pains me because so much of the information this “writer” writes is incorrect or misleading, I agree with his point on unrestricted funds. HOWEVER, he shows that he has not done his homework and does NOT understand that “Giving” has evolved. People and organizations have learned. Many organizations will say that “surplus funds” may be used toward other humanitarian efforts, thus releasing them from the restrictions and chaos that earmarked funds can create.

To write and publish an article of this nature at a time like this when people are suffering and mourning is heartless and inhuman.

Posted by AzumaWind | Report as abusive
 

Incredibly irresponsible headline. Yes, I had to read the article twice over to verify that it was sensationally phrased to grab attention and hits. Let’s be honest here, in the age of tweets and Facebook shares, not everyone is going to go through an article with a fine tooth comb. Many will just gloss over it.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion in a blog, but to entitled an article “Don’t Donate Money To Japan” and then five paragraphs down: “That said….important and useful roles to play in Japan. It’s also certain that they have important and useful roles to play elsewhere. So do give money to them — and give generously!”

Much like misdirected funds, this is misdirected journalism.

And yes, like a few other commenters said before me: I’m sure the thousands of people in the Japan right now, in their dark hour of need and grief will appreciate Mr. Salmon’s call to the world – from the comfort and warmth of his blogging desk, well-fed, and hydrated- to NOT help Japan the only way so many of us are able to.

Posted by h30134 | Report as abusive
 

Hi Morkas

You agree with Felix Salmon because you took Economic 101? And this is your basis for your expertise in deciding to decreasing aid Japan. People are dying right now for want of water, food, shelter. Do you think that some babies might still be trapped? Do you really want to give your voice to this abomination?
Hitler’s Germany printed money for their war. Required a wheel barrel of currencies for a loaf of bread. You do have the deep understanding of economics… right?

Posted by nemesia | Report as abusive
 

Hi Nemesia, no, I’ve studied way beyond Economics 101, but you obviously have no grasp of economics whatsoever which is why I suggest you should start out with the most basic course. You also have no grasp of history – Germany was struck by hyperinflation in 1922 during the Weimar republic and had nothing to do with WWII, a decade or so before Hitler rose to power. Again, inflation is a possible outcome, but in Japan’s case, it could do the country good. Hyperinflation is extremely unlikely. -> http://www.cnbc.com/id/42079500

Posted by morkas | Report as abusive
 

Totally agree, i made the same point a couple days earlier on my blog
http://neouto.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/j apan-will-be-ok-save-your-sympathies-for -other-causes/

Posted by neouto | Report as abusive
 

Good on you Felix. Let’s try this summary:

Given that natural disasters strike unexpectedly around the world in rich and poor countries, what is the (a) most effective and (b) most ethical way to (c) prepare for and (d) respond to these events?

(Which may or may not be “black swans,” an argument for later.)

Seems clear that donating regularly to an NGO relief organization of your choice (perhaps Medicins Sans Frontiers, Red Cross, Mercy Corps) is good preparation, although a policy argument could be made that wealthy countries should fund relief preparedness and response through multilateral organizations (that is, taxes). You could sit at your dining room table and read at your leisure about each organization’s goals, governance and history before making a decision.

I am skeptical of organizations that appear to use catastrophes such as earthquakes as fundraisers.

(Felix’s suggested course of action is analogous to plopping some set amount of money regularly into your investment account, instead of reacting to every market swing.)

Posted by SelenesMom | Report as abusive
 

I don’t care what you write in the article, anyone at this time who titles an article “Don’t Donate To Japan” should be fired. If you want people to donate to legitimate organizations, title it “Please Donate to Legitimate Organizations”. I DID read the entire article and I am glad you donated, but who knows how many times over your donation will be canceled out by people reading the title of your article and deciding not to give money. You should be ashamed of yourself for even considering the title you used.

I live in Nagasaki, Japan (luckily far from the damage), and we are doing everything we can do collect and donate money. They need cash desperately. There are hundreds of thousands of people stranded in the mountains without food, water, or electricity. There are planned 2-3 hour power outages across a big slice of northern Japan, which will no doubt cost more lives. I’m all for the free exchange of ideas, but the idea that anyone could even suggest that people not donate money right now makes me sick to my stomach. Please, change the title of your article before it costs more donations, and thus more lives. This is serious.

Posted by efranz | Report as abusive
 

You people think Japan is going to have inflation??? Wow. Staggering.

They are a rich, productive country like the US. They are not Zimbabwe or the Weimar Republic. Their debt is meaningless given their sovereign currency.

Posted by petertemplar | Report as abusive
 

my comment is somewhat off-topic:

you close-minded human (not by judging)..this happening is not about where the money will go and what for will it be used..as long as it’s for Japan..it’s for Japan..let them be the one to decide where the money will go and how will it be used..the issue is about lending aid or whatever help you could offer to the needy… i live in Philippines but even though are country is still in verge of development.. we developed the characteristic of being hospitable enough even though life is hard.. that is why many of us immediately sent letters of approval/visitation saying we are to step in Japan for extra health care services and rescue operations.. we show much respect and hospitality to foreign countries not just because of their achievements but because we were taught so since we were a child which considers all populace.. and even in school..some of my teachers even brag how this or that country and its people stand-out.. that is why they try their best to train us not just to equalize any of those countries but for us to live in a better future.. our system is not good as others..true..but that doesn’t mean we don’t know or feel anything… your blog seems to be off when it comes to being open-minded… everything is not just about the economy, wealth, knowledge, how great who or which and how high could one be..
most of the time or maybe all the time.. it will take all of us (ourselves and others) to bring dreams to reality.. same as to make that land a better place to stay.. you won’t reach the stand where you are now without the presence and encouragement of those people around you..

no matter how intelligent you are..without the sense of understanding and of the idea of being wise in making decisions.. it won’t take you far.. at least try to lean back and see the roads you’ve already passed at times..those experience will be help you keep you moving..

Japan will stand again.. not just because their wealthy and talented but because they have each other and their not ashamed to consider help from other nations.. know always that you are included in my prayers.. ^_^ God Bless and take care.. Japan..

one more thing i really want to go to Japan a long time now.. that’s why I am trying to learn their language in advance if ever i thought of getting my doctorate for mechanical engineering..”if i graduate finely”.. ^_^ I am still in 3rd yr college though..18yrs old..

to Mr Felix.. try to open your self-up a little bit then you’ll see a great difference in the way of your thinking..if you think that your money is not well spent and is questionable to where it will go then don’t use it..period!.. and CHANGE THE TITLE OF THIS BLOG!

:after all: blogs are about suggestions/comments of what you feel or think..right? ^_^ no bad grudge or ill intention intended.. for my post..

Posted by susapo12345 | Report as abusive
 

This has become relevant to some of the comments:
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/03/ch oose-help-or-show-concern.html

Posted by dWj | Report as abusive
 

Incidentally: I remain with Felix in the pro-sincerity camp.

Posted by dWj | Report as abusive
 
 

Well Felix, now that the anger has subsided, I can comment. Terrible headline, even though you probably are smug that some agree with you.

People really are desperate to help, and those who are intelligent know enough to ensure they are donating to a charity that will do the most good and not fly by night organizations. That is really all that matters. They are following their hearts.

Now I do understand your point about donating to causes that go where the need is, and there are always disasters and people going hungry all over the world… even in your back yard. But people should ALWAYS be contributing to those organizations. If it is a one time donation, nothing you say will change that. People are either giving or they are not.

One thing I do know, as a humanitarian, is that telling people not to give, gives one more reason to not give at all.. and that is just irresponsible.

Knowing you are so well read and yet throwing in that horrible headline to attract more attention is even more irresponsible. You are read by people who have money to invest, and so should be speaking as such and giving advise, but not all will understand the message. Most won’t read the article. And many that do will also not give because they are inherently selfish and could care less (other then the markets are nosediving…) and less so that you gave selfish thought credence

Lastly, as you are drumming up support for a fund you believe works better then most (being you only listed one) you haven’t been paying attention. Reputable charities that provide emergency disaster relief have clauses which funnel the excess funds to those in need. Many also come together in a coalition in times of need to ensure money goes to emergency response as well as taking care of needs following the disaster (which are sometimes the heavier toll)

Being you were happy to note you gave $400 (which is a pretty paltry sum given your salary and I would be embarrassed to have added) and have not also bragged about your “other” year-long contributions so it would show your money is where your mouth is… shows you are not as charitable, or knowledgeable, as you think.

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive
 

I do think the title of this piece is a very poor choice.

The advice itself – to give generously with unrestricted donations – seems sensible. However, my partner, who works as a therapist in mental health, brought up several psychological aspects that are missing from a purely economic analysis:

First, donors want to help people they see on the news as having lost their homes, their families, everything. There is an emotional need to make that connection and to try to provide help as directly as possible. Raising funds around a specific disaster taps into that desire and probably raises more money than more general fund-raising would. If people feel they are connected to a cause and can direct the funds to where they feel the most need, they are more likely to donate. Thus the direct appeal for a specific disaster will raise more money than a more general appeal would.

Secondly, there is a psychological dimension to receiving aid from around the world. We saw that with Katrina in the US – knowing that people were donating from all over the world made a positive difference in how people affected by the disaster felt. Even if that support was insignificant in the overall recovery effort, it still sends an important signal.

More important is to make sure that aid is actually directed to what is needed in Japan (and other places in need), rather than by what donors in other countries think is needed.

John

Posted by Ragweed | Report as abusive
 

People, the title was merely to grab your attention. You don’t need to make a fuss about this. Writers, news reporters, etc. use that method all the time. Are you going to argue with every one of them? Then please stop being ignorant.

I thought this writer was being a jerk also, but as stated at the end of his article, we see that he’s actually donating his own money anyways. He was simply stating that we can try to be good Samaritans and donate to “feel good” about ourselves, but it may not be helping the main cause. He’s advocating that we do a little research as to where we’re putting our money, so that we’re not donating it to some random cause that won’t directly help Japan.

Now that ordeal about Japan being rich was ignorant in my opinion, and I say that because not many of us know Japan’s economy.

@mrgreen999 Your statement about the Japan’s assets is narrow-minded. For example, I borrow $100 billion, and I make something somewhat spectacular, so in my assets, I only make $25 billion. I’m still in debt to pay off what I’ve borrowed, but with the billions I have, I wouldn’t be considered rich? Maybe this is a bad example, but try to look it at from different perspectives. Japan decided to be in the kind of economy (technology, media, etc.) they were in before the disaster, but they’ve grown a name for themselves that makes them renown. So, yes, I would consider Japan to be ‘rich’ (just not as ‘rich’ after the incident).

Posted by expo_marker | Report as abusive
 

It’s Africa you should avoid donating money to. Yes the pictures are very heart rending but the reality on the ground is that very little ever gets to the people who need it and we are creating a dependency culture in a number of countries. I have lived in parts of Africa and what it needs is honest governance not donations. Better to put pressure on politicians to freeze the assets of corrupt African leaders. The trouble is that the Chinese do not care who they deal with and will pay off anyone they need to.

Posted by pavlaki | Report as abusive
 

@hsvkitty, that was a well-reasoned and thoughtful response. I doubt that Felix’s salary is all that impressive, but $400 did strike me as an odd number. Perhaps it was the liquid funds immediately available in his budget.

To others, I’ve never got the sense that Felix trolled for page hits. I think he’s advocating strongly, something that he often does. In the case of Haiti, much of the donated money hasn’t even been spent yet, and is often at cross-purposes, because of earmarks. Felix is not always right, but he’s not shy about arguing a defensible position.

Money isn’t an immediate problem in Japan. The Japanese government, and other governments in a position to immediately help, aren’t asking whether they can afford to do so. But a donation today by anyone other than a government with the ability to project rescue forces and to establish and maintain a logistics line won’t help for months.

On the other hand, Felix, a disaster is often what it takes for people to give at all, or give more if they are already doing so. Don’t ignore the psychological benefits of such earmarks. It’s really here that your post strikes me as tone-deaf.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive
 

I spoke to charities and they seem to be largely stymied in getting aid into Japan at this time. Hence it appears that, for the moment, such groups are not able to provide direct, meaningful assistance in Japan.

It seems to me that, for now, the Red Cross is the best choice. But I decided to donate DIRECTLY to the Japanese Red Cross, rather than funneling money through the American Red Cross to their Japanese affiliate.

That’s a bit harder than you would think. The Japanese Red Cross website is either down, or does not have an English language version.

Google to the rescue. Google has set up a special donation web page where you can give directly to the the Japanese Red Cross. A minor disadvantage is that you have to use a credit card, but it certainly seems to be a secure website. I don’t like paying cc charges to make donations, but this seems to be the best and fastest way to contribute.
http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/jap anquake2011.html

If you are more comfortable going through the American Red Cross for Japan efforts, here’s their link:
http://american.redcross.org/site/PageSe rver?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG0000000 00&s_subsrc=RCO_BigRedButton

But note that it is not clear that the your money will indeed go to Japanese relief efforts — they have a disclaimer.

Posted by Richard-Rider | Report as abusive
 

All I can say is, “Salmon…..You ‘Nin-Com-Poop!” You have swam in the pool of artificial intelligence too long. Your mind, eyes, and heart are covered with scales and barnacles. Once those scales become so thick a fungus sets in. This causes the underneath to weep, turn red, and itch. A deep cleansing dip in the common sense pool will ease and may even cure you.
This group scrambling to be in the elitist intelligencia (this includes journalists, Republicans, Democrats and anyone else who struggles to be in the ‘high brow’ society) are infected and it is time for them to be quarantined!
My money, earned the hard way and not printed, will go to Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse to help the Japanese people.

Posted by ZaneT | Report as abusive
 

I think you might be generalizing a little too much when you criticize disaster-specific funds. I agree that the ones opened after the Haiti and Japan earthquakes are likely to be inefficient and ineffective, and there are better alternatives to consider. But, as much respect as I have for MSF and the Red Cross, large organizations can still form disaster specific funds. UNICEF and other UN affiliated organizations come readily to mind.

Maybe your gripe should be with accountability of charities, rather than their authenticity? A lot of these charities which claim to specifically help Japan have no accountable measure of saying so. MSF avoids this liability by indicating that they have discretion over the disbursement of funds, and similarly organizations like the Red Cross have worked towards developing some measures of accountability (though in the case of the Red Cross I’m not entirely certain they’re transparent).

Posted by sanchk | Report as abusive
 

All I can say is that the amount of money donated to Japan ought to be of the same magnitude as the amount of money that Japan donated to us for Katrina relief.

Posted by Idiotmitten | Report as abusive
 

Found this….

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said that it would provide $200,000 to the American Red Cross to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. Japan also identified needs in affected regions via the U.S. government and provided up to $1,000,000 in emergency supplies such as tents, blankets and power generators if they receive requests from the U.S. for such assistance. Private and corporate donations totaled over $13,000,000.[33] One Japanese individual, Takashi Endo, donated USD $1,000,000 from his personal funds to Katrina relief efforts.[15]

There you have it. Limit our donations to $15,200,000.

Posted by Idiotmitten | Report as abusive
 

What a piece of digusting crap. Too bad I couldn’t think about the “it’s a wealthy country blah blah BS” at the time of September 11th. I – a European- gave $100 to the American Red Cross to help shocked Americans.

Therefore Mister Salmon, I beg you to write a letter of recommendation based on your noble arguments, I ask for a refund. Shame on you !!!

Posted by balsasan | Report as abusive
 

I agree that we have to be sensible about how and to whom we give money for charities of any causes. But I must say that the writer’s logic about giving money is too simplistic and short-circuited. Please let me throw one basic concept of economics. All monies circulating the world basically equal to all values (goods and services) that exist in the world. We cannot add more values just by printing more money. We use money in lieu of materials and human actions. Printing a lot of money only decreases its value as currency. There are countries historically that did just that in war times and some third world countries. And we know the result—bagful of money to buy a loaf of bread. There are times when governments add money into their economies for good reasons. US did that recently to stimulate its economy after recession. And Japan is doing it now. But they are only for short-term boost of economy and not for a long time solution. All reasonable governments know that and they know they have to do so carefully.

We send money because it is most effective way to send materials. If someone wants to give groceries to his family in Mexico for instance, he sends money instead of buying groceries himself and ship them abroad because he knows his family will have more food that way. Same applies here. Saying it is useless to give money to Japan because it is a rich country and its government is printing money is like saying people in the world did not need to send all relief they sent for Katrina victims because US is the richest country in the world and US government can prints all money needed to help the victims. In fact, it is same logic as saying we don’t need to pay taxes because US government can prints all money needed for all social services and that national deficit does not matter because our government can print more money.

Giving money helps. It is up to you to whom and how you give money. Yes, let’s all be careful, and check how charities actually use the money we give. But your goodwill is not useless if you decide to act.

Posted by hwatanabe | Report as abusive
 

It is absurd to say that Japan does not need money right now. That money turns directly into food, water, and supplies. If you do not think Japan needs money, you have not grasped the magnitute of this disaster. This is the fourth biggest earthquake in recorded world history, followed by tsunamis that hit the top third of the pacific coast of Japan, some rising up to 20 meters and traveling several kilometers inland, destroying everything along the way. 5 days later, strong aftershocks are continuing and causing more damage. The Japanese stock market fell by 10% yesterday.

Any country would need money after something like this. I don’t want to compare, but this really is Katrina on steroids. It is much, much bigger.

Posted by efranz | Report as abusive
 

When my brother broke his femur I ran 8 miles each day to visit.

Now my brother Japan has been in a terrible wreck.

I have been out of work two years and have depleted my 401k.

I have just donated another 50 dollars to the Red Cross and hope to God if there is anything they need that the Red cross can figure it out and not waste this effort.

There is not much more I can do since I can’t swim the pacific and I am challenged in other ways.

I wish everyone comfort in accomplishment, an extra smile, fresh coffee, water or chocolate, a delicious meal & treat, warmth, safety and security for those you care for and more is easily found and enjoyed by you.

God bless and all my hopes and prayers are with you Japan.

Posted by phyvyn | Report as abusive
 

Mr Sapmon has no idea what he is talking about.
I found this comment ESPECIALLY interesting “..organizations like Save the Children will find themselves with important and useful roles to play in Japan…So do give money to them — and give generously! And give money to other NGOs, which don’t jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices…”

I have been doing Humanitarian work with NGOs since 1993.
Including wars in Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and disasters like the Tsunami, Pakistan Earthquake, among many other countries.
And I can tell you that Save the Children is on e of the absolute NGOs that totally..”jumps on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices.
They are consider the masters of the game of “Spin”.
Use the disaster to the full extent to milk the most money.
Mr. Salmon is a babbling idiot who knows nothing about what he is talking about.

Posted by sirfish | Report as abusive
 

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