I’ve been to India twice and both times I have been received with the utmost hospitality and enthusiasm. I loved the food, the music, the diversity, and the more-than-occasional chaos. Most of all I loved how the people engaged me so directly, and how every moment was so full of human drama and stories.
Since India has given me so much, I wish to make a merit-based gift to India in return.
My new book Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist offers a chapter on how to help other people. In the book I suggest several principles:
1. Cash is often the best form of aid.
2. Give to those who are not expecting it, and,
3. Don’t require the recipients to do anything costly to get the money.
I would like to live by these principles, and I am asking you to help me.
If you want to try a new form of charity, keep reading here, because I am about to send money to people in India, to people who are not expecting it and who will not be asked to do much of anything to get it.
You are about to tell me the names of people I should send money to. I will then send money.
Here is the plan in more detail:
1. The recipient must live in India and receive the money in India. I just need enough information to send the money via Western Union.
2. Send your email to DiscoverYourInnerEconomist@gmail.com.
Only emails to this address will be considered. The email must contain
the legal name (as documented on ID papers) of a person who will
receive the money, his or her state in India, and the city of his or
her local Western Union branch. You can be the person yourself, or you
can send the information on behalf of someone you know.
3. With your email, send a one sentence proposal of how the money will help India. I am keen to send much of the money to poor people, either directly or indirectly, but of course India is not just about poor people. Proposals of all kinds are eligible, including using the funds to help expand your steel factory, and yes using the money to open a new call center. But you must not give the money to beggars.
4. Only one email per person is allowed.
5. By the end of the week I will send $1000 to India, via Western Union. One person will receive $500, the other recipients will get $100 a piece; I will email the wire numbers to each approved person.
6. Recipients of the money will execute their plans for helping India.
7. If/when Discover Your Inner Economist is published in India, further names will receive transfers. I will send at least the net, post-tax value of my Indian advance. (If the sale of foreign rights is a multi-country deal, I’ll apportion it by relative sizes of book markets for this kind of title.)
I’ve thought long and hard about how to keep the funds away from scammers, and here is the best I can do: All responders are eligible, but the selection algorithm will favor early entrants. In other words, MR readers (and their friends) with connections to India have the best chance to read this post early, respond, and thus receive a transfer.
So I would like to ask you a favor, especially if you are Indian or have connections with India. Please make your nomination as promptly as you possibly can. (It is also OK to forward this link to people you trust for their nominations; please do.) This will ensure worthy entries toward the beginning of the email directory. I believe that MR readers and their friends will put the money to good use and I am asking you to help me in this manner.
One final request. I am asking my readers — yes that’s you — to also make merit-based donations to India.
You may have noticed that Alex and I have stopped asking for MR donations; we are happy to be prospering. Would you instead consider sending some money to India? I already have had several people pledge money off-line. Remember our MR motto?: "Small steps toward a much better world."
Making your gift is simple. Just email me at IndiaMerit@gmail.com and ask for names and emails of recipients. You also can specify whether you want your money to go to the poor or to an Indian business. You then send the money yourself and email the recipient the Western Union number of your transfer. You can even send the money on-line.
No, you do not get a tax deduction but your money goes right to the source, with zero overhead and waste. Have you ever believed that remittances do more good than bureaucratic foreign aid? I know I have. I believe we should be experimenting more with zero-overhead giving (see pp.192-6 in my book), and I am asking you to be in on the ground floor of that experiment.
I know that MR has some very wealthy and very generous readers who even make seven-figure donations. If you are one of these people, would you consider a larger gift of $10,000 or more? You can distribute the money to as many or as few names as you like. Just let me know your plan, and how many email addresses I should forward, and the rest is up to you. I will keep your identity anonymous unless otherwise instructed. (If you are a potential recipient of money, but want money only from me and don’t want your email forwarded to others, just let me know in the email itself.)
Addendum: In the comments section, please offer your ideas to others for how to use or give away the money. You can do this whether or not you have a connection to India.