Markets in everything Cambodian fake orphan edition

by on February 2, 2017 at 1:04 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Travel | Permalink

This might be something for your “markets in everything” series. Swiss (French) TV has uncovered that many orphans in Cambodian orphanages are actually not really orphans. These children are just their to meet the demand of altruistic Swiss to help poor Cambodian orphans. These Swiss actually pay to help a few weeks at an orphanage and to teach English or other things deemed useful (maybe so they can signal how altruistic they are to their friends).

Here’s the original TV report (French):

And here’s an article in a newspaper (German):

That is from an email by Luzius Meisser.

1 Turkey Vulture February 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

“those new service sector jobs”

2 Ray Lopez February 2, 2017 at 1:27 pm

You can’t deny the Swiss are doing good however: teaching English, unless you are anti-globalization.

3 The Other Jim February 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Easy fix: virtue-signalling Swiss should go help orphans in Yemen and Somalia and Sudan.

CNN/NYT has been saying for a week straight that there is absolutely reason to fear those nations. Unless you’re a psycho with an irrational hatred of Muslims, there is no reason not to go.

Hop to it!

4 msgkings February 2, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Why would anyone want to help orphans? Just to look good to your friends I guess. Orphans are lame.

5 Ricardo February 2, 2017 at 3:52 pm

In fairness, the whole “volunteer vacation” concept is pretty dubious. A qualified English teacher from India, the Philippines or maybe Malaysia could be brought over and hired at a fraction of what these Swiss volunteers spend.

6 anon February 2, 2017 at 4:02 pm

I agree, but I observe that many humans value “doing” differently and more highly than check writing.

Going to Uganda to hand out bed nets is horribly inefficient, but you did it.

7 dan1111 February 3, 2017 at 6:33 am

Yeah, but if these volunteers don’t do this, most likely a lot of that money will be spent on a traditional vacation. An even less efficient way of helping people. Also such trips tend to raise awareness of and sympathy for the new of people in that part of the world (and probably subsequent giving, I would guess).

If you are thinking “should I spend $2000 on a volunteer trip, or donate it to an organisation that is embedded locally to help?”, It’s clear the latter is more efficient. But this is often not the set of choices people are considering. I think such trips do good.

Of course there is the issue of verifying that the program is not fraudulent and is effective (as this story illustrates), but that applies to both kinds of giving.

8 DaveS February 5, 2017 at 8:32 am

I agree completely. Part of the mission of just about any agency involved in legitimate development work is to educate people in wealthier countries about the needs and to develop their own donor bases. If such visits are well organized and in line with the local needs and the abilities of the visitors, they are of value both in the immediate moment and in long term program development. Most people don’t just write checks for $2,000 sight unseen. They may start writing them later if they have a personal attachment to the work. It’s true their are fraudsters, just as in any field, and it’s important to do due diligence at all stages of traveling and donating.

9 So Much For Subtlety February 2, 2017 at 6:19 pm

College admission is getting tougher and tougher. There is a whole world of fake Gap Year “charities” which will take your money and enable you to do very little for a year in a tropical climate while pretending to help. Looks good on your CV.

10 Thiago Ribeiro February 2, 2017 at 7:21 pm

“College admission is getting tougher and tougher.”
Not so many years ago, Krugman was mentioning that, according to data, lots of students who wouldn’t have been admited years afo, now are being admited (I doubt he was called affirmative action, I got the i,pression he was talking about falling general educational standards). Whu not just study harder instead of going to Cambodia?

11 too hot for MR February 2, 2017 at 9:58 pm

How do you square this with the observation that today’s college students are generally idiots?

12 So Much For Subtlety February 3, 2017 at 4:55 am

Too many people are admitted to college. But at the same time, and for the same reason, examinations are mostly worthless as a means of measuring ability. What is more, what little use they have, is ignored by colleges. After all, Caltech’s solution – letting in the smartest students – is obviously sensible, it clearly works, but it gives no power or influence to the Admissions office. I mean, five people could probably do all of Caltech’s admissions. No parents would suck up to you or offer you tickets under the table. What is the fun of that?

So the bureaucracy demands an endlessly flexible (i.e. useless and corrupt) and complex admission system that employs hundreds.

Which means upper middle class parents need to signal their upper middle classedness in some other way. Such as sending little Aurelia to Cambodia for a year to teach English. Even if, in fact, she stayed in a four star hotel with a pool.

13 too hot for MR February 3, 2017 at 12:39 pm

I generally agree with you except that the bulk of the comment doesn’t follow from the line that “examinations are mostly worthless.” That would seem to justify the whole edifice and put you on a par with “IQ isn’t real” and “Hi, I’m Nathan.”

14 So Much For Subtlety February 4, 2017 at 1:35 am

College has expanded from about 5-10% of the population to 40-50%. There is no way that standards can be maintained at the same level. The examinations have gotten significantly easier in recent times.

However exams are not the main problem. Caltech relies in little else and it does fine.

15 Thor February 3, 2017 at 2:21 am

The lame ones are indeed lame… and there are presumable those who are also left handed and nearsighted. But at least the Cambodian orphans can’t be red headed.

16 anon February 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Yes, actually going out to where (you think) the orphans are is pure “signaling.”

I approve of the Swiss effort, but also the Cambodian. Hilarious and pragmatic. Still an effective net transfer.

17 albatross February 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Yeah, that was my thought, too. I’m not sure the Swiss are doing any less good with the fake orphans than they’d have been doing with real orphans, overall.

18 Michael S February 2, 2017 at 8:47 pm

Surely unless the Swiss efforts here are actually being harmful, then it’s good, right? What difference does it make if it’s “signalling”, or what have you (not that you could really tell the difference). Is it not a good thing to be going out and doing what you can to help?

Maybe I’m not cynical enough for this world.

19 Amigo February 2, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Certainly not cynical enough for this comment section where babies are eaten as snacks.

20 Thor February 3, 2017 at 2:23 am

“Easy fix: virtue-signalling Swiss should go help orphans in Yemen and Somalia and Sudan.”

Or, pop over to Germany and help some Syrians? It’s not far!

21 rayward February 2, 2017 at 1:45 pm

The phenomenon is the result of a combination of naive Swiss who wish to help children and Cambodian con artists who wish to take their money.

22 Li Zhi February 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Hey, Tyler! their =/= there (please fix typo) Sad part is, there probably ARE real orphans in real earnest working orphanages which might benefit from the charity. But then again, maybe the costs are too great (vetting, supervision, record-keeping, etc.)

23 too hot for MR February 2, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Why is he supposed to fix typos in quoted emails? The writer is presumably European; take a Valium.

24 Li Zhi February 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm

which =/= who, LOL

25 dearieme February 2, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Is this more or less of a problem than all the Syrian child refugees invading Europe, who seem to be, in large measure, not Syrian, not refugees, and not children?

26 cliff arroyo February 2, 2017 at 4:25 pm

“Syrian child refugees invading Europe, who seem to be …not Syrian, not refugees, and not children”


27 Boris_Badenoff February 2, 2017 at 4:47 pm

So we laugh at the Swiss for devoting a few weeks to serving phony orphans so they can feel altruistic, but we hail Jimmy Carter for riding a limo to a construction site, putting on a carpenter’s belt, spending ten minutes posing for photos with a hammer before jumping back in the limo and driving away, and we even write checks to the phony “deserving poor” recipients (who statistically default at more than double the rate of non-subsidized mortgagees) so we can share his feeling of altruism?

Hypocrisy: it’s what’s for dinner!

28 Thiago Ribeiro February 2, 2017 at 7:23 pm

But what is there for dessert?

29 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 2, 2017 at 11:58 pm

I have no respect for poor Jimmy Carter, who I believe, in my heart of hearts, never received Jesus into his heart, despite his claims: he has profited well from his religious gestures with no public repentance for his ambitious and long-standing coldness towards the unborn, particularly the unborn with minority parents: coldness to the unborn of any race is a sign of someone who has never received Jesus into his heart. I hope he has publicly repented and i just missed it! If he has not publicly repented, let me say that it is sad, sad, sad to see such an old man so silent and so afraid to criticize his younger self! I pray for people like him every day: it is a hard thing to say one is Christian for worldly purposes. I did not laugh at the Swiss who were described: I was touched. Thomas Aquinas, who died at a younger age than the current age of the average commenter here, stated that people have a need for joy, and when they fail to appreciate the humble joy of being a loving child of God they run to fleeting and silly pleasures to satisfy their human hunger and thirst for intensity in life. We were created to have joy in our life: laughter is good, but not at the expense of diminishing ourselves to the level of cold-hearted mockers.

30 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2017 at 12:04 am

the wish to pray is a prayer in itself

31 carlospln February 3, 2017 at 1:00 am

President James Earl Carter has saved more lives than all US Presidents put together.

Cynical prick.

32 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2017 at 9:58 pm

Carlospin – I have never thought of Carter as cynical before I read your vulgar comment. I don’t think you really know what you are talking about. Carter could have saved millions of lives in his own country if he were a real Christian and not a “hypocritical” Christian. Good for him for supporting basic medical procedures elsewhere, and I don’t blame him, or any other rich person, for taking as much credit as they can for their own good deeds and the good deeds of others – that does not make him cynical!!! One is glad he did not totally waste his life. That being said, he did not care much about Americans, and very little about the black Americans whom he considered himself superior to every day of his life, to judge by his actions, and to judge by his nasty and never-repented happiness with the Planned Parenthood eugenics centers in black neighborhoods. Well, maybe he was cynical.

33 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2017 at 10:25 pm

For the record, while I greatly respect Jimmy Carter in one respect – he set an example that, if we are not following it, we should follow – spend countless hours on humanitarian activities – do you not realize how racist it is to say that, were it not for clever kind and rich white benefactor Jimmy Carter, all the intelligent and rich and energetic and kind Africans of this world would have let their children die by the millions, and would have ignored an easy preventative to those unnecessary deaths? And if I am wrong and he is this great luminous secular saint you say he is, why has he never said a word about the evil of Planned Parenthood eugenics facilities preferentially locating near black neighborhoods?

34 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2017 at 11:02 pm

please don’t get over-defensive by the way I was not implying that you are a racist; while I think Jimmy Carter is obviously one, most of his admirers are not.

35 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2017 at 11:51 pm

Don’t hate on me pray for poor old Jimmy

36 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro February 4, 2017 at 7:27 pm

and no more vulgarities please, my friend.

37 cfh February 2, 2017 at 4:50 pm

I blame excessive regulation for the Cambodian orphan shortage.

38 Thiago Ribeiro February 2, 2017 at 7:22 pm

I blame Cambodian parents insistence on being alive.

39 Thor February 3, 2017 at 2:25 am

They wanted to be Brazilian, of course, but Cambodian was the best they could achieve under the circumstances.

40 Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2017 at 3:15 am

I guess if everyone were Brazilian, being Brazilian would not be an advantage. Where everyone is special, no one is special.

41 So Much For Subtlety February 2, 2017 at 5:36 pm

It is not just the Swiss. This has been a well known phenomenon for a long time in Cambodia. Presumably it is true elsewhere as well.

In fact didn’t Madona adopt an “orphan” or two who weren’t actually orphans?

42 Amigo February 2, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Sometimes people trying to do good will be scammed. One solution is to not try to do any good.

43 too hot for MR February 2, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Count me in.

44 Anoni February 3, 2017 at 7:21 pm

Or you could take Christ’s command to love your neighbor and help the samaritan encountered along the road literally. Help your neighbor, because you know them and know when help is needed and when its a con. Help the person encountered by chance on the side of the road, because you can observe their genuine need. Help the people within your closest concentric circles of loyalty. Don’t go across the world to help somebody.

Christ meant exactly what he said in these verses, its not a metaphor, and it works.

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