A theory of good intentions

Paul Niehaus has a new paper, and here is the abstract:

Why is other-regarding behavior so often misguided?  I study a new explanation grounded in the idea that altruists want to think they are helping.  Frictions arise because perceptions and reality can diverge ex post, especially when helping remotely (as for example with international development projects).  Among other things the model helps explain why donors have a limited interest in learning about effectiveness, why charities market based on need rather than effectiveness, and why beneficiaries may not be able to do better than to accept this situation.  For policy-makers, the model implies a generic trade-off between quantity and quality of generosity.

When in doubt, self-deception about helping is the next best thing to helping itself, and cheaper to produce.  If I recall properly, the original pointer was from Michael Clemens.


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