Sunday, February 25, 2007

Thoughts on Peter Singer's Book

“Writings on an Ethical Life” is an anthology of excerpts, essays, and articles by Peter Singer on a variety of ethical questions. I don’t recommend this book as I fundamentally disagree with many of the basic assumptions and conclusions of Dr. Singer. However, I must say that he clearly states his assumptions and then explores the implications of these with incredible intellectual integrity. My next few posts will be some truly half baked reflections on my reading of this book.

The first thing I want to say is very weak on my part because I remember reading this but I couldn’t actually find it anywhere in the highlights I made in the book when I read it. I don’t want to reread it. So, I’m going to have to depend on memory. Somewhere in there he discussed the impact of one’s belief in evolution verses creation. He indicated that one’s belief in either of these will likely significantly impact one’s ethical views. I think this is a really good point. However, he went on to say that as far as he knows all truly intellectual individuals that are affiliated with our academic institutions don’t believe in creation. They believe in evolution and because of this he did not feel the need to address the implications a creationist view has on ethics. This is the one area where I felt he lacked integrity. Basically he is saying that because the people in his club, the academic crowd, don’t believe in creation it is not a legitimate point of view with out taking the time to defend that position.

As someone who believes in creation, this, I feel, is one of the fundamental flaws in his system of ethics.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wonder Extended

Okay, I’ve been a bad blogger. I was out of town and I haven’t kept things up to date. I don’t have anything too great to post at this time but I thought I would jump on the “Wonder” band wagon from Mythic Reality a few weeks back. This weekend I was at the Mall of America at the Rain Forest Café. We sat right next to this waterfall fountain thing that had a giant statue of Atlas holding up the world. There were lights and waterfalls and lots of water shooting around. A little girl maybe three years old walked up with her grandma. The little girl squeezed past our table as grandma gave her permission and watched. The girl got as close as she could and took it all in. She looked up at the statue and all around at the lights and water fall. She shifted over to get a better view. She was awestruck and quietly soaked in all the sensations. After a few minutes she went back and took her grandma’s hand and they walked away.

It was a joy to me to watch another person look at a new part of the world for her with so much wonder.

Friday, February 9, 2007

History of Micro Finance – Grameen Bank

Mohammed Yunis, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, as a young economics professor in the mid 70s was the Head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh. During that time the country was going through a famine. He found this quite frustrating as after all of his education he had no tools that enabled him to help solve the situation.

He went out and made a list of all the very poor people he knew. He had 42 people on his list and after talking to them he determined that for all of them put together they needed a total of $27 to improve their situation. So he loaned them each the money they needed out of his own pocket. They each paid the money back and improved their life.

One person was a lady who made bamboo chairs. She did not have the few cents needed to buy the materials to make her chairs each day. So she borrowed the money from a money lender who required that she sell her chairs to him at a drastic discount to the market. This kept her in a poverty trap of never being able earn enough money to buy her own materials and sell her chairs at market price and thus earn a much more livable wage. Dr. Yunis loaned her the money to buy the materials herself and from the profits she made by selling her chairs at the market price she was able to pay back her loan and break out of the poverty trap.

This was the beginning of GRAMEEN BANK which was founded by Dr. Yunis.

Based on the information I have the bank has had a total of 6.61 million borrowers 97 per cent of which are women. The bank has 2,226 branches. It works in 71,371 villages with a total staff of 18,795. The amount of loans disbursed by Grameen Bank, since inception, is US$ 5.72 billion. $ 5.07 billion has been repaid. Currently they have outstanding loans of $ 457.52 million

You can get more information about Grameen Bank at

Friday, February 2, 2007

History of Micro Finance – ACCION

Founded in 1961 by Joseph Blatchford, Accion is the oldest Micro Finance organization in the Western Hemisphere. Joseph was a young man who wanted to help Latin American Urban poor by implementing various infrastructure projects. He worked on projects like installing electricity and sewer lines, starting training and nutrition programs, and building schools and community centers.

According to former ACCION director Terry Holcombe, in the 1970s the Accion team made this observation. "We began to sense that a school or a water system didn't necessarily have long-term impact. We were simply reorganizing the resources that a community already had within it, rather than increasing their resources."

They also observed two phenomena: First, Most Urban Poor worked at Micro enterprises making products like belts or selling food items. Second, most credit they obtained came from loan sharks at rates as high as 10% per day.

In 1973 Accion began to experiment in small loans at reasonable interest rates to people in Latin America. This experiment was successful and their program grew In the 1980s they began to tap into commercial credit and established Bancosol in Bolivia. Bancosol was the first commercial bank dedicated to lending to micro enterprises.

Today Accion works in Latin America, Africa, Central Asia and the US. In 2005 Accion partners served more than 1.88 million active borrowers. Since 1996 these partners have loaned $9.4 billion to more than 3.97 million people.

Accion provides excellent opportunities to participate in Micro Finance as a lender/donor. You can make contributions as they are a non-profit. Also, you can make loans to Accion and earn a little interest.

You can learn more about Accion and its history at their web site.