Category Archives: Larissa MacFarquhar

Larissa MacFarquhar

Most activists, in his experience, would launch big campaigns about big issues and do things that they guessed would be beneficial, like running television ads or sending out direct mail, but they never did the work to figure out whether what they were doing was actually changing policy. He couldn’t stand that there were so many bad, inefficient nonprofits out there, eating up donor money. When a business was based on a bad idea, it failed, but nonprofits never failed—they just kept on raising cash from people who wanted to believe in them. He imagined himself travelling around the country as judge and executioner, closing down hundreds of ineffective N.G.O.s.

Larissa MacFarquhar, ‘Requiem for a Dream’, The New Yorker, March 11, 2013

Larissa MacFarquhar

It was a dull way of giving—writing checks rather than, say, becoming an aid worker in a distant country. There was a moral glamour in throwing over everything and leaving home and going somewhere dangerous that compensated for all sorts of privations. There was no glamour in staying behind, earning money, and donating it. It certainly wasn’t soul-stirring, to be thinking about money all the time. But so much depended on money, they knew—it took a callous kind of sentimentality to forget that. Money well spent could mean years of life, and money spent badly meant years of life lost.

Larissa MacFarquhar, Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help, New York, 2015. p. 89