Throw money at it

I don’t understand why “throwing money at a problem” gets such a bad rap politically. Don’t we all use money to solve problems all the time? Problem: I forgot to bring lunch to work from home. Solution: I will buy lunch. Problem: our house is an uninsulated icebox. Solution: we will spend many dollars on heating. 

It’s almost like money is this magic thing you can use to obtain goods and services that improve life.

But so much commentary is like “oh well you can’t just throw more money at the problem and expect it to go away”. Well no, not literally of course, flinging ten cent coins at people never helped anything. Metaphorically on the other hand, yes you can! You can do that thing! That’s how come people with money have fewer problems! Take our house for example: it is warm because we spend large on heating. If we had less money and couldn’t afford to run the heaters and pellet burner and dehumidifier literally the whole time we’re in the house from about March til about October, the house would be damp and cold and we’d constantly be sick. I.e., without money, we’d have a problem. 

“But root causes!” – ok, sure. Root causes need to be addressed. Maybe the landlord should insulate our house, double glaze the windows? Great plan. Um, that costs money

“But behavioural change!” – ok, yeah. Behavioural change like me remembering my lunch is probably good. Except behavioural change is really really hard. I have a personal incentive to remember to take my lunch, because it’s my money I spend when I forget, and I still forget about once a week. 

The little dude gets lunch and snacks at creche. This was a priority for us in choosing a creche, and we were willing to pay extra fees for it. I like it in principle, that the kids all eat the same food, and that the midday meal is a warm substantial meal rather than stuff from a lunch box. And it’s convenient for a busy parent, no packing food each morning. 

This new initiative in Auckland, Eat my Lunch, operates on a buy-one-give-one basis, where office workers buy their lunch for $10 and it’s delivered to their workplaces, and the revenue is used to fund free lunches in schools in poor areas where lots of kids are going hungry. It’s a great idea, but it prompts the question – why can’t we do this systematically throughout all schools? Why can’t schools be funded to provide lunches (in a way that best serves their school community), and snacks throughout the day as well? 

Instead of saying “it’s just throwing money at a problem”, it makes more sense to say “how awesome that this problem (hungry school kids) can easily be solved with money, let’s do that”. 

Think of it this way: when I’m at work, and I have forgotten my lunch, I don’t not buy it and go hungry, otherwise I would have the unpleasant and distracting experience of hunger all afternoon and I wouldn’t be able to focus on my work. Office workers throughout the country spend millions of dollar a week on bought lunches. Meanwhile kids in low decile schools are frequently hungry. We spend money on our own problems without a second’s thought. So next time you hear someone say “it’s just throwing money at a problem”, maybe what they’re actually saying is “I don’t want to help solve that problem”.