The Pros and Cons of Microfinance (1 of 4)

I haven’t said anything about microfinance for a long time. The last few years there have been questions raised and questionable practices uncovered in the microfinance business. When Morgan Stanley entered the field three or four years ago, I began to suspect that something was terribly wrong. I left the Kiva link on the web site (right hand column at the bottom), but have stayed quiet about the movement.

Then last week I received a slick, professionally designed, email sent by Mark Skousen, a libertarian economist for whom I have a great deal of respect. (He’s a libertarian but disagrees with Austrian economics – maybe the only libertarian economist in America to do so – so he clearly thinks for himself.) The email was an ad for the premier of a documentary movie entitled, “To Catch a Dollar.” It’s about Mohammad Yunus, the inventor of microfinance and founder of Grameen Bank. The documentary was to be followed by a roundtable discussion with Yunus, Vidar Jorgensen, president of Grameen Bank America, Premal Shah, president of Kiva, and Suze Orman, president of shrill, annoying financial self-help talk TV and radio, and moderated by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo (who seems right down calm and pleasant when put in the same room with Orman).

In the last several days I started boning up on the latest scandals and successes of microfinance. Last night I went to see the movie. After this round of inquiry I see there are many clouds hovering over the movement, but I believe it’s authentic enough to leave the Kiva link on the web site. All of that deserves some explanation. (Ah, I see another series of essay. Tune in tomorrow.)

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