The value of simplicity

An African family that suffered regular bouts with malaria has seen the problem disappear after purchasing a US$4 mosquito net (Burkina’s Women Learn to Fight Malaria Through Loans).

In our incredibly complex world, it’s good to remember, once in a while, that sometimes simple, low-tech solutions are as good or better than sophisticated, costly solutions. This is shown in the above article, which explains how an education campaign by a microcredit company, aided by subsidized mosquito nets (which normally cost about US$8), is challenging a disease that kills an African child every 30 seconds. This approach is probably infinitely cheaper and more effective than, say, a mass vaccination campaign would be.

At another level, the concept of microcredits itself is a study in simplicity and effectiveness. The system is helping people in developing countries in ways that are far more efficient than many high-profile, expensive and complex systems that have been tried in the past, such as the huge factories that were supposed to provide work and prosperity but now stand abandoned.

These ideas are very much in keeping with daoism. A fundamental concept of daoism is that everything has its own nature, and trying to change that nature is as productive as banging one’s head against a wall — it doesn’t accomplish anything useful. The factories were a well-intentioned idea to help people, but it ignored the local customs, environment, and real needs of the people and was therefore doomed to failure.

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