Cash transfers: The index fund of international development

[This] illustrates another upside to cash transfers: they can serve as the index funds of international development. An index fund is a bundle of investments that is not actively managed, reducing the costs for investors. Its value simply reflects the upward and downward swings of the individual stocks that are included in the bundle. Similarly, a cash transfer is a development project stripped of any active management costs, and its performance tracks the success or failure of the individual recipient. Cash transfers thus provide a baseline for evaluating the active management performance of government officials and development professionals.

Move over Vanguard.

My article with Paul Niehaus, in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs (ungated if you register for free)