December 30, 2004

What's in a Pledge?

by PG

The reports on donations made to earthquake/ tsunami relief efforts describe the amounts given in two ways. This Washington Post article says, "At Amazon.com alone, more than 53,000 people had donated more than $3 million by yesterday evening after the company made an urgent appeal on its home page." A few paragraphs later, a different term comes into play: "From Aug. 13 to 23, the Red Cross estimated that it received $19 million in pledges for victims of Hurricane Charley."

"Donated" versus "pledged" -- I'd think the difference was immaterial, except that Contracts successfully ground into my brain that most of the problems in transactions arise when there's a gap between the promise made and the promise carried out. And the New York Times (via Chris) emphasizes the point:

Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that the $35 million we've now pledged "is only the beginning" of the United States' recovery effort. Let's hope that is true, and that this time, our actions will match our promises.

The one other thing I got out of contracts is the need for a Consideration, and pledges of aid by definition are gratuitous and therefore unenforceable, so the only way to make people keep those promises is with shame.

December 30, 2004 03:08 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Journalists tend to avoid repeating the same word, if they can help it, in the same article. It's something that has been ground into us by college professors and editors over the years. So I wouldn't read too much into this.

Posted by: Heraldblog at January 1, 2005 11:49 AM

latin term for promissary estoppel? (K was 1991)
Pledges are legally enforceable, especiall when there's a showing of detrimental reliance.

Posted by: arbitraryaardvark at January 4, 2005 12:51 PM
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