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Randolph Arledge walked out of a Navarro County, Texas courtroom on February 11 after his 1984 murder conviction was overturned because of DNA evidence pointing to another man with an extensive criminal record, including a later similar assault of a woman.

Arledge was convicted of the murder in large part due to the testimony of two incentivized informants who were a couple at the time. The Innocence Project was able to track down one of the informants who recanted his testimony and admitted that he persuaded his girlfriend to corroborate his testimony. Despite a lack of physical evidence connecting Arledge to the murder and alibi testimony from several witnesses, he was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison. Arledge is enjoying his hard-fought freedom and is happy to be reunited with his son and daughter.

As a rule I don’t give money to organized charities. I prefer to put my money into our family’s foundation which has projects that I can monitor. But this is an exception. This story is terribly common. You would think that the justice system is 95% effective but I think the percentage is much less than that. And when you are talking about murder convictions anything less than 100% is disturbing.


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The Ten Commandments of Charity

Down the road going north from my vacation home in Nicaragua, you pass two hamlets, both bearing the same name: Limon.

Most of the families that live there have at least one member who works for Rancho Santana, the residential real estate development my partners and I started 13 years ago. Some work as guards, some as groundskeepers. Others work as housekeepers or gardeners. Still others have found employment as bartenders, waitresses, lifeguards, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, or laborers.

The homes they live in are two- or three-bedroom wood-framed or clay-block structures. They travel to and from work by bus or bicycle. They get their water from community wells. Their children go to local schools. When they get sick, they get medical treatment at the clinic, which is financially supported by Rancho Santana.

It is a simple life but not without its pleasures. There are baseball games and soccer matches on Saturdays, church-sponsored events on Sundays, and many birthday parties and weddings and baptisms.

And ever since Rancho Santana erected a tower three years ago, everyone has a cell phone.

When I first came to Rancho Santana, these same families were living in abject poverty. Their houses were shacks put up on dirt floors. Their diet was rice and beans. And there was no medical care available less than an hour’s bus ride away.

The reason things are better now has nothing to do with international development agencies, government initiatives, or non-profit organizations.

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Why People in Need Should Be Treated Like Children

The following is an interview that was published November 2, 2011 in The Palm Beach Letter. The subject: charity.

Ellen: In the office the other day, I heard Tom say, “Mark doesn’t believe in charity.” Is that true?

Mark: If I ever said I don’t believe in charity, I misspoke. I believe in charity. But I also believe that charity can be dangerous.

Ellen: Dangerous? How?

Mark: Charity has the potential to create dependency, destroy initiative, and promote entitlement. If you give a beggar a five-dollar bill every day for nine days, then give him one dollar on the tenth day… chances are, he’ll ask, “Where’s my other four dollars?”

Ellen: That’s pretty cynical.

Mark: I don’t think so. Cultural economists tell us that human populations tend to do what they get rewarded for doing. When you provide unwed mothers or unemployed workers or homeless people with substantial financial subsidies, you are, in effect, rewarding them for such behaviors. You are creating an ever-expanding culture of people who feel entitled to stay pregnant, jobless, and homeless – and be paid for it.

Ellen: You seem to have a dim view of human nature.

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