A while back I questioned whether or not microfinance efforts were actually pulling people out of poverty or simply making them less poor. Seems like Forbes is now asking the same thing. This story in Easy Money by Claire Cain Miller notes that often the loans are used to pay off old debts, not create new enterprises.
I can't seem to get out of SecondLife. Thinking about microfinance reminded me of something I saw in my SL tour - money trees. You buy one of these trees, post your own Linden dollars on it, and people who come through your SL property can just "pick" the dollars off the tree. Why do people buy the trees? To attract others to their land - its the virtual "eyeball" issue - you've got to get found in SL to matter.