Author Topic: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy  (Read 5190 times)

nawhite

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"Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« on: September 27, 2017, 06:52:47 AM »
Edit: added quotes from the others who were discussing this in the other thread since I can't move comments like a mod.

In the "Epic FU Stories" thread (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/epic-fu-money-stories/1800/) there is a discussion about charity giving that I wanted to break out to discuss more.

GettingClose was offered a raise but turned it down so the company could offer it to her lower paid co-worker. Then this happened:

I was trying to convey that this wasn't that generous an action  - New Guy was buying a house and had a combined household income of probably $70k.  Also, I have some opinions about fairness/equality in compensation, and it would have probably cost me considerably in the area of guilt (difficult to monetize) to have someone working the same hours as me for less than 1/3 the pay. It's my personal cutoff for whatever reason - I can justify 3x the salary due to my greater education, experience, innate ability, whatever - but not more than that.  Need to put my money where my mouth is to feel OK about myself.  I hope this makes sense.

Not downplaying this at all, I'm impressed you donated your money to some other cause, but just curious why you see that guy as more deserving of your money than people in other countries who don't make 1/3rd what you do but 1/3000th? ~20% of the worlds population makes less than $1/day. Sure you don't need it, but if you're going to donate your money to a charity, I think you should do it purposely in a way that best matches with your values rather than to some guy at work you feel bad for.

a) "charity starts at home" principle
b) I make other donations - but (despite the wording of point "a") there's a difference between charity and justice.  Can't articulate it very well; need to think more first. 
c) I work for a single company and have a single team, and this was my single chance to address income inequality in a meaningful way.  This particular instance had a name and a face, and rightly or wrongly, that matters.

It's not wrong. It matters. Gotta say, that other comment made my blood boil.

Charity begins at home, indeed.

Yup - seems like you acted exactly in line with your values regarding income inequality. And hopefully in a way that will make a long-term difference to the organisation. Good on you.

My comments elicited a strong response from a number of people on that thread which is part of the reason I'm breaking this discussion out into its own thread.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 06:59:43 AM by nawhite »
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nawhite

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 06:55:02 AM »
Personally I've never understood the charity starts at home mantra. I've always been a "do the most good with each dollar" kind of person so I wanted to hear more about people's opinions on this particular giving instance and why it was a good thing vs donating that money every year to an organization that can help more people.
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Drifterrider

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2017, 07:54:27 AM »
Personally I've never understood the charity starts at home mantra. I've always been a "do the most good with each dollar" kind of person so I wanted to hear more about people's opinions on this particular giving instance and why it was a good thing vs donating that money every year to an organization that can help more people.

I see "charity starts at home" more as an admonishment not to give away your money instead of paying your bills.  We've all see the articles and cartoons about old ladies eating cat food while supporting a televangelist.

One could also take "home" to mean in your neighborhood first (as opposed to those who want to rush to give to people/causes in other countries while ignoring the need at their own doorstep).  If you want to give something to others, what is the greatest need in your "home"?  Start there.

Roe

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2017, 08:17:58 AM »
I read GettingClose's explanation behind that admirable decision as a big part of it was a comparison between two people working at the same place, with probably slightly similar tasks. Also as living according to ones values, rather than charity. An internal reasoning, as opposed to an external one.


Im glad you started this thread tough, and i'm eager to see the responses. We have a situation  during the last couple of years where large amount of romani come here and beg. They have a difficult situation, and is in need of a better life, no argument there. But im perplexed why a lot of people around me donate to the beggars, simply because they are here. To me that's a decision ruled by emotions rather than utility, and I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2017, 09:01:36 AM »

Im glad you started this thread tough, and i'm eager to see the responses. We have a situation  during the last couple of years where large amount of romani come here and beg. They have a difficult situation, and is in need of a better life, no argument there. But im perplexed why a lot of people around me donate to the beggars, simply because they are here. To me that's a decision ruled by emotions rather than utility, and I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation.

Most decisions people make are emotional not utility, especially for charitable giving.  Look at all the sad children and puppies. If it didn't work, they wouldn't use it.

VoteCthulu

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2017, 09:24:00 AM »
The real purpose of charity is to make us feel better about ourselves. Helping those we care more about (people we know, children, victims of natural disasters, etc.) makes the vast majority of people feel better than giving to a cause that saves or improves statistically more faceless lives.

JCfire

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2017, 09:27:20 AM »
I read GettingClose's explanation behind that admirable decision as a big part of it was a comparison between two people working at the same place, with probably slightly similar tasks. Also as living according to ones values, rather than charity. An internal reasoning, as opposed to an external one.

This is a pretty good lay description of the difference between two of the major ethical theories in philosophy: virtue ethics and utilitarianism.  Virtue ethics says one ought (roughly) to live "according to one's values", basically pursue virtue rather than make decisions soley based on their consequences.  Many theories of virtue ethics would advocate for doing the right thing with regards to your co-worker and the immediate decision there, even if the consequences of that decision for the rest of the world are less positive than taking the money and donating it in the optimal way. 

On the other hand, a utilitarian would say that it's unethical to deprive more people of more benefits just so that you can have the warm fuzzy feeling of acting in what you feel to be a virtuous manner.  Stands of principle, loyalty, friendship, love, or whatever, which are not globally the most efficient way to do the most good for the most people, are unethical in this stance.  Of course this creates tension when you ask questions like "should I pay for my kid to eat more nutritious food than starving people on the other side of the world", or "if I approach a burning building and I can either save 10 orphans or a very expensive painting which I could then resell, which should I save".

One nice essay from a philosopher on the conflict between virtue ethics is found below.  Note this is written from a Stoic perspective: Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of virtue ethic philosophy which has seen a modern renovation/resurgence:

https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/stoic-advice-effective-altruism/

JCfire

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2017, 09:30:08 AM »
The real purpose of charity is to make us feel better about ourselves.

Are you describing how you think the world works (in which case I agree)?  Or are you describing some deeper truth that you think ought to govern our behavior (in which case I strongly disagree)?

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2017, 09:35:37 AM »
Personally I've never understood the charity starts at home mantra. I've always been a "do the most good with each dollar" kind of person so I wanted to hear more about people's opinions on this particular giving instance and why it was a good thing vs donating that money every year to an organization that can help more people.

It's part of my moral code to donate 10% of my net income to charity. It ain't chump change - at this point in my life, 10% is approaching very close to 5 figures. All of my donations are national, and a huge portion are to orgs within my zipcode. I started this post thinking I'd write passionate and compelling justification of my choice, but I got tired trying to formulate the words. Do you truly believe my donations are somehow unethical, or that I'm personally killing a wormy child because my monies go locally?

Maenad

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2017, 10:30:39 AM »
I see "Charity starts at home" like "Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others". Giving generously to people halfway around the world while one's family or friends are facing destitution* could get you anything from a raised eyebrow to full-on criticism in certain circles.

Ultimately, comparison is the thief of joy. Criticizing someone for not being generous in the right way strikes me as judgmental and unnecessarily harsh.



*The usual caveats apply about spendypants who may need some lessons from the School of Hard Knocks.

JanF

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2017, 10:39:24 AM »
Interesting take. Do you then believe there is only one charity per purpose that we should all give to because math says so? If I give to an animal charity am I wasting my money because it isn't going to humans? If I give to poor kids' education am I wasting it because I'm not giving it to people who can't afford meals?

Quote
I see "Charity starts at home" like "Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others".

Exactly my thoughts on this. What's wrong with giving to my community and trying to make it better? Am I suppose to ignore problems at home because people in Africa also have problems?

jlcnuke

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2017, 11:00:07 AM »
I think trying to determine where to give money to charity is, based on current charitable needs in the world compared to the ability most have to give, necessarily a choice in what "matters most" to the people giving. There are hundreds of thousands of government certified charities in the US alone. If you had a million dollar budget for charity each year, you couldn't give $1 to each of the various charities in the world.

As such, for people of limited means, a choice must be made about what "matters most" to them. Is it donating to their neighborhood charities that help feed and clothe the poor and destitute in their community? Is it donating to organizations that are trying to find the cures/treatments for medical conditions they or a loved one suffer from? Is it donating money to make life more comfortable for a stranger halfway around the world? Is it some other moral cause covered by another charity? Maybe some combination of the above? If the person who suffers from that terrible, but rare, disease chooses to donate to feed someone on another continent instead of donate money towards curing their disease, how much longer is a cure put off and how many people suffer as a result vs how many people suffer from the food they didn't pay to have donated?

Where to be charitable seems to consist of philosophical questions that likely have no "right" or "wrong" answer in my opinion. As such, making the "selfish" choices seems to be the most personally rewarding (choosing to try and cure diseases that impact my life, or helping those nearby as I can) given my current situation so that's what I do. Whether it's the "most good" I could do with my money doesn't concern me as I know it is "good" being done with that money.
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GardenBaker

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2017, 11:00:30 AM »
Interesting take. Do you then believe there is only one charity per purpose that we should all give to because math says so? If I give to an animal charity am I wasting my money because it isn't going to humans? If I give to poor kids' education am I wasting it because I'm not giving it to people who can't afford meals?

Quote
I see "Charity starts at home" like "Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others".

Exactly my thoughts on this. What's wrong with giving to my community and trying to make it better? Am I suppose to ignore problems at home because people in Africa also have problems?

This is my thought as well. When all of the major problems are "fixed" in America; homeless people, starving animals, veterans without proper medical care/food/housing, communities without clean drinking water, unemployment, schools with limited funds to buy supplies to properly educate, etc, then I'll focus my efforts on a cause abroad. I'm 100% in agreement in that charity starts a home; I see it as our country is home and that is my first priority. Charity after all is a choice and I CHOOSE where my funds go. Vote with your dollar.

Dicey

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2017, 11:14:08 AM »
I thought the poster of the original story was acting in line with their personal values. IIRC, they were not treating this as a charitable contribution.That angle was floated by commenter on the original thread.

The first OP was simply doing what they felt was right. That's why the criticism made my blood boil.

Simply put, there is not enough money to cure all the planet's ills and there never will be as long as fallible humans run the place. I said "at home" when I really meant "around you". If you see a need and can fill it, you should, without fear of excoriation by Internet Strangers.

Now that we're FI and one of us is RE, we tithe mostly in our community. Our actions ripple out from the place where we can see the rock hit the water. For example: Recently, a local group we support took up a collection for Hurricane Relief during one of their programs, at the point where they usually make an "ask" for themselves. The charity they chose is not one we support. I wrote a check directly to that charity, not because I support the second group, but because I support the (completely unrelated) local group. Ripples.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 11:16:36 AM by Dicey »
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Roe

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2017, 11:18:51 AM »

Im glad you started this thread tough, and i'm eager to see the responses. We have a situation  during the last couple of years where large amount of romani come here and beg. They have a difficult situation, and is in need of a better life, no argument there. But im perplexed why a lot of people around me donate to the beggars, simply because they are here. To me that's a decision ruled by emotions rather than utility, and I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation.

Most decisions people make are emotional not utility, especially for charitable giving.  Look at all the sad children and puppies. If it didn't work, they wouldn't use it.

I agree, apart from that most decisions would be emotional. Although it would be a pretty neat life in the short run. Hello skipping work, drinking beer on a week day and overfeeding the cat!




VoteCthulu

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2017, 11:24:07 AM »
The real purpose of charity is to make us feel better about ourselves.

Are you describing how you think the world works (in which case I agree)?  Or are you describing some deeper truth that you think ought to govern our behavior (in which case I strongly disagree)?
I was only meaning to describe reality as I've observed it, but I'm not convinced either way about how it "should be". I'm not sure I like the purely utilitarian world where not one penny is spent to cure heart disease as long as cancer is killing more people or no one helps rape victims as long as there's anything they can do to help people being murdered on the other side of the world.

On the other hand, donating money for your neighbor kid's European summer vacation while people are starving is also fairly perverse. I definitely don't have the answer on what "should be".

Dicey

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2017, 12:06:53 PM »
I didn't realize "GiveWell" was actually a thing when I commented. I just Googled it. From their self-admittedly out-of-date website:

"We don't believe any amount of analysis can objectively determine whether saving a life in Africa is more valuable than helping a person in New York become self-supporting. It ultimately comes down to the donor's personal values."

Google-FU also turned up this interesting article:

http://mssv.net/2008/01/02/dont-support-givewell/

Yes, it's old and the author's best points are buried at the bottom of the article, but it proves that no system or "Philosophy" of charitable giving is perfect.
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nawhite

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2017, 12:10:35 PM »
Some great responses here. It sounds like there is a spectrum of good per dollar and emotional closeness. So you can either get more good per dollar, or more emotional closeness/pleasure but usually not both. The engineering mind/mustacian in me wants to find a way to maximize both good per dollar and pleasure from giving.

Fortunately, my pleasure from giving definitely suffers from hedonic adaptation. I get about the same amount of pleasure giving $100 to a friend as I do giving $1000 to a friend. I get about the same pleasure giving $20 to a national charity as I do from giving $50. Thus if I'm trying to maximize both pleasure from giving and world good per dollar, I should donate some small amount to things on the local end of the spectrum to make myself feel good, and then I should donate every dollar beyond that to the place where those dollars will do the most good.

MMM describes this in http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/10/26/notes-on-giving-away-100000/ and one of the best resources I've found for evaluating world good per dollar donated is http://www.givewell.org/

Given that mindset, the donation of $5000/year to a co-worker seems to not maximize the pleasure they could get from giving, while also not doing the most world good.
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nawhite

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2017, 12:16:18 PM »
I didn't realize "GiveWell" was actually a thing when I commented. I just Googled it. From their self-admittedly out-of-date website:

"We don't believe any amount of analysis can objectively determine whether saving a life in Africa is more valuable than helping a person in New York become self-supporting. It ultimately comes down to the donor's personal values."

Google-FU also turned up this interesting article:

http://mssv.net/2008/01/02/dont-support-givewell/

Yes, it's old and the author's best points are buried at the bottom of the article, but it proves that no system or "Philosophy" of charitable giving is perfect.

I'm confused by the article. A person associated with givewell posted on a forum in response to the question "what websites evaluate charities" saying "GiveWell evaluates charities." And now the article's author is upset that the person didn't say "I'm associated with GiveWell." Is that it or is there something more sinister I'm completely missing?

As is, I don't see how this article has anything to do with the topic at hand. It doesn't refute GiveWell's mission at all or provide any details on why it's Philosophy of giving is flawed.
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Dicey

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #19 on: September 27, 2017, 12:42:39 PM »
Apparently the question, answer and criticism were all written by the same person from GiveWell, who had created two accounts, i.e. it was "fake". \O_O/. I'm not going to name the person; it's in the linked article if anyone's interested.

After reading this, I actually looked at your stats, nawhite. I'm reasonably certain that you're not that person, but a person of conscience, just as the OP on that other thread.

I'm happy you moved the discussion, but neutral, at best, about shouting out GiveWell, however subtly it was done.

Is it possible to encourage charitable giving of all kinds* and leave it at that?

*Mooching friends or relatives excluded, obviously.
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GettingClose

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2017, 01:22:03 PM »
I thought the poster of the original story was acting in line with their personal values. IIRC, they were not treating this as a charitable contribution.That angle was floated by commenter on the original thread.

The first OP was simply doing what they felt was right. That's why the criticism made my blood boil.

Simply put, there is not enough money to cure all the planet's ills and there never will be as long as fallible humans run the place. I said "at home" when I really meant "around you". If you see a need and can fill it, you should, without fear of excoriation by Internet Strangers.

Now that we're FI and one of us is RE, we tithe mostly in our community. Our actions ripple out from the place where we can see the rock hit the water. For example: Recently, a local group we support took up a collection for Hurricane Relief during one of their programs, at the point where they usually make an "ask" for themselves. The charity they chose is not one we support. I wrote a check directly to that charity, not because I support the second group, but because I support the (completely unrelated) local group. Ripples.

The criticism is OK; it's a legitimate question.  You're correct in your understanding: transferring my raise to someone else didn't appear to me as "charity" - more as making things the way they should be in my own small sphere of influence.   It was meant an illustration of how having "FU money" frees one to pursue [whatever] and not be in position of being forced to accept employers' restrictions/demands.

Along these lines - one could ask if it's OK to leave an inheritance to kids, no matter how much they're struggling, if there are starving children in Bangladesh. Or if it's even OK to stop earning as much as possible for as long as possible!  These kind of questions worry me. 

Jeffrey Sachs book The End of Poverty http://jeffsachs.org/books/the-end-of-poverty/ is interesting in this regard.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #21 on: September 27, 2017, 01:31:30 PM »
I thought the poster of the original story was acting in line with their personal values. IIRC, they were not treating this as a charitable contribution.That angle was floated by commenter on the original thread.

The first OP was simply doing what they felt was right. That's why the criticism made my blood boil.

Simply put, there is not enough money to cure all the planet's ills and there never will be as long as fallible humans run the place. I said "at home" when I really meant "around you". If you see a need and can fill it, you should, without fear of excoriation by Internet Strangers.

Now that we're FI and one of us is RE, we tithe mostly in our community. Our actions ripple out from the place where we can see the rock hit the water. For example: Recently, a local group we support took up a collection for Hurricane Relief during one of their programs, at the point where they usually make an "ask" for themselves. The charity they chose is not one we support. I wrote a check directly to that charity, not because I support the second group, but because I support the (completely unrelated) local group. Ripples.

The criticism is OK; it's a legitimate question.  You're correct in your understanding: transferring my raise to someone else didn't appear to me as "charity" - more as making things the way they should be in my own small sphere of influence.   It was meant an illustration of how having "FU money" frees one to pursue [whatever] and not be in position of being forced to accept employers' restrictions/demands.

Along these lines - one could ask if it's OK to leave an inheritance to kids, no matter how much they're struggling, if there are starving children in Bangladesh. Or if it's even OK to stop earning as much as possible for as long as possible!  These kind of questions worry me. 

Jeffrey Sachs book The End of Poverty http://jeffsachs.org/books/the-end-of-poverty/ is interesting in this regard.
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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #22 on: September 27, 2017, 02:06:58 PM »
I read GettingClose's explanation behind that admirable decision as a big part of it was a comparison between two people working at the same place, with probably slightly similar tasks. Also as living according to ones values, rather than charity. An internal reasoning, as opposed to an external one.

This is a pretty good lay description of the difference between two of the major ethical theories in philosophy: virtue ethics and utilitarianism.  Virtue ethics says one ought (roughly) to live "according to one's values", basically pursue virtue rather than make decisions soley based on their consequences.  Many theories of virtue ethics would advocate for doing the right thing with regards to your co-worker and the immediate decision there, even if the consequences of that decision for the rest of the world are less positive than taking the money and donating it in the optimal way. 

On the other hand, a utilitarian would say that it's unethical to deprive more people of more benefits just so that you can have the warm fuzzy feeling of acting in what you feel to be a virtuous manner.  Stands of principle, loyalty, friendship, love, or whatever, which are not globally the most efficient way to do the most good for the most people, are unethical in this stance.  Of course this creates tension when you ask questions like "should I pay for my kid to eat more nutritious food than starving people on the other side of the world", or "if I approach a burning building and I can either save 10 orphans or a very expensive painting which I could then resell, which should I save".

One nice essay from a philosopher on the conflict between virtue ethics is found below.  Note this is written from a Stoic perspective: Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of virtue ethic philosophy which has seen a modern renovation/resurgence:

https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/stoic-advice-effective-altruism/

Interesting, JCfire.  Were you the person who recommended The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy elsewhere on this forum?  If so, we are listening to it on Audible with great interest.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2017, 03:15:14 PM »

The criticism is OK; it's a legitimate question.  You're correct in your understanding: transferring my raise to someone else didn't appear to me as "charity" - more as making things the way they should be in my own small sphere of influence.   It was meant an illustration of how having "FU money" frees one to pursue [whatever] and not be in position of being forced to accept employers' restrictions/demands.

Along these lines - one could ask if it's OK to leave an inheritance to kids, no matter how much they're struggling, if there are starving children in Bangladesh. Or if it's even OK to stop earning as much as possible for as long as possible!  These kind of questions worry me. 

Jeffrey Sachs book The End of Poverty http://jeffsachs.org/books/the-end-of-poverty/ is interesting in this regard.

I guess I fall back to the mindset I mentioned above of maximizing personal happiness while also maximizing good in the world. The key is understanding that personal happiness is affected by diminishing marginal utility.

So will I get some happiness from leaving an inheritance to kids? Sure. Will I get the same amount of happiness leaving them $100,000 as I would from leaving them $1 million? Maybe. Take that into account when you determine your numbers and recognize where your personal tipping point is so that you don't waste money on something that won't make you happier. Same thing applies to work. Do I get more happiness from stopping work earlier? Absolutely, that happiness can have personal value. Should I maybe work an extra year so I can give 10% of my spending to charity? Maybe that's a trade off I should think about.

All I'm saying is do the value calculation and if giving $5000 every year to some random guy at work really gives you significantly more happiness than giving them a $1000 bonus to help with the house then good for you. Just recognize that it's a trade off and each additional dollar you're giving away for happiness is buying you less happiness than the dollar before it. At some point, I'd hope doing good in the world would be a better buy.
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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2017, 01:27:56 PM »
I don't think the original act was "charity". I think it was making a statement to the company about excessive pay differences for doing the same job. I think it was an excellent use of that money.

On charity begins at home... I've recently switched my charitable giving from an international orphan charity to a national homelessness charity. It was a really hard decision to make, but I encounter homeless people daily and almost never give them money. I feel extremely sorry for them, and homelessness is an issue I care about a lot. After some agonising, I decided that I wanted to do something to help them and I was not about to start giving them cash so I would donate to a charity that helps them instead. I prefer to do all my giving to a single charity as a direct debit to help them plan with a minimum of admin hassle (I presume the admin for a £10 donation and a £100 donation are similar, so would rather make one £100 than 10 £10 donations). My money presumably doesn't go as far here as it does in a developing country, but it feels like the right thing to do.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #25 on: September 28, 2017, 01:49:19 PM »
Maybe "charity starts at home" just recognizes the "selfish" component of every charitable act.  If I give my child a new car, no one think of that as charity, but I gave away resources that I could have used on myself personally on someone else.  That someone else just happens to be someone whose happiness, welfare, etc, is particularly valuable to me.  Given away your raise to someone at your work that basically does your same job and makes less is perhaps further removed from your selfish circle of interest than your child, but closer than some random homeless dude in your town, which is closer than some starving child in another country (unless your particular interests re-sort that priority).  People who think people in general suck and animals are cute and innocent will chose to give there "selfishly".

What I find more interesting is when governments follow these same traits....e.g. don't solve hunger before spending money on art galleries, etc, but then again this is probably just a proportional division of the selfish interests of its people.




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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #26 on: September 28, 2017, 02:22:06 PM »
What about donations to help meet 1-time needs? My kid's music teacher has adopted a middle school in Houston, and is raising $ to help replace their music and instruments. It's meaningful to the kids taking music at middle school here, and should be a 1-time need.

(She's doing it via "penny wars", which is brilliant: each grade has a huge jar, they get credited for the value of pennies, bills, and checks in their jar. They get dinged the value of silver coins in their jar. The winning grade gets an award at the end. Watching the kids strategize is awesome!)

This isn't displacing donations we make to other places (in fact, it's probably supplanting a couple of lattes and maybe a family outing for ice cream) so it's no entirely germane, but this seems to be a different category of donation? (And it's neither "at home" nor "far, far away", so I don't know how it fits in, really.)

I think y'all are drawing a distinction that doesn't exist: I can recognize that my town needs more affordable housing and the food pantry needs support and the school district needs more $ at the same time as I can see that MSF needs additional funding and I want to support women in determining what happens to their own bodies everywhere, locally, nationally, and internationally. It means my $ get a bit spread out but also that we get to sit down and figure out how to support our values.  My values say that wilderness and human lives are a higher priority then dog rescues, but that's what this process is about -- if your values are different, you get to decide how to donate/spend your own $$.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2017, 12:37:03 AM »
Honestly, I think the actual phrase "charity begins at home" means "don't be a jerk to those around you but think you're awesome just because you donate to starving Africans".

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2017, 05:22:31 AM »
Maybe "charity starts at home" just recognizes the "selfish" component of every charitable act.  If I give my child a new car, no one think of that as charity, but I gave away resources that I could have used on myself personally on someone else.  That someone else just happens to be someone whose happiness, welfare, etc, is particularly valuable to me.  Given away your raise to someone at your work that basically does your same job and makes less is perhaps further removed from your selfish circle of interest than your child, but closer than some random homeless dude in your town, which is closer than some starving child in another country (unless your particular interests re-sort that priority).  People who think people in general suck and animals are cute and innocent will chose to give there "selfishly".

What I find more interesting is when governments follow these same traits....e.g. don't solve hunger before spending money on art galleries, etc, but then again this is probably just a proportional division of the selfish interests of its people.

Giving to your own child is not charity. You brought them into this world and have a degree of responsibility to teach them how to be self-sufficient citizens. Keeping them on perpetual parental life support is not doing them any favors.

I have no idea why you so strongly link acting charitably with being "selfish" - Why the quotes, for that matter? In fact, I find your whole argument confusing and...well, I'll just stop at confusing.
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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2017, 06:51:13 AM »
I read GettingClose's explanation behind that admirable decision as a big part of it was a comparison between two people working at the same place, with probably slightly similar tasks. Also as living according to ones values, rather than charity. An internal reasoning, as opposed to an external one.

This is a pretty good lay description of the difference between two of the major ethical theories in philosophy: virtue ethics and utilitarianism.  Virtue ethics says one ought (roughly) to live "according to one's values", basically pursue virtue rather than make decisions soley based on their consequences.  Many theories of virtue ethics would advocate for doing the right thing with regards to your co-worker and the immediate decision there, even if the consequences of that decision for the rest of the world are less positive than taking the money and donating it in the optimal way. 

On the other hand, a utilitarian would say that it's unethical to deprive more people of more benefits just so that you can have the warm fuzzy feeling of acting in what you feel to be a virtuous manner.  Stands of principle, loyalty, friendship, love, or whatever, which are not globally the most efficient way to do the most good for the most people, are unethical in this stance.  Of course this creates tension when you ask questions like "should I pay for my kid to eat more nutritious food than starving people on the other side of the world", or "if I approach a burning building and I can either save 10 orphans or a very expensive painting which I could then resell, which should I save".

One nice essay from a philosopher on the conflict between virtue ethics is found below.  Note this is written from a Stoic perspective: Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of virtue ethic philosophy which has seen a modern renovation/resurgence:

https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/stoic-advice-effective-altruism/

Interesting, JCfire.  Were you the person who recommended The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy elsewhere on this forum?  If so, we are listening to it on Audible with great interest.

I was not, and I actually have not read that book.  From a brief description though it does sound consistent with the broad strokes of the modern adaptation of Stoicism that I described. 

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2017, 06:57:30 AM »
And furthermore, why is "charity" a separate type of action from doing whatever you think is right in your sphere of influence?  Generally, I think we separate it out so that we can better live with the fact that there is so much abject misery in the world (and to a lesser degree in our country, in our city, etc) that we are doing little or nothing to abate, while still feeling like we are all "good people".

I think that a starving child that happens to live far away from me has just as much moral worth as a child that happens to live near me.  I don't understand how people can see it any other way honestly.  And if you believe that to be true, it has profound ethical implications.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #31 on: September 29, 2017, 07:17:20 AM »
[quote author=JCfire link=topic=79545.msg1713976#msg1713976 date=
I think that a starving child that happens to live far away from me has just as much moral worth as a child that happens to live near me.  I don't understand how people can see it any other way honestly.  And if you believe that to be true, it has profound ethical implications.
[/quote]

Honestly, I do believe that. But I am flawed and limited and I cannot live my life in genuine harmony with that belief. It is too hard. I don't think that makes me a *bad* person exactly - just a person. But I recognise that I am not doing what I truly ought to do.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #32 on: September 29, 2017, 07:23:18 AM »
If anyone is interested in this topic, and I don't see it raised yet in this thread, The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer offers and excellent and thorough analysis of these questions - why do we tend to give more to people closer to us, in our own families, social circles, or countries? It may be human nature to provide for those who we can relate to emotionally, and to people we can see, especially if we believe nobody else will help them. He says the factors of human nature that typically prevent people from donating to faraway causes are:

- if there is no identifiable victim: it's easier to help the one little girl who fell down a well vs. hundreds of thousands of faceless starving refugees
- parochialism: we only tend to care about what we can see, either through social connections, or on TV. We also don't feel as though our lives have anything to do with those of starving children overseas and therefore we don't owe them anything (which Singer suggests is not the case.)
- futility: when millions of people are starving, our donations don't seem to matter as they seem like drops in the ocean
- diffusion of responsibility: there are other, richer people who can help solve the problem of world poverty, so why should I do anything
- sense of fairness: if my neighbour and friends are all out having vacations and eating at fancy restaurants and I'm forgoing these things to send money to starving children, then I may start to feel resentful

So, that's human nature, but he asks is human nature always right or good or even logical? He offers a logical argument on why we ought to save lives of the people most in need, even if we can't see them. Our money goes much farther in places where people live on less than $1 a day than in the first world where we have the infrastructure to provide the basic necessities for our poorest poor.

He mentions GiveWell in the book quite often. Note that GiveWell itself is not a charity, but it is an organization that sort of audits charities to find the ones that are the most efficient and impactful with their funding. Singer seems to recommend Oxfam as well as others - there's a list of his recommended charities here : https://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/best-charities

(I just happen to be reading the book right now - was looking to start a book review discussion about it because it's really shifting my thinking a lot on this topic.)


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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #33 on: September 29, 2017, 07:37:47 AM »
I'm trying to give money directly to relief in Puerto Rico right now.   I was able to PayPal money for direct relief for the Virgin Islands.   Unfortunately the contact was in Puerto Rico helping the VI. Now he's in Tampa, FL trying to get aid to PR.  They were using private vessels with no cost for transportation, the vessel owners donated time and fuel themselves.
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slappy

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #34 on: September 29, 2017, 08:20:07 AM »
I always thought "charity begins at home" was a reference to teaching your kids about charity. If you teach them your values and how that can make an impact, it should influence them throughout their lifetime.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #35 on: September 29, 2017, 08:53:27 AM »
In reading about saving lives in the poorest countries (where a little money can make a huge difference) - I find the notion of charitable giving far more motivating (in terms of not spending money on stupid stuff) than saving for my own retirement. I don't mind working, and have realized that I'm not in a huge rush to quit. The more I learn about charitable giving, and the more I think about it, the more meaningful it seems to me to a) keep working and b) spend less money on things I don't need. (I heard about the Singer book via arebelspy on this forum and am so glad to be reading it.)

I used to feel helpless because I had no money and felt like life was weighing on me, and I had little control. Saving and investing has made me feel more in control of my own life, but now I feel another weight of responsibility to help and make a difference. I watch / read the news, and have been to third and second world countries, so am aware of how most of the world lives. I often think of The Hunger Games, and the ridiculous lives of the elite class (I saw the first movie years ago so I don't remember what they're all called). It's an exaggerated version of real life, as sci fi often is, and it illustrates the disparity really well. The lives and choices we have here in first world countries would appear ridiculous to most people on the planet. Here we have a billion choices of what sort of cookies to buy, and what colour to dye our hair, where to go on our next vacation, do I buy this car or that car, sparkly makeup or matte, this marble countertop or quartz, etc. All sorts of material choices and decisions and thoughts that would seem insane to people who are trying to pull together enough to feed their children.

In terms of saving money - nothing is more motivating (to me) than the question, should this money go towards some frivolous want, or could it help save someone's life, or at least alter it for the better?

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #36 on: September 29, 2017, 12:20:58 PM »
I have strong views on charity. If you're going to get offended at something I say, or take it personally, don't read further. If you can understand reasonable people have different views, shrug, and move on, feel free to proceed.



I almost commented in that thread too, but didn't want to start a fight.

I agree with the OP. That was a terrible use of money compared to what it could have done. Inefficient charity is not much better than no charity at all, and it makes the person doing it feel good, so they do less than they might have otherwise.

I'd rather the person in that thread take the 5k raise, donate 1k to an overseas effective charity and blow the other 4k than give all 5k to a different white collar professional (whereby all 5k of it likely gets blown--it's extremely unlikely that person donates >20%). That would have been a far more effective use of the money (ignoring the fact that they could have donated 2, 3, or even the whole 5k).

I think charity starts at home is *. act locally, *. I think most volunteering is *. I think almost all domestic giving is **.

*weird adding an asterisk when I'm using them to censor. the footnote I wanted to add is that i do give domestically to help protect people's rights. aclu. planned parenthood. eff.**  but for stuff like food, or housing no. the amount of food or housing anyone here in the states can access compared to other countries is crazy. we need more support for mentally ill in this country, and i think our government should do much more to support people in that situation. we need more of a social safety net overall, and we need health care for all. but charity dollars should go to helping those who need it most. and that's not anyone in pretty much any first world country.

**and I acknowledge it's probably immoral for me to prioritize the "rights" of people in first world countries over the lives of people in undeveloped countries. my donating to aclu, planned parenthood, eff is a less efficient use of the money, and it just makes me feel good. i try not to think about it, because i'm an immoral person, and thinking about it might make me redirect that money to better causes, and i just don't want to. pretty disturbing.

human life is worthwhile, full stop, period. valuing some lives more than others is pretty sick, and then morally feeling good while doing so, even worse. the difference in the amount of quality life hours you can provide for $1000 in the US versus in africa is astounding. and choosing to say 'fuck those guys because they aren't in geographic proximity to what i call home, due to the random nature of having been born or moved here" is terrible.

yes, this applies to you, people in this thread (i only skimmed it, so i don't even remember who said what) who donate locally, volunteer locally, and do nothing overseas. i think that's a damn shame.

to be clear: i'm in no position to judge, and i'm not judging. i'm as flawed as they come. like i said, i donate where i shouldn't. i'm retired early, rather than working full time to donate more. how sick is it that i'm SO MUCH spending time on one individual (my daughter) each day, when i could be earning money and giving that to save so many lives? it'd fucked up, really. so i donate some money, and try to earn some more with side gigs to donate, and maybe at some point i'll go back just to earn to gibe, but for now? * selfish asshole.  all that to say, i'm not looking down on those people who aren't helping those who need it most. i'm saying that they aren't doing the moral choice. even if they feel good about it.

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer is one of the best books I've ever read. Everyone should read it. Especially if you disagree with what I've posted.
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slappy

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #37 on: September 29, 2017, 01:14:30 PM »
I have strong views on charity. If you're going to get offended at something I say, or take it personally, don't read further. If you can understand reasonable people have different views, shrug, and move on, feel free to proceed.



I almost commented in that thread too, but didn't want to start a fight.

I agree with the OP. That was a terrible use of money compared to what it could have done. Inefficient charity is not much better than no charity at all, and it makes the person doing it feel good, so they do less than they might have otherwise.

I'd rather the person in that thread take the 5k raise, donate 1k to an overseas effective charity and blow the other 4k than give all 5k to a different white collar professional (whereby all 5k of it likely gets blown--it's extremely unlikely that person donates >20%). That would have been a far more effective use of the money (ignoring the fact that they could have donated 2, 3, or even the whole 5k).

I think charity starts at home is *. act locally, *. I think most volunteering is *. I think almost all domestic giving is **.

*weird adding an asterisk when I'm using them to censor. the footnote I wanted to add is that i do give domestically to help protect people's rights. aclu. planned parenthood. eff.**  but for stuff like food, or housing no. the amount of food or housing anyone here in the states can access compared to other countries is crazy. we need more support for mentally ill in this country, and i think our government should do much more to support people in that situation. we need more of a social safety net overall, and we need health care for all. but charity dollars should go to helping those who need it most. and that's not anyone in pretty much any first world country.

**and I acknowledge it's probably immoral for me to prioritize the "rights" of people in first world countries over the lives of people in undeveloped countries. my donating to aclu, planned parenthood, eff is a less efficient use of the money, and it just makes me feel good. i try not to think about it, because i'm an immoral person, and thinking about it might make me redirect that money to better causes, and i just don't want to. pretty disturbing.

human life is worthwhile, full stop, period. valuing some lives more than others is pretty sick, and then morally feeling good while doing so, even worse. the difference in the amount of quality life hours you can provide for $1000 in the US versus in africa is astounding. and choosing to say 'fuck those guys because they aren't in geographic proximity to what i call home, due to the random nature of having been born or moved here" is terrible.

yes, this applies to you, people in this thread (i only skimmed it, so i don't even remember who said what) who donate locally, volunteer locally, and do nothing overseas. i think that's a damn shame.

to be clear: i'm in no position to judge, and i'm not judging. i'm as flawed as they come. like i said, i donate where i shouldn't. i'm retired early, rather than working full time to donate more. how sick is it that i'm SO MUCH spending time on one individual (my daughter) each day, when i could be earning money and giving that to save so many lives? it'd fucked up, really. so i donate some money, and try to earn some more with side gigs to donate, and maybe at some point i'll go back just to earn to gibe, but for now? * selfish asshole.  all that to say, i'm not looking down on those people who aren't helping those who need it most. i'm saying that they aren't doing the moral choice. even if they feel good about it.

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer is one of the best books I've ever read. Everyone should read it. Especially if you disagree with what I've posted.

I agree with this point of view, and am equally flawed in my giving. I need to look into some efficient overseas charities.


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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #38 on: September 29, 2017, 01:33:11 PM »
I mostly agree with the concepts of Peter Singer and The Life You Can Save, though I haven't actually read it.  But I don't think it is immoral to give locally either.  I hope to do both, though I give more locally now. 

To me, giving locally is about maintaining the liberty and freedom of the US so that we can continue to be in a position to help others.  If our democracy fails, because too many people here don't have enough food to eat or don't have civil rights, then no one here can help third world countries.  (I get that this is complex, and many really have way more than we need, but there are plenty of people struggling in our own country). 

Third world countries are complex.  Offering food in third world countries sometimes does as much harm as good, for a variety of reasons.  They need government stability, and creative technologies, and to get rid of dictators, all of which my donation to Children Intl does not help. 

But I think the fact that we are struggling with this concept is a good thing overall.  Far better than debating between the Lexus or the Mercedes!

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #39 on: September 29, 2017, 01:41:04 PM »
I mostly agree with the concepts of Peter Singer and The Life You Can Save, though I haven't actually read it.  But I don't think it is immoral to give locally either.  I hope to do both, though I give more locally now. 

To me, giving locally is about maintaining the liberty and freedom of the US so that we can continue to be in a position to help others.  If our democracy fails, because too many people here don't have enough food to eat or don't have civil rights, then no one here can help third world countries.  (I get that this is complex, and many really have way more than we need, but there are plenty of people struggling in our own country). 

Third world countries are complex.  Offering food in third world countries sometimes does as much harm as good, for a variety of reasons.  They need government stability, and creative technologies, and to get rid of dictators, all of which my donation to Children Intl does not help. 

But I think the fact that we are struggling with this concept is a good thing overall.  Far better than debating between the Lexus or the Mercedes!

Agreed.  Well put.  Esp that last point: what good is sending a bunch of rice and beans somewhere if it's all immediately confiscated by the local warlord/dictator?  Law & order is vital. 

I believe "charity starts at home" means that you live out your values where you are right now and not just far away.  Personally, we give to those we love and are closest to, and we also give to causes much farther away.  It would be hypocritical of us if we gave to starving children in Haiti but neglected our own family.  Or, as Dad put it one time, upon giving a close relative some cash for holiday food and stuff: "We'd give this to a stranger, so we may as well give it to him." 

I'm all for charity, both here and abroad.  There are incredible needs here: they just tend to be non-material needs, i.e., emotional needs, spiritual needs, and the like.  If you have any doubt, go to a serious recovery program (Celebrate Recovery, for instance) for a few nights and sit in...the needs will be apparent.  We have tons of victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking in the states, e.g., who could benefit tremendously from generosity/resources/counseling - and that's just a start.  (Ava posted a powerful story on her blog about such things.) 

We're materially rich, so we tend to perceive material needs (or lack thereof), but people aren't just physical material.  They have emotional, physical, and spiritual needs as well.  And America has a gulf of spiritual and emotional needs - just look at the mental health stats, for one. 

Anyway, just chiming in to hopefully add some clarity to what "charity starts at home" may mean to the poster who used that - I know that's what it would mean to me. 

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #40 on: September 29, 2017, 01:50:52 PM »
There's a lot that I don't have answers to when it comes to charity and morality, but I call bullshit on:
Inefficient charity is not much better than no charity at all...
Following this logic, we should all stop giving to any charity immediately until we find the single most efficient use of our charity dollars/time. That is simply ridiculous. Even if donating $x to Africa could save 100 lives and donating that money to a local rights organization only saves one person from being falsely imprisoned for half their life, the latter is still far, far better than doing nothing at all.

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #41 on: September 29, 2017, 01:58:40 PM »
Agreed.  Well put.  Esp that last point: what good is sending a bunch of rice and beans somewhere if it's all immediately confiscated by the local warlord/dictator?  Law & order is vital. 

Do you all remember the SNL skit where Phil Hartman played Bill Clinton impersonating a Somali warlord at a McDonald's in DC?

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #42 on: September 29, 2017, 04:36:29 PM »
<snip>
human life is worthwhile, full stop, period. valuing some lives more than others is pretty sick, and then morally feeling good while doing so, even worse. the difference in the amount of quality life hours you can provide for $1000 in the US versus in africa is astounding. and choosing to say 'fuck those guys because they aren't in geographic proximity to what i call home, due to the random nature of having been born or moved here" is terrible.

OK, I'll let my local food bank know that, along with the otherwise-disengaged teenagers who are staying in school due to additional donations I make to support programs that provide motivation via soccer teams. And the Women's Health center, where I supply $ for additional BC costs for low income women, because the damn state won't pay for that. Sorry, guys -- all my $ is now going to overseas causes! Uh, not.

That actually sounded more confrontational then I mean. I generally agree, but I don't think there's an exact equivalence between a life here and elsewhere. And I think supporting causes like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood is important because as a country we can set an example. And I support schools (mostly, but not entirely, by volunteering) because everyone should be able to math and read and write and think clearly, damnit! (I'd like everyone to be able to do statistics, too...) That last one might be a little self-serving -- I want my kids to grow up into a country where the voting public is at least basically educated.

FWIW, we divide up our donation $ into Local, National, and International piles. I think this reflects our feeling that those donations aren't really comparable. Hungry children in my town (whom it costs relatively more to feed) aren't helped by supporting international relief efforts. Trying to support sane local and congressional candidates around the US may make for a better tomorrow for everyone, but may not save as many lives as mosquito nets. (Unless they can prevent a nuclear or conventional war between madmen.) We still think it's important!

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer is one of the best books I've ever read. Everyone should read it. Especially if you disagree with what I've posted.

I'll add it to my reading list. Frankly, if you recommend it, I'm curious.

Out of the Blue

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #43 on: September 29, 2017, 06:50:11 PM »
The difference between "selfish" and "self-interested"
We are all self-interested, in that we act in a way that we believe will maximise our own well-being/happiness/utility, etc.  So giving to charity is a self-interested act, in that I only do it because I feel better.  But if you described that as being "selfish", I think it just renders the definition of "selfish" meaningless.  Instead, I suggest using the word "selfish" to describe someone who gets a lot more well-being/utility from pursuing their own comforts and experiences, compared to someone who gets a lot more well-being/utility from helping others.

VoteCthulu nailed it when he (or she?) said:
Quote
The real purpose of charity is to make us feel better about ourselves. Helping those we care more about (people we know, children, victims of natural disasters, etc.) makes the vast majority of people feel better than giving to a cause that saves or improves statistically more faceless lives.

It's so simple when you say it, but I hadn't really thought of it like that before.  Giving to a charity recommended by GiveWell makes me feel better than giving to a homeless person on a street because I feel better making decisions in a logical, evidence-based way (as much as possible).  But that's not what drives everyone, and most people feel better helping others that are closer to them, even if that is a less optimal act of charity.  I can't claim to be any more "selfless" than those people based on the fact that we prefer to give differently - just that I am driven by logic and evidence more than them.  But I do believe the world would be a better place if more people were a bit more driven by logic and evidence in their charitable giving.   

There are many clear areas of sub-optimal giving - cancer charities; the ice-bucket challenge; and professionals standing on the street with a bucket collecting money.  I have been one of those professionals in just the past month - but I was under no delusion that I was doing any good, my employer could have done far more good from donating the money I could have earned in that hour to charity.  I just saw it as an opportunity to get out of work for an hour.  I do fear that some people doing these meaningless acts of charity get a "warm glow effect" from it and that displaces some more worthwhile good they might otherwise have done.   

Logic and evidence is not infallible
That said, there are certainly limitations of the GiveWell/evidence-based giving model.  Collecting evidence is costly, and many effects cannot be measured.  Even if you choose to use "number of human lives saved" as the sole metric (and it is certainly disputable whether that is the only metric that counts), a pretty compelling argument could be made for me to prioritise buying a work outfit for myself over giving that money to a GiveWell charity - e.g. that work outfit could help me land a job, which will enable me to earn lots more $$ to give to charity in the future.  That's the "put your own oxygen mask on first" reasoning.  This reasoning can also be extrapolated to donating time or money to education or mentoring organisations/charities - helping others in your country might help them to do more good over time than you could've done by donating all your time/money to GiveWell charities.  But these effects are indirect, not guaranteed, and difficult to measure.       

In sum, there's something to be said for both the "charity starts at home" and GiveWell approaches.  Unfortunately, the GiveWell approach is very underrated, and I suspect many do the "charity starts at home" approach without really thinking through the (direct and indirect) effects.  It's somewhat inherent in the way we talk about giving to "charity", as if it doesn't make a lick of difference whether we give to our local church, the busker on the street, or to Malaria No More - while it may not make much difference to the individual giver, it makes an enormous difference to the recipient.  I think it's generally good to draw more attention to the GiveWell approach, and to challenge people to think a bit more about some of their "good deeds" or charitable acts. 

gaja

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #44 on: September 29, 2017, 08:30:52 PM »
I struggle with accepting the dichotemy between logic and feeling, that for some people appear to lead to only one correct answer. I do not believe GiveWell's priority of #lifes/$ is the one that I should follow to do my best for positive change in the world. My personal research and calculations have led me to believe that the best outcome/energy ratio comes if we are able to contribute to a well functioning local bureaucracy. I know that word is a swear word for many here, but if you look at the countries and local communities that function well today, they all have a trustworthy and fair public management system. The goal is of course not to built a bureaucracy for it's own sake, and it doesn't have to be very large, but it must be fair and trustworthy.  It is very difficult to build a functioning government that provides health care and education, if the tax collectors are corrupt and large parts of the economy operates outside the system. It is extremely difficult to get en efficient vaccine programme rolled out if the population believes the government is the enemy, and fear that they are trying to poison them. It is difficult to differentiate between my bias, and what is logically the best answer, but I struggle to see how it is possible to build a well functioning state based on human rights, without it being a democracy of some sort, and without some level of equal opportunities regardsless of race and gender.

I also strongly believe that single individuals can have profound effect on the world.

Based on this world view, I think my energy is best spent on:
-ensuring that my own backyard is as good as it can get
-ensuring that knowledge can and will travel globally

To give a concrete example: I have spent a lot of time and energy working for fossil free vehicles in Norway. Loads of (private and public) money has been spent on building infrastructure and vehicles. We are only 5 million inhabitants, with maybe the same number of vehicles. This is a piss in the ocean if you look at the global transport system. Why should we spend our money like this, instead of buying bicycles for everyone in Cairo? Wouldn't that total global environmental impact be better? Maybe on the short term, but I don't believe it would be on the long term. The (female) leader of the Norwegian EV association has travelled the world and removed myths surrounding EVs. We have tested those vehicles on long distances, negative 40 degrees C, steep hills, etc. There are no excuses left. She even got invited to speak in Dubai, long before the ban on female drivers was lifted. That kind of information sharing has influenced the major car companies (who all have vistited Oslo on multiple occations to get input). If GiveWell would measure this in #lives/$, we would get an F. But if this action has contributed to shifting the transport industry towards clean vehicles, that is a lot of lives on the longer time scale. If you look at what has been achieved on ships, the short time wins are clearer since large ships at harbour cause a lot of local air pollution, causing loss of life in the urban populations. The Norwegian government paid for the development of one electric ferry back in 2013-2014, as proof of concept. Now more and more private vessels install some sort of hybrid battery system, since they see that technology works and that the cost of investment is saved in on fuel in a very short time.

A different type of example: I once spent my time, and a few thousand Euros of public money, to train 72 norwegian kids in environmental issues. These trained another group, who again trained a third group. I just saw in the paper that the last group has decided that they each are going to push their local municipalities to implement 2-3 actions to reduce climate emissions. Might be some good results from that. Some of those kids I originally trained, have gone on to do quite cool things. Some of them have been elected to political positions, some are studying to become scientists, and at least one of them is travelling the world working for and raising awareness for charities. One of them  took to heart the training in applying for public funding, and started a project where kids from North Africa travel to his village to learn how to build and operate solar panels, and kids from the Norwegian village travelling back home with them to help build and install the solar panels.

These are my type of charities: https://www.nrc.no/expert-deployment/nordem/nordem-2017/about-nordem/ and https://www.nrc.no/expert-deployment/aboutnorcap/
Travelling southern Norway, Iceland and the Faroes in an electric car: http://travelelectric.blogspot.no/

Spiffsome

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #45 on: September 29, 2017, 08:38:45 PM »
I've read Peter Singer. One point that I don't think he addresses sufficiently in the local vs. overseas debate is that it's a lot easier to assess and control where your donation goes, if it goes locally. If I give money to the local food bank or time to a community group, I get some influence over how that group operates since they don't want to lose me as a donor or a volunteer. I also get first-hand information on what they're doing with the money, and what the results of their activity are.

If I give a chunk of money to World Vision or MSF, I am relying on third- or fourth-hand accounts of what they do. I don't know precisely where my donation goes, because it goes into a giant pile to be doled out to a variety of purposes, some of which I may not agree with if I did know about them. Do I want to pay for an aid worker's new Landcruiser? No. Do I have any control over whether an overseas charity buys a new Landcruiser for its workers? No. Does the charity particularly give a shit if I take my $20/month and leave in protest? No.

Singer's conclusion that giving locally means that you value lives more locally is simplistic and flawed. Telling people that they're doing it wrong if they act locally is something that GiveWell explicitly avoids. It is strategically inept if the aim is to improve the world. If someone is doing some good locally, and they get told that their work is inferior because it's not helping poorer countries overseas, are they likely to happily make that change? No. They are much more likely to (a) become demoralised and give up on making any change, or (b) decide that the person denigrating their efforts is a jackass, and ignore them.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #46 on: September 30, 2017, 12:23:57 AM »
No one seems to have considered that misery is not a relative or comparative thing. It's entirely possible to be thoroughly miserable and completely at risk of all the nasty effects of poverty in a developed country on 50 times the income of an equally miserable person in a third world country. We shouldn't be looking at income level. We should be looking at ability to feed oneself and one's family, educate oneself and one's family and make choices around employment, family size etc etc. Personally, I'd feel quite stupid if I was giving money to an organisation in a developing country, where I've been asked for charity all my adult life with no sign of improvement, and where I have zero control over the local government situation when the kid next door is going to school without breakfast or lunch. Charity begins at home means to me that charity is simple and direct, and we've lost that idea. It's keeping an eye on elderly neighbours, noticing when kids are in need, and all that.

shelivesthedream

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #47 on: September 30, 2017, 05:12:01 AM »
One thing about having so many charities and so many people in the world is that everyone has different things they care about. I care very deeply about homelessness in the UK and have seen the wonderful work charities can do to not only house people but to support them to become self-sufficient - find and keep a job, shop and cook for themselves, manage their health issues (physical and mental), organise their finances... I really value that work and its long-term aims. Others value protecting the environment, curing cancer or donkey sanctuaries. It would not, in my opinion, be a good thing if everyone suddenly started buying mosquito nets and pulled the rug out from under all those other charities. I think people should make well-researched and well-considered donation, but not all make the same donation. There are lots of causes and lots of people. That's OK.

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #48 on: September 30, 2017, 09:54:53 AM »
My understanding of the need to describe motivations for giving in terms of emotional vs rational is that most people tend to act on instinct, to act on emotion based on what they see and feel. This is ok, there's nothing wrong with giving to whatever causes mean the most to you. but since most charitable giving is made in this way (to support local causes that we can see and interact with), someone has to fulfill the other need, which is way underfunded.

It's a lot like MMM. There have been threads here asking "What if everyone suddenly becomes super frugal, won't our economy tank?" I see this as similar to "But who will provide for all the needs of my hometown / home country if we all start giving everything away to other countries?" The fact is, most people won't become super frugal. Due to human nature, social conditioning, habit, lack of motivation, etc. No matter how rational an argument MMM makes, it's unlikely that the majority of the population will suddenly switch gears. The same goes for funding international causes. Local causes are the focus of most people's attention, so there's not much risk of everyone suddenly donating 100% of their charitable giving to then poorest nations. GiveWell and the Singer book are a nudge towards acting against our usual behaviours. If it takes a 200 page book or an organization like GiveWell to provide a counterpoint to human nature, and sway just a few people to act on this reasoning, then that's really valuable, in terms of making the world a better, less impoverished, diseased and (economically, socially) unequal place.

former player

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Re: "Charity starts at home" vs GiveWell Philosophy
« Reply #49 on: October 01, 2017, 04:36:21 AM »
One of the problems that I don't think this thread has brought out yet is that "giving to charity" is outsourcing the issues: firstly it is about what other people are doing, and secondly it is a partial response to the issues rather than an "all in" response.  Even the "giving well" philosophy suffers from these issues.  I think the preferred response is a "living well" one -

1.  Before I was FIREd, I had a job with what I considered to be public utility.  Not going to lie: it was fascinating to me and paid well, although less well than the private sector.  But it was a job with a clearly defined public purpose and benefit to it, which I valued.

2.  After FIRE, I put a fair amount of effort into volunteering locally.  That includes being elected to my parish council and working to improve its decision-making and assisting various local volunteer groups with time and expertise.  (Does facepunching on case studies count as "international volunteering"?)

3.  I spend my money with thought.  I buy local produce and support local businesses with my money in preference to national or internet ones.  I limit my purchases but buy secondhand where I can, including clothes and household goods, to spare the environment.  My dog is a rescue rather than buying into the puppy industry when there are already too many dogs.

4.  I have two rental properties locally.  Luckily they have both been in considerable demand and I've had a choice of good tenants.  I choose those I think will contribute the most to my locality, for instance by sending children to the village school (it's an effort to keep it open, and having a village school helps keep the village community alive rather than turning into a commuter/holiday destination dormitory) and being employed locally.

All that happens before you even get into "what I give to charity" (which I do).  But in a sense all of it is about things which could be classed as charitable activities: through my actions I am supporting the rule of law, good governance, local employment and the local economy, the environment and animal charities.

The preferred charities I merely give money to are those which I think have highest utility and least support but which I am entirely unsuited to supporting through personal actions.  My biggest annual donation goes to the care of mentally disabled adults.

Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)