Author Topic: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)  (Read 18194 times)

Daley

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Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« on: July 26, 2012, 12:29:53 AM »
Was reading the evening news tonight, and came across the following article in the world news feed:

Afghan family works to pay off crushing debt

Nutshell on the article? Guy gets married, wife gets sick, guy borrows $900 from his employer to get medical attention for his wife. Nine years later, he's still in debt and he and four of his six children (youngest working is 4 years old) are working in the kilns along with him to try and just eat and pay off the debt. And they aren't the only ones:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41177
http://www.essex.ac.uk/armedcon/story_id/000786.html
http://www.afghanistan-today.org/article/?id=215

This isn't some new story in the history of man... it's happened before, it's happening right now, and it'll keep happening. This sort of thing even occurs in today's United States, just look at the immigrant tomato field workers in Florida as an example right off the top of my head.

A lot of us give a lot of lip service to frugal living, staying out of debt, being socially responsible, and extol the virtues of the bounty of goods that allow us to pursue financial independence. We also frequently want to punch people in this country in the face for their decadent living beyond their means and wasteful consumerism, and honestly, this article just re-stirs some of that anger because some of these never-to-be-forgiven family life debt balances on loans taken out for basic necessities in the third world are for less money than many people waste on frivolous crap in a month here. A lot of times, we also forget where a lot of these goods that give us the quality of life we have come from and who made them as well as how little (by our standards) it can take to dramatically change their lives.

We've all discussed a lot of things in these forums over the months, but I think the above article should serve as a reminder to us all that we should perhaps be doing more. More frugal living, more kindness to others, more self-sufficiency... you get the idea. Charitable works and worthwhile efforts to improve our fellow man's life has never really come up in these forums, and I think its time we changed that. There is no perfect charity, and some people's charities will probably rub others the wrong way... that's okay though. This shouldn't be an argument about who's giving to better causes. Although personal biases and politics may be involved with many of the charities, let's not badger one another about our choices. This should be about openly sharing information with our fellow mustachians about some greater and lesser known causes that we can all potentially invest in to try and make the world a better place. If you've never really considered or done so before, perhaps now is a good time to start.

I'll begin by listing Charity Navigator and the ECFA as resources for vetting charities.

I feel uncomfortable making a list of who we support due a desire to remain as anonymous as possible with tzedakah as we don't give for the thanks, but it's difficult to avoid given the subject. The specific charities that we currently try to support are World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child's Play, and the MJAA. Most of you are probably already familiar with World Vision, the EFF and Habitat for Humanity, so I'll refrain from describing those outfits. Child's Play is an organization that basically provides toys (digital and otherwise), books and games for sick children in hospitals. The MJAA (Messianic Jewish Alliance of America) is an Israel-focused, faith based humanitarian relief and ministry organization. Not all of these are the most lofty and noble of humanitarian aid causes, but they're given to with the intent of improving people's lives, to spread a little joy, and help preserve some freedoms.

What organizations do the rest of you consider worthwhile to share and support?

gooki

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2012, 02:34:30 AM »
A lot of times, we also forget where a lot of these goods that give us the quality of life we have come from and who made them as well as how little (by our standards) it can take to dramatically change their lives.

I'm not of the belief that goods manufactured internationally have improved our quality of life. More often than not the best things in life are free. The remaining difference exist due to good governance, cultural differences and the passing of time. Also life in an undeveloped country is perfectly acceptable.

With that said there are humans all over the world in need and if you can help just one person your doing great.

keith

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2012, 09:57:25 AM »
What organizations do the rest of you consider worthwhile to share and support?

Most of my charitable giving goes to two organizations.

1. Khan Academy - I really like how they are trying to do new things in education. Providing free education in math, science, and other areas to students around the world. Knowledge is power.

2. Charity Water - the basic idea is helping get more people access to clean water.

kisserofsinners

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2012, 10:25:06 AM »
http://www.kiva.org/
I find it more inspiring to invest into struggling markets. It has been fun and i have loaned money to dozens of people. Even when i have to cut charitable giving in the family budget, there's still money coming back into this account to be reloaned.


Bakari

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2012, 11:57:47 AM »
I mostly "give" by giving significant discounts to my clients who don't own cars, are non-profit businesses, are disabled, elderly, or otherwise unable to make much income or I simply feel are deserving.
Regular clients include an elderly widow, a residential facility for severely handicapped children, and the local bicycle advocacy coalition.
I don't always inform clients of said discounts (no one ever asks me where I come up with the numbers I charge).

I did give $500 to OWS, along with some pro-bono labor, and $15 to the Colbert SuperPAC this year.

I used to give more - until I learned the idea of early retirement!  Since then I'm reluctant to give up any potential "employees".  I expect this to change if/when I hit FI.

Being what most people in this country would call "poor", I am very aware of what I.P. is talking about - I live on "only" a little over 10k a year, in a 250sq ft trailer - but I not only eat well, I am accessing the internet with a high-speed connection while lying in bed!  Aside from the homeless, most people in the US live lives of luxury.  Which is why I think wealth redistribution should not be from the rich to the middle class or even the US poor.  It should be from the rich AND the middle class to the third world.  Lucky for ya'll I'm not king f the world ;)

sol

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2012, 02:17:53 PM »
We set an arbitrary goal percentage of our income on top of whatever time and resources we give to a couple of local groups like the Cub Scouts that we're already involved in.  It's not anywhere near a tithe, but it will slightly delay our retirement and we've decided that's a trade-off we're willing to make.

Some of it goes to a local bicycling group to support a more bike-friendly community.
Some of it goes to research for a disease that one of our friend's daughters has.
Some goes to support the separation of church and state and spreading humanist ideals.
Some goes to the local food bank/rescue mission.
Some goes to sanitation and education in rural Nepal, for personal reasons.

Perhaps more importantly, I'm the person in my office who administers the Combined Federal Campaign, which is the mechanism for federal employees to contribute to charities directly from their paychecks.  So I facilitate the giving of many my other people.

Daley

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2012, 11:49:22 AM »
Great start so far!

A lot of times, we also forget where a lot of these goods that give us the quality of life we have come from and who made them as well as how little (by our standards) it can take to dramatically change their lives.

I'm not of the belief that goods manufactured internationally have improved our quality of life. More often than not the best things in life are free. The remaining difference exist due to good governance, cultural differences and the passing of time. Also life in an undeveloped country is perfectly acceptable.

With that said there are humans all over the world in need and if you can help just one person your doing great.

I agree with everything you've said there within reason, and definitely agree that just helping one person is frequently far more than most people do these days.

The issue at play, however, is the fact that none of this stuff is a sealed and sterile environment. Even if we eschew most of the modern conveniences and lead a simple life, our lives and our finances are still ultimately impacted and improved because of these very detrimental practices elsewhere.

As a rough example: slave labor bricks build an office in the middle east that creates a refinery, office and distribution hub for an oil company, the building cost and cost of living helps keep product cost low and profit margins high for the oil pumped from the fields this facility operates, this cheap fuel helps keep overall energy production costs low globally, which impacts overall manufacturing costs, which allows for more cash flow and the selling of goods, which increases corporate profits, which helps drive return rates on money invested.

It's all connected, and our financial independence simply wouldn't be possible without industrialization and exploitation within the system. This is why I feel it an imperative that we be wise and do good with our money, or at least recognize that we didn't get here all on our own. In this day and age, no one person can reach financial independence without the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of strangers helping them there. In the end, it doesn't matter how environmentally friendly your choices are, who you do business with, or how you live your life. Your choices can certainly go towards more ethical and lesser exploitative businesses, but it's still shades of gray. Self sufficiency is a fallacy as no man is truly an island, and there is no such beast as a truly zero impact lifestyle short of living as a hermit in a cave with no outside contact. Even then, impact of others could still be debated.

I don't point this out as condemnation of what we're doing or our varying approaches to giving back to others, but it should at the very least give us all pause and question whether we're doing enough in our day to day lives and long term goals to return the kindness to those who've given us the opportunities that we have. I certainly know it makes me wonder if I'm doing enough myself.

JadamR15

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2012, 08:47:18 PM »
Perhaps we can reframe this conversation from "where" - that is, where should we put our money, to "how much" - that is, what percentage is a good amount to be giving to charitable, productive causes? 

I grew up in a middle-income househould, we often gave 10% in Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Of course, I suppose those at higher net worth values can afford to give more....but that is another debate altogether. 

Do you use a percentage?  And if so, how much?

sol

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2012, 10:01:04 PM »
Perhaps we can reframe this conversation from "where" - that is, where should we put our money, to "how much" - that is, what percentage is a good amount to be giving to charitable, productive causes? 

Good luck with that suggestion.  I wouldn't know how to even begin to make a rational argument for "how much."


JadamR15

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2012, 11:35:24 PM »
Perhaps we can reframe this conversation from "where" - that is, where should we put our money, to "how much" - that is, what percentage is a good amount to be giving to charitable, productive causes? 

Good luck with that suggestion.  I wouldn't know how to even begin to make a rational argument for "how much."

Well, I suppose one has to start with "how many" - with larger groups, a smaller percentage would be prudent, and vice versa - but I think it's an important question to answer for the individual.  To answer the questions for the larger group (or the larger group - society - ) is inappropriate, since I don't have much interest in telling others what to do with their cash. 

But I'm interested in people's personal ideas about how much to give to charitable orgnizations. 

sol

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2012, 11:42:57 PM »
Well, I suppose one has to start with "how many" - with larger groups, a smaller percentage would be prudent, and vice versa -

Are you suggesting giving larger sums to smaller charities, and smaller sums to larger ones?  Maybe I'm not following correctly.

If you think it's a moral imperative to help your fellow man financially, and that other uses of wealth are less just, I'd like to hear your argument why. I think there are several pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion,

Grant here seems to think that social altruism is fundamentally indefensible, though I'm not yet sure why.  If he's right, then the correct amount of money to donate to charity would be "zero".
« Last Edit: July 27, 2012, 11:46:12 PM by sol »

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2012, 07:34:01 AM »
People frequently talk about percentages (or total amounts) given, esp. by wealthy people, as though the size of the donation made it esp. admirable (as in "random rich guy 'aint so bad, he gives fully half his money to charity)

But I think the true test of giving isn't how much you give away, its how much you keep.

If you have a billion dollars, its easy to give away 90%, because then you still have 100 million dollars.
On the other hand, if a homeless guy with $100 to his name gives away 5%, he has only $95 left.
In this extreme example, giving 5% is more charitable than 90%, because it is the bigger personal sacrifice.

So I don't think it makes sense to talk about "how much" OR "what percent", because everyone's circumstances are so different, and therefor what they can potentially afford are as well.

Well, I suppose one has to start with "how many" - with larger groups, a smaller percentage would be prudent, and vice versa -

Are you suggesting giving larger sums to smaller charities, and smaller sums to larger ones?  Maybe I'm not following correctly.

"how many" as in how many different places do you give.  Do you make one large donation to the one organization you really believe in, or do you give small amounts to a dozen different charities?  Its like being a teacher vs a mentor: you can help lots of kids a little bit, or you can totally transform just one person's life, but you can't do both.


If you think it's a moral imperative to help your fellow man financially, and that other uses of wealth are less just, I'd like to hear your argument why. I think there are several pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion,

I question whether "just" is the foundation of "moral".  One could argue that "an eye for an eye" is a just policy, but that doesn't make it especially moral.  I think morality is built on the existence of sentience, the ability to feel pleasure and pain.  It need not be financial, but helping others is moral, basically by definition.  Now whether it is imperative, that is another question.  But whether other uses of wealth may be less valid, consider the diminishing returns one who holds wealth gets for each additional dollar.  Even for a normal consumer, but esp. a mustachian!  For an already FI mustachian, $100 may provide literally no value at all, while it could provide a vaccine against a terrible but easy to prevent disease for some kid in the 3rd world.  Given the benefit we all receive from past and present exploitation of the 3rd world, giving some back seems to be both moral AND just.

Quote
Grant here seems to think that social altruism is fundamentally indefensible, though I'm not yet sure why.  If he's right, then the correct amount of money to donate to charity would be "zero".

Just because it is determined not to be a "moral imperative" wouldn't make it fundamentally indefensible.  It would just mean we aren't obligated to give. 
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 10:17:59 AM by Bakari »

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2012, 09:35:06 AM »
If you think it's a moral imperative to help your fellow man financially, and that other uses of wealth are less just, I'd like to hear your argument why. I think there are several pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion
Grant here seems to think that social altruism is fundamentally indefensible, though I'm not yet sure why.  If he's right, then the correct amount of money to donate to charity would be "zero".
Indefensible != not imperative. I didn't say that people shouldn't give, or even that people shouldn't give money. I said that I don't know that giving money is a moral imperative, and that if you think it is I'd like to hear why. Considering we started down this exact path the last time this topic came up, I'm a little surprised you have nothing but a straw man to answer me with.

I question whether "just" is the foundation of "moral".  One could argue that "an eye for an eye" is a just policy, but that doesn't make it especially moral.  I think morality is built on the existence of sentience, the ability to feel pleasure and pain.  It need not be financial, but helping others is moral, basically by definition.  Now whether it is imperative, that is another question.  But whether other uses of wealth may be less valid, consider the diminishing returns one who holds wealth gets for each additional dollar.  Even for a normal consumer, but esp. a mustachian!  For an already FI mustachian, $100 may provide literally no value at all, while it could provide a vaccine against a terrible but easy to prevent disease for some kid in the 3rd world.  Given the benefit we all receive from past and present exploitation of the 3rd world, giving some back seems to be both moral AND just.
'just' was a sloppy use of language there. I believe charity is moral, and I've never argued that point, here or elsewhere. I believe giving financially can be an effective form of charity, and I've never argued that point, here or elsewhere. I'm confused why the whole forum can't grasp that. I'm questioning whether it is imperative to give financially as opposed to other forms of charity. Again, we just had exactly the same conversation in the last thread that was made to bitch about the topic.

Bakari

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2012, 10:23:16 AM »
I didn't really think that was what you meant to imply, but you have to understand that there are many people who DO make that argument (including, I would bet, many who read these forums).
Its easy to interpret what you said as fitting in with the Ayn Rand version of "morality" in which the greatest good is being selfish, and in which in fact altruism is explicitly immoral.

If you want comments that are more directly related to what your actual views are, you have to tell us what the "pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion" are.

JadamR15

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2012, 10:35:39 AM »
Sol, Bakari -

My "how many" was a reference to the "n" in the group of potential givers.  If there is a greater number of potential givers, then each person could give less while still contributing to the whole.  With smaller groups, such as a family unit, each member would have to give a much larger contribution to sustain the group.

My question is predicated on groups having ties - in some cases strong (family) but in all cases some level of connection (altruism, fellow man, etc).  If there is no percieved connection, I suppose there isn't much impetus to give anything at all...I digress...

Quote
But I think the true test of giving isn't how much you give away, its how much you keep.

If you have a billion dollars, its easy to give away 90%, because then you still have 100 million dollars.
On the other hand, if a homeless guy with $100 to his name gives away 5%, he has only $95 left.
In this extreme example, giving 5% is more charitable than 90%, because it is the bigger personal sacrifice.

So I don't think it makes sense to talk about "how much" OR "what percent", because everyone's circumstances are so different, and therefor what they can potentially afford are as well.

I've heard this argument before, and it's a good one.  As though you're saying, "Why ask how much we can give when we can ask how much we really need at all?" Good thought, but I find this line of thinking is hindered when countered with individual opportunity - while we many not need certain things, I think individuals have the right to enjoy what they like, especially if it's not excessively greedy.  Which is why I return to the idea of percentages. 

Anyway, thanks for entertaining my question. 

Regarding the other conversation going on here about giving and morality - while the argument can be made that there is no obligation to give financially to any cause, I've yet to meet individuals who are not emotionally invested in their own finances and pleasure.  Thus, it's pretty easy to argue that finances should be a portion of any 'giving back'/charitable activities, etc..."show me your wallet, show me your heart" < that type of thing. 

Good thread. 

Still interested in ideas of %.  I personally lean toward at least 10-15% to a number of organizations. 

gooki

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2012, 02:05:48 AM »
But I'm interested in people's personal ideas about how much to give to charitable orgnizations.

I'm firmly of the belief of giving my time instead of money. I'm paranoid that my giving of money will simply inflate the cost of living in society's that it may do more damage than good.

grantmeaname

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #16 on: July 29, 2012, 08:29:50 AM »
If you want comments that are more directly related to what your actual views are, you have to tell us what the "pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion" are.
My big issue with it is that it assumes that giving money is the only or best way to give to a cause. Again, exactly as I said in the last thread we had on the topic, Habitat for Humanity, the Little League, your local parks district, and your favorite museum need your time much more than they need your money. It was brushed aside there, too, so we could get to the big picture of 'sol knows exactly what's right for you and your life'.

Daley

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #17 on: July 29, 2012, 10:26:43 AM »
If you want comments that are more directly related to what your actual views are, you have to tell us what the "pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion" are.
My big issue with it is that it assumes that giving money is the only or best way to give to a cause. Again, exactly as I said in the last thread we had on the topic, Habitat for Humanity, the Little League, your local parks district, and your favorite museum need your time much more than they need your money. It was brushed aside there, too, so we could get to the big picture of 'sol knows exactly what's right for you and your life'.

Yes, many charities need more time than money, but it doesn't mean that all charities are that way. Many charities need more physical resources than they do labor. Although the very topic of this thread has apparently shifted entirely to the monetary aspect, and that may be my fault for not being clearer on the subject, it doesn't mean that other facets of generosity should be ignored or shifted to the detriment of other ways of giving.

I was trying to inspire a topic that made us all reflect on how we're giving and where we're coming up short in those efforts, and then try and foster a discussion on worthy causes for various outfits that we may not all necessarily be aware of and ways to aid them.

Anyone who thinks that just a portion of time, or money/resources, or just taking less is sufficient as a defense for claiming they're generous is buying into a fallacy. Generosity is so much more than just those parts or even their sum. It's a frame of mind, an ethos that defines how you conduct yourself in life. We all have shortcomings in this, some more than others... but it's pretty obvious that selfishness is far more on the table philosophically speaking in these forums than otherwise. It's something that has to be practiced and discussed if any of us are to ever improve upon that, and unlike Bakari, I don't believe that doing the right thing for the wrong reason genuinely benefits a greater good.

Perhaps we can reframe this conversation from "where" - that is, where should we put our money, to "how much" - that is, what percentage is a good amount to be giving to charitable, productive causes? 

I grew up in a middle-income househould, we often gave 10% in Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Of course, I suppose those at higher net worth values can afford to give more....but that is another debate altogether. 

Do you use a percentage?  And if so, how much?

I think a lot of Judaeo-Christians completely miss the concept and purpose of the mitzvot of tithing and charity. The 10% is there to be enough to challenge the giver to recognize that giving can be challenging, but not necessarily disruptive to the care of one's own responsibilities or difficult to perform. It's a teaching mechanism in a way to help instill the value of charity and the value of community. Further, the purpose and encompassing nature of giving of these first-fruits and mitzvot has been lost upon us in the post-industrial world. When a farmer gives 10% of his crop to the needy, he's giving far more than just that.

He is leaving 10% for the needy to take.
He is donating 10% of his work time expressed in the crops tended to charity.
He is sacrificing 10% of his financial gains to the benefit of others.

That 10% is more than just resources, it's an all-encompassing portion of their life. And in this day and age, especially within the context of what we've learned through frugal living, 10% of our lives can have an immensely positive and powerful impact on the welfare of others around us. If we have the capacity, however, there's no reason why we should feel constrained to just that amount if we have the resources to do more.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 10:43:30 AM by I.P. Daley »

darkelenchus

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #18 on: July 29, 2012, 10:42:00 AM »
If you think it's a moral imperative to help your fellow man financially... I think there are several pragmatic and theoretical problems with the assertion.

Re: theoretical problems with the assertion: Charity, by definition, is supererogatory, i.e. is an act that goes above and beyond the call of duty. To say that giving to charity is a moral imperative is to say that one has a duty to go above and beyond the call of duty, which is a contradiction.

Note that this doesn't mean the contrary, i.e. that one shouldn't give to charity. It just shows that one cannot consistently maintain it's imperative to give to charity.

I think morality is built on the existence of sentience, the ability to feel pleasure and pain.  It need not be financial, but helping others is moral, basically by definition.  Now whether it is imperative, that is another question.

So long as greater pleasure can be brought about through donating one's money, time, life, limbs, etc. rather than keeping it for oneself, one is morally obligated to do so. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as charity on this view.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 10:55:27 AM by darkelenchus »

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #19 on: July 29, 2012, 11:14:42 AM »
What about investing in social businesses and micro-credit as an alternative to donating to charities/non-profits?

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #20 on: July 29, 2012, 11:49:41 AM »
What about investing in social businesses and micro-credit as an alternative to donating to charities/non-profits?

That's not giving so much as expecting a return from an investment. Apples and oranges.

Also, one can argue over the true value of organizations like Kiva as being genuinely beneficial to others when they allow the same sort of greedy, predatory interest rates on those micro-loans that we criticize credit card companies for doing here. What sort of charity to others are you providing when you loan out money that might not be repaid for some unfortunate reason and the borrower is left with spiraling debt that they can never escape now, let alone make headway on in the future? How does that make your financial gift with expected return and interest an act of charity? Would that not put you on the same keel as an Afghani brick kiln operator permanently enslaving their workers through permanent debt by offering to loan money for medical bills?

My apologies to those who feel as though I've violated my own rules in regard to criticizing other's charities, though I think it's fair to argue this one. Despite their 501(c)3 status, the fact that the average aggregate interest rate charged by all their "lending partners" currently averages 35.02% leaves the institution looking far less like a charity than an irresponsibly greedy loan shark that you're helping to finance in the name of "feeling good" and "investing" in other people.

darkelenchus

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #21 on: July 29, 2012, 12:04:15 PM »
What about investing in social businesses and micro-credit as an alternative to donating to charities/non-profits?
That's not giving so much as expecting a return from an investment. Apples and oranges.

Okay, scratch the micro-credit, then, even though I think it's not nearly as problematic as you've made it out to be. What about social businesses? There's no expectation of a monetary return at all, other than what's been given. It's effectively an interest-free loan, and facilitates "teaching a man to fish," which is almost invariably more valuable than "giving a man a fish."

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #22 on: July 29, 2012, 12:16:02 PM »
What about social businesses? There's no expectation of a monetary return at all, other than what's been given. It's effectively an interest-free loan, and facilitates "teaching a man to fish," which is almost invariably more valuable than "giving a man a fish."

Giving with the expectation of a return is not giving, no matter how non-existent the return profit might be. This isn't to say that investing in these sorts of things isn't socially beneficial, I'm just saying that it isn't charity.

darkelenchus

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #23 on: July 29, 2012, 12:45:53 PM »
What about social businesses? There's no expectation of a monetary return at all, other than what's been given. It's effectively an interest-free loan, and facilitates "teaching a man to fish," which is almost invariably more valuable than "giving a man a fish."

Giving with the expectation of a return is not giving, no matter how non-existent the return profit might be. This isn't to say that investing in these sorts of things isn't socially beneficial, I'm just saying that it isn't charity.

Sure. I just wanted to bring it up as another means of helping people, since folks generally think that their only option is donating to non-profits.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #24 on: July 29, 2012, 02:33:32 PM »


I think a lot of Judaeo-Christians completely miss the concept and purpose of the mitzvot of tithing and charity. The 10% is there to be enough to challenge the giver to recognize that giving can be challenging, but not necessarily disruptive to the care of one's own responsibilities or difficult to perform. It's a teaching mechanism in a way to help instill the value of charity and the value of community. Further, the purpose and encompassing nature of giving of these first-fruits and mitzvot has been lost upon us in the post-industrial world. When a farmer gives 10% of his crop to the needy, he's giving far more than just that.

He is leaving 10% for the needy to take.
He is donating 10% of his work time expressed in the crops tended to charity.
He is sacrificing 10% of his financial gains to the benefit of others.

That 10% is more than just resources, it's an all-encompassing portion of their life. And in this day and age, especially within the context of what we've learned through frugal living, 10% of our lives can have an immensely positive and powerful impact on the welfare of others around us. If we have the capacity, however, there's no reason why we should feel constrained to just that amount if we have the resources to do more.

Excellent insight, thank you. 

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #25 on: July 29, 2012, 04:32:56 PM »
What about investing in social businesses and micro-credit as an alternative to donating to charities/non-profits?

That's not giving so much as expecting a return from an investment. Apples and oranges.

Also, one can argue over the true value of organizations like Kiva as being genuinely beneficial to others when they allow the same sort of greedy, predatory interest rates on those micro-loans that we criticize credit card companies for doing here. What sort of charity to others are you providing when you loan out money that might not be repaid for some unfortunate reason and the borrower is left with spiraling debt that they can never escape now, let alone make headway on in the future? How does that make your financial gift with expected return and interest an act of charity?

You do not get any interest if you make loans through Kiva.
Kiva also does not take a cut.
Kiva's subcontractors do charge interest to the end user, but only enough to cover their own costs.
It is a non-profit organization.
If they didn't charge any interest at all, it would be difficult to be sustainable given that the process of providing loans in the first place costs more than $0 and that defaults are inevitable, but the interest rate is lower than it would be if made by any for-profit company.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #26 on: July 29, 2012, 05:35:43 PM »
Bakari, you know I respect you deeply, so please don't take this personally.

Kiva's subcontractors do charge interest to the end user, but only enough to cover their own costs.

Many governments will call a 30% interest rate on credit cards usury. People on these forums deride high interest rate loans and even insult people who get suckered into payday loans and high interest rate credit cards as being foolish with their finances. But when it's your money being loaned out through one of Kiva's financial partners to some poor Peruvian entrepreneur at 60.03%, it's suddenly called a charitable investment.

You do not get any interest if you make loans through Kiva.
Kiva also does not take a cut.
It is a non-profit organization.

Well, I guess that makes it okay then. Thanks for clearing that up!

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #27 on: July 29, 2012, 09:52:41 PM »
I never take any of these debates personally, but thanks for the disclaimer anyway :)

I'm not arguing the merit of very small loans, which inherently tend to have higher interest:
http://www.kiva.org/about/microfinance#aboutMFCosts

Is it the most helpful way to provide charity?  I have no idea. 
Plenty of traditional charities have a large percentage of money go to "administrative costs" or waste or straight embezzlement.  That doesn't make it not charitable to give money to charity.

I'm just pointing out that as a lender to something like Kiva, you aren't expecting any return.  It isn't fair to claim that the people who donate through that avenue are "not giving so much as expecting a return from an investment. "


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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #28 on: July 30, 2012, 09:33:55 PM »
I never take any of these debates personally, but thanks for the disclaimer anyway :)

I'm not arguing the merit of very small loans, which inherently tend to have higher interest:
http://www.kiva.org/about/microfinance#aboutMFCosts

Is it the most helpful way to provide charity?  I have no idea. 
Plenty of traditional charities have a large percentage of money go to "administrative costs" or waste or straight embezzlement.  That doesn't make it not charitable to give money to charity.

I'm just pointing out that as a lender to something like Kiva, you aren't expecting any return.  It isn't fair to claim that the people who donate through that avenue are "not giving so much as expecting a return from an investment. "

Well, my argument that any time assistance is provided in any form with the expectation of the recipient being placed in an obligatory position to repay that assistance isn't charity. Any act performed and done so with the expectation of a return ceases to be an altruistic act and becomes commerce. It doesn't matter that you aren't the person getting the interest on the loan you made or even that you may be tapped to cover the principal balance of the loan made if it defaults, it's the fact that the money is a loan and not a gift.

Yes, even within straight up charities there can be greed and corruption through administrative costs and porky paychecks for leadership, but that's why we need to do at least some basic due diligence on who we might give our time and resources to to begin with.

Honestly, I worry that our modern society has so twisted the basic understanding and definition of what constitutes charitable giving that it now encompasses ideals so selfish that usury interest rates and a desire of getting something back for your "donation" has become an acceptable expectation.

Part of the problem here might be the fact that people are getting hung up in the semantics of the word charity while completely missing the entire spirit of what it should define. It's a forest for the trees situation.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 09:35:47 PM by I.P. Daley »

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #29 on: July 31, 2012, 07:39:30 AM »
I participate in KIVA but I don't consider it charitable giving.  I take it for what it is - I am acting as a bank, providing capital to finance micro loans.  Since I believe in the power of micro loans to improve lives, as a distinct difference from providing free goods and services, I participate.   They are risky loans in places with volatile currencies: high interest rates accompany that. 

James

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #30 on: July 31, 2012, 09:58:24 AM »
I've participated in Kiva, not a lot, but between my wife and I it's a decent amount.  I consider it good program and an interesting experiment to participate in, I'm not worried whether someone considers it a charity or not.

We give about 10-15% of our income to charity each year, which involves a huge variety of interests.  I also spend a couple weeks each year practicing anesthesia in a foreign country with organizations such as Healing the Children.  I pay my full way for the entire trip (flight, hotels, medical supplies, etc), along with paying Healing the Children a participation fee that funds other supplies, money for the families we help, etc.  Our donations this year are going to be a bit lower due to our problems in getting out from under a big house we mistakenly purchased years ago, but once we get past that our donations will continue to grow.

Over the past 10 years that's a couple hundred thousand that I could have put toward FI.  It's simply a statement of my priorities and values, not a judgement of others or even a call to action.  We each need to weigh our charity and be comfortable with both the amounts and the placement of our charity, judging others or suggesting standards for others is foolish.

The biggest principle I follow in choosing where to give is knowing the charity I give to personally.  I give directly to some specific people both in foreign countries and in America despite the fact that I don't get a tax deduction for that.  I give to our local Boys and Girls Club even though what they do isn't "saving lives" or something grandiose for the desperately poor, it's simply something we have benefited from and wish to support.  We have supported an orphanage in Haiti, childhood friends in need of surgery, college tuition for someone who couldn't afford it, clean water in Africa, etc.  But do you know one of the most memorable gift in all my giving?  It was a simple soccer ball to a bunch of kids playing in the streets of St Lucas Guatemala.  Sure, maybe that money (about $16 for the ball from a vendor down the street) would have been better given to provide clean water for babies in Africa, or any of a million pressing needs.  But I can't save the word, I don't accept any responsibility to do so. 

I give for the most selfish of all reasons, it's what I do to feel happy and good about my life.  Of course it's much more complicated than that, but getting rid of all of my philosophical bullshit and platitudes that is what's left.  I'm comfortable with that, and have worked to find more happiness and enjoyment in giving to the more pressing needs.  Having traveled more in the past few years we've changed some of our giving to areas of need we hadn't known or understood as well prior to that.  We continue to change our giving to reflect our growing understanding of the needs and impacts of gifts to specific areas.  I have much to learn and develop in that area so I'm very interested in what others have said about how they choose the amount and where to give.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #31 on: July 31, 2012, 01:07:31 PM »
What about social businesses? There's no expectation of a monetary return at all, other than what's been given. It's effectively an interest-free loan, and facilitates "teaching a man to fish," which is almost invariably more valuable than "giving a man a fish."

Giving with the expectation of a return is not giving, no matter how non-existent the return profit might be. This isn't to say that investing in these sorts of things isn't socially beneficial, I'm just saying that it isn't charity.

I take that to also imply that if one takes a tax deduction for a donation, it was not charity either?
I actually find that a reasonable outlook, one I kind of agree with, but I'm just trying to clarify what you're saying.

In fact, come to think of it, that seems an interesting related concept that I don't think I've seen brought up yet.
Does anyone here deliberately not claim tax-deductible donations, and/or make donations anonymously?

sol

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #32 on: July 31, 2012, 01:17:45 PM »
Does anyone here deliberately not claim tax-deductible donations, and/or make donations anonymously?

I have never previously claimed my charitable donations as tax deductions, but that was more out of ignorance than principle.  Until the past few years, it wasn't a significant enough amount of money that I thought it worth the hassle.

I have always tried to give anonymously, though one year I failed to check the little box and my name got out to the recipients.  They were very nice about taking me off their solicitations list, but I will say that some of the early publication materials they sent me were actually pretty informative. 

darkelenchus

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #33 on: July 31, 2012, 02:43:06 PM »
Does anyone here deliberately not claim tax-deductible donations, and/or make donations anonymously?

My donations tend to be non-traceable (giving bus tickets to the poor/homeless in downtown Milwaukee, buying them food & clothes, etc.), so tax deductions and anonymity aren't really at issue.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #34 on: July 31, 2012, 04:56:58 PM »
I give money to a number of charities. In fact, I spend a lot of time thinking about whether it is justified to spend money on frivolous items when it could be used to help with someone else's basic necessities. The dilemma for me is when it is ok to save money vs. when I could be giving it to more worthwhile causes. I haven't quite figured this out for myself yet.

Right now Doctors without Borders and a local charity that provides mental health services to homeless individuals come out of my paycheck. I've consistently increased my amounts with my salary.

Good topic, OP. Sometimes saving can feel too much like "me me me." If I can spare the money that makes life and death differences in other people's lives I feel an obligation to do so.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #35 on: July 31, 2012, 05:23:38 PM »
What about social businesses? There's no expectation of a monetary return at all, other than what's been given. It's effectively an interest-free loan, and facilitates "teaching a man to fish," which is almost invariably more valuable than "giving a man a fish."

Giving with the expectation of a return is not giving, no matter how non-existent the return profit might be. This isn't to say that investing in these sorts of things isn't socially beneficial, I'm just saying that it isn't charity.

I take that to also imply that if one takes a tax deduction for a donation, it was not charity either?
I actually find that a reasonable outlook, one I kind of agree with, but I'm just trying to clarify what you're saying.

In fact, come to think of it, that seems an interesting related concept that I don't think I've seen brought up yet.
Does anyone here deliberately not claim tax-deductible donations, and/or make donations anonymously?

Yup, you pretty much understand my playbook now. We deliberately do not take the tax benefits (render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's), and we do our best to keep our donations as anonymous as possible whenever possible as we don't view it as our money/resources (and unto G-d the things that are G-d's). That's why I felt a bit awkward even namechecking the charities that I did, but understood the necessity of citing them for the purpose that I'd originally intended with this thread.

This isn't to say I'm trying to imply my specific morals and ethics here... but I don't view these as religious values so much as logical and necessary values (that coincidentally dovetail into my faith) for the purpose of giving itself as a means to keep yourself grounded and doing it for the right reason as a selfless act to others and not for yourself.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2012, 05:28:07 PM by I.P. Daley »

galaxie

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #36 on: August 01, 2012, 11:31:39 AM »
I've been using Philanthroper to donate money to a variety of causes.  It's good for me because:
  • Charity money comes out of my personal "buying clothes, toys, and other optional stuff" budget, which isn't huge, so it works better for me to spread it out by donating a little every day.
  • I get to find out about charities I might not have otherwise heard about, and can give them extra money if I like them a lot.

When I get to FI, I plan to use some of my abundant free time to volunteer for education-related charities.  For now I just give them money.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #37 on: August 01, 2012, 11:52:39 AM »


I realize I've been posting a lot, and they've all been long, and I apologize for taking up so much thread space.
Also: this is going to be another one.

See, these posts have been going through my mind the past couple days, keeping me up at night, distracting me at work, and I think I have finally pinned down exactly what it is that has been bothering me so much about the outlook that has been expressed here multiple times by different people in regards to donating money versus volunteering or consuming less or other forms of bettering the world.

Up until now I've mostly been participating in a philosophical kind of way, but the more I think about it, the more I think the arguments I've seen made here are actually counter-productive - ironically enough, in the exact kind of way that Sol's very first post was talking about.  So now I'm going to have to make the same disclaimer that was given to me a couple times recently: I don't mean this as a personal attack one anyone specifically.  I respect you guys, and I enjoy the discussions we have here, and most of all, I recognize that everyone here means well.  The topic of how much we do to make the world better has been broached, and now that pandora's box has been opened, I'll go ahead and tell you what I really think:

Your privileged is showing.

I realize that the average level of income among MMM readers is higher than the average US citizen (although it often seems that many of you forget that).  The upper middle class is disproportionately represented, and we even have some of the infamous "1%".
I grew up in on of the poorest cities in the SF Bay Area, with subsidized rent and government food programs, and then went on to live in various trailer parks across the US.  Even now that I am finally able to save a portion of my income, I have always lived around poverty.

Among the people I voluntarily associate with, my friends and co-workers and associates, the majority of my circles don't have much money - and here's the key part - because they have chosen to do something with their lives which is meaningful, but doesn't pay well.

D_ has a law degree, and gave up a successful career as a corporate lawyer in favor of working as an advocate for bicycle access in urban planning.
A_ graduated from UC Berkeley with a physics degree - at the age of 18. Smart enough to do anything.  She went on to get a Master's in education, so she could work as a math teacher in low-performing public schools.
J_ makes around 20k a year working as a special education assistant for special needs preschoolers.
B_ works for the local food bank
N_ is a fundraiser for a major non-profit foundation - one which has received a number of bomb threats due to a certain Fox News commentator's insane conspiracy theories.
M_ manages a non-profit community bike shop who's primary service is free of charge
JH_ runs a tiny underfunded non-profit which aims to educate poor inner city people about healthy nutrition as well as providing them access to fresh local produce by setting up farm stands and school gardens deep in the ghetto.
My friends with Master's degrees use said degree to work as teachers in public schools.
This is just a sample, but there are a lot more.
None of these people make much money.
And they don't make much money because they choose to do meaningful work instead of high paying work.


There has been a lot of mention - and general consensus - about how us in the first world have access to a life of luxury, how we have more than our fair share, and how this is largely at the expense of the rest of humanity.
But there seems to be some sort of disconnect about what that actually means.
That excess we have is in the form of fancy coffee drinks and iPads and new cars and cable TV and large wardrobes and the chance to travel to interesting places on vacation.
The destructive thing we do is consume.
The more one consumes, the higher their negative impact is.
There is a direct relationship between how much you spend and how much you consume, and between how much you consume, and the size of your negative impact on the world.
Again, to be clear, because this is important: there is a DIRECT relationship between how much you spend and the size of your negative impact on the world.

I think the real issue, in terms of our personal responsibility to the world is - has to be - our net impact.  You can not just look at how much one gives while ignoring how much they take.
You need to take all the charity and donations and volunteering and self-sacrifice, and then subtract all the consumption, and only then do you get a meaningful result.

If you are taking more than your share in the first place, then hell yeah, you should feel obligated to give something back.  But if you are taking 20 times your share, then giving back 10% is hardly anything to be proud of.  You are still in the red.  Way, way in the red.
Maybe the reason yall in the upper-middle-class feel so strongly about giving cash is because on some level you know you have more than your share to begin with.
But then, instead of acknowledging that imbalance in your own mind, you make it about the principal of giving, which basically lets you off the hook for giving back 2 units (after you took 20 units in the first place) - and then that in turn leads to the idea that everyone else should be giving back 10%, even if they didn't take so much extra to begin with.

It may not have been your intention, but more than one person has implied that they are morally superior to the friends and associates I listed above, because those people don't donate cash.
These are people who are spending their lives following their values, while you are sitting there feeling morally superior because once a month you open up your checkbook and give 10% of your massive wealth from the comfort of your living room - money that goes to paying my friends' living expenses while they go about doing the real work that needs to be done.

I'm calling BS on that.

That's like the investor who thinks he deserves the credit for creating the tangible things of value that the worker actually built with his hands.  Take away all the investors, and society still functions.  Take away all the workers, and it does not.


While y'all talk about the savings you can have by cutting cable or buying used cars, the people in my circles have never paid for cable, don't own cars, and still live with roommates as middle aged adults.  They don't do these things so they can retire early.  They do these things because that is what life is like when you aren't middle class.  Buying a new car isn't an option.

When someone actually donates so much money that all they have left is the $20k a year my friend makes as a special-ed teacher - 20k to spend on both living expenses AND savings, then come back and tell me about how meaningful it is to donate cash, or that it is a mandatory part of ethical living.  In other words, if you make 100k gross, donate 80%, not 10%.  Then, and only then, will I even consider donations to be as meaningful as actually living ones life according to their values.


The fact that I believe that the root of the first worlds destructiveness is consumption is the whole reason I am here (on the MMM forum) and promote MMM to everyone in my real life.
I really don't care about getting rich.  I would enjoy the freedom of FI, but it has never been a primary goal.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, I could easily expand my business following the standard capital model and make lots of money, but I find it unethical to skim money off the top of a worker's labor, so I will not expand and hire employees.
I rarely even read the investing posts.  They don't interest me.  I'm here to give bicycle and composting advice, to learn and teach about saving energy, to have thought provoking political and philosophical discussions like this one.
I'm a fan of MMM because it has a reason for everyone to consume less.  Whether you are rich or poor, selfish or socially minded or environmental, or just interested in being a badass human being, the message is the same: consume less.  Yes, it would be great if everyone in the world acknowledged their own privileged and wanted to give something back - but they don't.  That will never be universal.  And MMM says, even if you don't care about the developing world, even if you don't care about the environment, you should still drive less, you should still buy less clothes and electronics.  The wider that message spreads, the better the world becomes, as peoples' negative impact becomes smaller - even the people who don't give a damn about charity and are not going to change their minds no matter what you say.  And it gets all the people who care, but don't realize that the single most important thing they can do is stop being so destructive.

You want to donate cash, fine.  But get your priorities in order.
A person who drives an SUV 20 miles to work each day, eats meat with every meal, owns all the latest gadgets and has 4 kids is not making up for the damage they do to the world by donating a few thousand dollars a year.
Its like if you are trying to get out of debt and start saving by clipping coupons when you live in a 2500sq ft home and own a car bought new on financing.  If you want to do good, take care of the big stuff first.  Then, if you still feel like you need to do more, then by all means add in some donations and call it charity.
But don't tell me that because you give away some of your excess wealth you are morally superior to people who actually are avoiding the destructive habits that so many American's think of as normal.


In fact, there is my challenge for everyone in this thread:

Stop doing the major destructive things that we Americans (and to a lesser - but still large extent, the rest of the first world) do
Don't have (biological) children.  If you already do, fine, of course an existing person has inherent value.  But don't have more.  If you want to raise a child, adopt.
Don't eat meat (unless you personally raised it, hunted it, or at least went to the farm and witnessed the practices of the farm)
Don't drive a car
Don't take (voluntary) plane trips
Keep your spending for all (new) stuff less than however much you donate each year

Y'all brought this topic up, and have been fierce in suggesting it is everyone's responsibility to do the right thing.
So now I'm stepping it up a notch.
Lets get serious.  Not this feel good donate a little and feel good about it crap.  Actual personal sacrifice so that we don't take more than our share of the world's resources.
That should really be the minimum - the absolute minimum - that is expected of each and every one of us, and buying indulgences, carbon offsets, or charitable donations does not let anyone off the hook

darkelenchus

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #38 on: August 01, 2012, 02:02:06 PM »
Excellent post, Bakari. I agree with pretty much everything you said (except for maybe the not having kids part - we're having only one child; my wife's 3 months pregnant), and it has major cross-purposes with my recent post. Since you emphazise not consuming so well in your post, I'm going to link to edit mine to link to this. Is that cool with you?

Also, I should say that with the exception of a few years during my early teens, I've either lived in or around poverty. I haven't talked much about the finance situation of my household, but it's only been about the last year and a half or so that we even began to approach the median US household income. (And yet the fantastic thing is, I feel like we lived like kings even before this, so no lifestyle inflation, which spelt a greater savings rate and a greater opportunity to give back. I mention this now only because I want to say that I sympathize with what you have said re: the bias in favor of donating money. If my posts seemed as if they were abstracted from practical concerns, it is only because I am a philosopher by training and tend to focus on the conceptual matters first and foremost and not because I have no clue about or care for the rubber meeting the road (not so say that anyone else here is in that boat, either).

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #39 on: August 01, 2012, 02:22:59 PM »
Well said, Bakari. I'm almost wondering if your post shouldn't instead be splintered off into its own thread in the "Throw Down the Gauntlet" forum.

For those who might think that I've personally been overly focused on the monetary portion of charity, my sincerest apologies for not making my purposes more transparent and lending the appearance of such matters. Although I've personally disagreed with Bakari on the subject of time-vs-money in donating, I now understand that it's for the exact same reason as his money-vs-time concerns. Either extreme can lead to a devaluation of the purpose of the act itself. In all things, balance.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #40 on: August 01, 2012, 04:06:47 PM »
Well said, Bakari. I'm almost wondering if your post shouldn't instead be splintered off into its own thread in the "Throw Down the Gauntlet" forum.

For those who might think that I've personally been overly focused on the monetary portion of charity, my sincerest apologies for not making my purposes more transparent and lending the appearance of such matters. Although I've personally disagreed with Bakari on the subject of time-vs-money in donating, I now understand that it's for the exact same reason as his money-vs-time concerns. Either extreme can lead to a devaluation of the purpose of the act itself. In all things, balance.

Yes, perhaps we need a "Living Delibrately" or "Living Intentionally" spinoff thread--or whatever Bakari would like to call it.

It has occurred to me as I have read these recent threads that I have a different relationship with money than some participants.  I see money as an artificial construct.  Sure, I save it and invest it, but I do not place dollar values on every aspect of my life.  The best decisions are not necessarily driven by economics--or face value economics.  My standard example is shrimp.  No cheap Asian shrimp for me.  I spend more to buy local but am I really spending more if the shrimpers and fishmongers who are my neighbors are then able to contribute to the tax base of my community?  Saving a few bucks but having unemployed neighbors does not enhance anyone's quality of life.

But I suspect that my relationship with money is influenced by the fact that I have plenty.  If I did not, perhaps I would be driven to shop at Walmart. Shudder.  Well, maybe not.

Thank you, Bakari, for such a thoughtful post.  Part of the reason that I am enjoying these discussions is that I can continue them with my college aged son.  You have given us food for thought.

 

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #41 on: August 01, 2012, 06:24:02 PM »
I'm a fan of MMM because it has a reason for everyone to consume less.  Whether you are rich or poor, selfish or socially minded or environmental, or just interested in being a badass human being, the message is the same: consume less.  Yes, it would be great if everyone in the world acknowledged their own privileged and wanted to give something back - but they don't.  That will never be universal.  And MMM says, even if you don't care about the developing world, even if you don't care about the environment, you should still drive less, you should still buy less clothes and electronics.  The wider that message spreads, the better the world becomes, as peoples' negative impact becomes smaller - even the people who don't give a damn about charity and are not going to change their minds no matter what you say.  And it gets all the people who care, but don't realize that the single most important thing they can do is stop being so destructive.


I love that paragraph.


Thanks for the thought provoking and hard hitting post.  I highly agree with so much of what you said, and even more so with the overall sentiment of getting to the heart of the matter.  I have always given a decent percent to charity, but it was only after traveling to Haiti, Rwanda and Guatemala that I started to really understand how privileged I was and how worthless my charity was in the big picture.  Personal interaction is so key.  My consumption was actually low by American standards, but I was struck by the obscenity of my consumption in the big picture of the world.  MMM has helped me focus on a life without that level of consumption, and my wife and I are making a painful but satisfying transition.  It's painful not because of anything we are loosing, but because we realize as we change how bad we were, and we are prevented from changing quickly because of the lasting effects of some of our previous decisions.


Thank you for bringing me back to the heart of the matter, I've become complacent lately.  Time to focus on and pursue a life in keeping with my values.  Not "sometime" or at FI, but now.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #42 on: August 01, 2012, 06:28:47 PM »
I enjoyed Bakari's post immensely.  Gave me lots to think about.

But am I the only one that will admit to saying "I don't think so" to his challenge?

Quote
In fact, there is my challenge for everyone in this thread:

Stop doing the major destructive things that we Americans (and to a lesser - but still large extent, the rest of the first world) do
Don't have (biological) children.  If you already do, fine, of course an existing person has inherent value.  But don't have more.  If you want to raise a child, adopt.
Don't eat meat (unless you personally raised it, hunted it, or at least went to the farm and witnessed the practices of the farm)
Don't drive a car
Don't take (voluntary) plane trips
Keep your spending for all (new) stuff less than however much you donate each year

I'm on board with the first and last.  Not the middle four.  Sorry.

Maybe I'm the only one.  If you all do those things, more power to you.  I won't.

Go ahead, jump on me.
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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #43 on: August 01, 2012, 07:00:14 PM »
I enjoyed Bakari's post immensely.  Gave me lots to think about.

But am I the only one that will admit to saying "I don't think so" to his challenge?

Quote
In fact, there is my challenge for everyone in this thread:

Stop doing the major destructive things that we Americans (and to a lesser - but still large extent, the rest of the first world) do
Don't have (biological) children.  If you already do, fine, of course an existing person has inherent value.  But don't have more.  If you want to raise a child, adopt.
Don't eat meat (unless you personally raised it, hunted it, or at least went to the farm and witnessed the practices of the farm)
Don't drive a car
Don't take (voluntary) plane trips
Keep your spending for all (new) stuff less than however much you donate each year

I'm on board with the first and last.  Not the middle four.  Sorry.

Maybe I'm the only one.  If you all do those things, more power to you.  I won't.

Go ahead, jump on me.

I'm not technically on board or able to physically enact a couple of those things (oh, how I'd love to go ovo-lacto vegetarian, but I literally need occasional wads of cooked animal flesh in my diet or my blood sugar starts to bounce like a superball). As such, I'm hardly in a place to judge. Even if there's specific points of contention even with myself, I'm down with the broader spirit of the intended challenge. The nitty gritty on specifics just highlights differences in our needs and value system.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #44 on: August 01, 2012, 07:13:39 PM »
Maybe I'm the only one.  If you all do those things, more power to you.  I won't.

Go ahead, jump on me.


I didn't accept that specific challenge either, though I did take to heart the idea of doing less of those things as possible.


I think his less specific and final challenge "Actual personal sacrifice so that we don't take more than our share of the world's resources." is a challenge I do accept, though I reserve the right to define the specifics so he still may not be happy with my overall consumption...  :)  But I'm ok with that, each of us must live within our own values.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #45 on: August 01, 2012, 08:11:43 PM »
Go ahead, jump on me.
In fact, there is my challenge for everyone in this thread:

Not really jumping on you, or anyone, really. But if the point is to consume less, these three are the most effective:

Quote
Stop doing the major destructive things that we Americans do
Don't eat meat
Don't drive a car
« Last Edit: August 01, 2012, 09:01:58 PM by darkelenchus »

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #46 on: August 01, 2012, 09:19:34 PM »

Not really jumping on you, or anyone, really. But if the point is to consume less, these three are the most effective:

Quote
Stop doing the major destructive things that we Americans do
Don't eat meat
Don't drive a car

Not having children is exponentially more effective than any of those in reducing both current and future consumption and destructive forces on the Earth.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #47 on: August 01, 2012, 09:21:31 PM »
I agree with all three previous posts. (EDIT: Smalllife snuck in a post while I was typing.  I was referring to the three before that, responses to my post.  But I think I agree with him/her as well.)

They just aren't something I'm willing to give up right now.

I accept that I may be selfish and immoral by some people's value systems because of that.

The spirit of the challenge I agree with, but it was a very specific challenge.  And I think too many people who read things like that (no one here in particular in mind) say "oh yeah, great challenge, I agree in principal" and then do nothing.  I think it was made specific for a reason, and to dismiss those specifics and to try and claim you're still taking it to heart does the issuer a disservice.

I'm okay with admitting what I am and am not willing to do with regards to that specific challenge.

And again, if you can do all the things in that challenge, my hat is off to you.  I have nothing but respect for that individual.

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #48 on: August 01, 2012, 11:56:38 PM »
Social justice FTW!

Just for the record, I'm claiming full credit for starting a trend in the MMM forums towards charitable thoughts and actions.  These topics have been simmering here for a while and it was bugging me that they weren't addressed more openly, so I opened the door a crack and all of you came charging out with guns blazing.

With that said, I think there are a lot of different opinions here about what charity entails and each person's plan of action is going to be different.  While sometimes forcefully verbalizing my own views, I wouldn't presume to tell other people how to act on their own value systems.  I'm just glad a few folks have made the connection between their values and their lifestyles, and hopefully have enacted discernible changes, whatever they may be.

Was anyone actually made a change in their life after reading these threads over the past week or so? 

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Re: Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
« Reply #49 on: August 02, 2012, 12:17:54 AM »
Your privilege is showing.

Hell yes my privilege is showing.  It doesn't take a genius to recognize that participants in an internet forum about how to dispose of surplus wealth might be somewhat more fortunate than your average bear.

The very fact that we can use our personal computers in our abundant free time to contemplate the vagaries of tax shelters or asset allocations or philosophies of charitable giving clearly puts us all a step or two above the 2 billion people on earth who survive on a dollar a day or less.  Has anyone here lost a child to dysentery?  Typhoid?  Then consider yourself remarkably blessed.

Well, not like Mitt Romney blessed, but you get the idea.  You're all clearly doing way above average.

Quote
While y'all talk about the savings you can have by cutting cable or buying used cars, the people in my circles have never paid for cable, don't own cars, and still live with roommates as middle aged adults.  They don't do these things so they can retire early.  They do these things because that is what life is like when you aren't middle class.  Buying a new car isn't an option.

Oh get off your high horse for just a moment.  Has anyone in your circle lost a child to dysentery, or are they also just as privileged?  The beauty of relativism is that it applies to everyone.  Claiming your moral superiority over me is no different than me claiming my superiority over Romney or an Ethiopian claiming his over you.  Some people might even suggest that Romney's wealth and success are signs of his superiority over all of us.  It's just a matter of how your perspective changes the criteria of your judgment. 

Poverty is not in itself proof of morality. 

Quote
Don't have (biological) children.  If you already do, fine, of course an existing person has inherent value.  But don't have more.  If you want to raise a child, adopt.

While we're on the topic of value systems, this point is one I take issue with.  It is valid if you assert that environmental health is more important than human happiness, but I tend to think all systems of value, ethics, and morality exist solely in relation to humanity.  I would gladly see the entire planet go up in flames if it ensured the continued survival of the human race.  I would voluntarily push an entire species to extinction to save an entire ethnic group.  I value people more than nature, not solely because I'm innately anthropocentric but because I think it is people who have made up the value system in the first place and thus people who get to decide how to apply it.

Your point about population control is a good one, if interpreted in the context of "more people will reduce the quality of life of those people who are already here".  It seems less defensible to me if interpreted in the light of "people are inherently bad because they consume resources".  The former need not be a mandate for population control if quality of life does not go down.  The latter requires population control a priori.