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clarissethorn comments on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... - Less Wrong

130 Post author: Yvain 24 December 2010 09:26PM

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Comment author: clarissethorn 25 December 2010 05:42:06AM *  16 points [-]

The second point is something that really gets me. It seems to me that rather than feeling bad about donating to one charity rather than a more efficient or more "important" other charity, we should feel bad about spending money on frivolities rather than donating to charity. Nonprofit organizations are forced to compete against each other for slender resources in many ways, including donor dollars -- why can't they compete against things that have less moral value instead? It would be awesome if there were more social pressure to donate to charity rather than going to the movies or buying pretty clothes.

Interestingly, however, there is some social stigma against donating "too much". A few years ago, there was a New York gentleman who donated a much larger than "normal" percentage of his money to charity, as well as his kidney, plus some other stuff. (I'm sorry, I really wish I could remember his name, but I am very sure I have these details correct, because I read a lot about it at the time.) People speculated in the press about his mental status and other children mocked his kids at school, although his family was hardly left poor by the experience, and his health was not endangered.

In terms of the point in the OP about the lawyer who should be working overtime rather than volunteering ... I struggle with this so much. I spend most of my time doing activism, and I have friends who spend more time than I do (who do things like take very low-paying part-time jobs in order to finance spending most of their time doing activism), but most of us are sex-positive activists, and sex-positive activism is arguably an extremely "low priority" type of activism. If we are concerned about saving more lives, for example, then we should be dedicating our time to other types of activism, or we should be using our intelligence to get awesome jobs and then spending the money on charity. However, I (for one) have tried dedicating all my time to doing activism that seemed "more important" (HIV in Africa) rather than the activism that is most interesting to me (various types of sexuality stuff in America), and I was both less happy and less effective. I am also very sure that I would be unhappy if I dedicated my considerable IQ to becoming a corporate bitch and then donating lots of money, rather than working directly on the issues I care about.

Additionally, it is undeniable that someone has to work on the issues I care about, or else who would I donate money to even if I had a lot of it?

Comment author: ciphergoth 27 December 2010 05:46:08PM 26 points [-]

I (for one) have tried dedicating all my time to doing activism that seemed "more important" (HIV in Africa) rather than the activism that is most interesting to me (various types of sexuality stuff in America), and I was both less happy and less effective

There's a story I like to tell when I hear this. Louise and Claire are both concerned about global warming. Louise is full of passion for the subject and does what moves her most; through her hard work persuades a thousand people to unplug their phone chargers at night. Claire can't get worked up about it even though she understands it's important; in a drunken conversation one night she persuades one friend to turn down their central heating one degree.

Claire's choice of an efficient way to reduce CO2 emissions absolutely swamps the difference in enthusiasm; she does considerably more good than Louise.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 24 March 2011 01:23:27AM 7 points [-]

This makes me wonder if giving out free clothing vouchers in winter might be an effective global warming hack.

Comment author: Vaniver 25 December 2010 11:05:04AM 7 points [-]

we should feel bad about spending money on frivolities rather than donating to charity.

This is standard religious dogma. Secular activists rarely have the gumption to make it part of their pitches.

Interestingly, however, there is some social stigma against donating "too much".

When you take seriously something other people are hypocritical about, it makes them edgy.

most of us are sex-positive activists, and sex-positive activism is arguably an extremely "low priority" type of activism.

Not for me. Keep up the good work :D

Additionally, it is undeniable that someone has to work on the issues I care about, or else who would I donate money to even if I had a lot of it?

Comparative advantage. Compare you being an activist and your donors working (which includes you working a low-value job to donate to yourself) and you working and donating to the marginal activist. Which scenario is superior?

The standard lawyer/secretary example comes to mind- even if the lawyer types much faster, they're better off having their secretary type for them. As an activist, are you a lawyer or a secretary? If gainfully employed, would you be a lawyer or a secretary?

Comment author: michaelkeenan 28 December 2010 09:49:08AM 6 points [-]

we should feel bad about spending money on frivolities rather than donating to charity.

This is standard religious dogma. Secular activists rarely have the gumption to make it part of their pitches.

That isn't a counter-argument. The idea is not wrong because religious people say it, and requiring gumption also does not make an idea wrong.

A completely secular presentation of the idea can be found in The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 December 2010 11:01:28AM 5 points [-]

That isn't a counter-argument.

It was not intended as one.

Comment author: clarissethorn 26 December 2010 04:17:34AM 2 points [-]

Good point re: religious dogma. I think there are studies showing that religious/conservative folks are much better at volunteering and donating to charity than liberal/secular folks. It's too bad.

Re: lawyer/secretary, well, the longer I focus my time on activism the more likely it becomes that if I were more "gainfully employed" I'd be a secretary ... :P

Comment author: alexanderis 25 December 2010 07:27:14PM 4 points [-]

I think the guy you're thinking of is Zell Kravinsky.

Comment author: clarissethorn 26 December 2010 04:15:36AM 2 points [-]

Yeah, it looks like it. Funny, I was sure he lived in Long Island, but I don't remember why. Chalk another one up to memory being fallible even when I was "very sure" about the details.

Here's a New Yorker piece: http://facstaff.unca.edu/moseley/zellkravinsky'skidney.pdf

Comment author: DanielLC 25 December 2010 11:17:12PM *  0 points [-]

He donated his kidney? They sell in Iran for $3,000 to $5,000.

I don't know when he donated it. It could be before that was legal.

Edit: I accidentally wrote "Iraq" instead of "Iran".

Comment author: Vaniver 25 December 2010 11:37:27PM 1 point [-]

Kidney sales are legal in Iran, but not Iraq (they are still sold in Iraq, obviously, but it's a more difficult option).

Comment author: milindsmart 08 February 2015 07:41:06AM -2 points [-]

A vote for the statement that : sex-positive activism is (unarguably) an extremely "low priority" type of activism.

It might be better if you can find ways to change what you feel happy about.

Just my 2p.