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

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

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Comment author: David_Gerard 28 December 2010 10:57:52AM *  2 points [-]

here on LessWrong we will try to quantify the value of loving kindness and encouragement, and after quantifying we're going to find that it would fall well below the value of immediate food, shelter, and medical needs.

It helps in this regard to be really sure of the security of one's own immediate food, shelter and medical needs.

(Can this be claimed of all LessWrong participants? If so, then LW's participant base is not wide enough.)

Comment author: shokwave 28 December 2010 01:51:17PM *  2 points [-]

Yes. This is my major disagreement with the "give until it hurts" slogans you sometimes see.

Also, I guess yes to your parenthetical. This is a selection effect caused by LessWrong's medium (generally, shelter is a necessary condition for internet access, and food and medical needs are probably - hopefully? - prioritized over internet access).

Comment author: David_Gerard 28 December 2010 04:50:55PM *  6 points [-]

generally, shelter is a necessary condition for internet access, and food and medical needs are probably - hopefully? - prioritized over internet access

Actually, no, it turns out your view of the world is incorrect and in need of updating. I spent a chunk of 2002 couch-surfing, living on the kindness of friends, looking for work in London. I seriously put rather a high value on Internet, because it was the rational choice in securing a job. "Well, yes, it's a house ... but there's no net there." It's that important.

Comment author: shokwave 28 December 2010 05:08:29PM 7 points [-]

Wow. I definitely do not treat the internet as that important. Clearly I generalised from my own example instead of seeking out any data. I can even see how it makes rational sense to prefer internet over shelter, food, and medical needs; it's an instrument to achieve all three terminal goals. I just didn't think that way.

Man, that one-mind fallacy is insidious.

Comment author: David_Gerard 28 December 2010 05:18:27PM *  5 points [-]

In the situation, it would have been irrational - blitheringly stupid - not to make damn sure I had internet access in the prospective new place. Medical needs are fine in the UK (here's to the NHS!), cheap food exists in small quantities, shelter is the crippling expense in London.

Fortunately my friends are sysadmins. I would characterise my situation at the time as closer to "distressed gentleman" than "bum". (1)

In any case, I owe the world (and said individuals) lots of kindness points, and am quite proud to pay a sizable chunk of my income in tax, because I know personally what it pays for ...

More broadly: yes, you actually need Internet to participate in Western civil society these days. Restricting it from the homeless is a way to keep them there. They have phones too these days, and not just as some sort of frippery - why do they need them? And also, loving kindness and encouragement are how to treat humans; positing that as somehow dichotomous with food, shelter and medical care is a twist of thought I find confusing.

  1. And hadn't been the former long enough for it to smell like the latter.
Comment author: BillyOblivion 01 January 2011 12:12:38PM 0 points [-]

What was that t-shirt (from slightly earlier than 2002) 'bout drugs, sex and 'net access?

Comment author: David_Gerard 01 January 2011 04:55:32PM *  1 point [-]

One of the several alt.gothic T-shirts, dating to the mid-1990s. (I had several but appear to have only the original 1994 one left.)

Comment author: artsyhonker 28 December 2010 11:54:27AM 0 points [-]

The security of one's own access to physical necessities is an interesting factor in this. Are those whose security has been unstable more or less likely to donate time or money to charity?

For me personally, uncertainty about my own circumstances is a double-edged sword. If I am feeling a bit skint I'm unlikely to give money to someone begging on the street, and if I know my budget will be limited I am stingier than usual about charity boxes in shops. At the same time, an awareness that it is only because of the kindness of others that I am not homeless myself makes me eager to pass that kindness on in unstructured ways (being kind to others where I can in the course of my work and leisure) and more formally (this winter, volunteering at a local night shelter).

Comment author: juliawise 23 July 2011 12:32:12AM 2 points [-]

Possibly the people who give the most, albeit to relatives, are immigrants from less developed to more developed countries. Even though for many it means lowering their standards of living in the US (or wherever), they know the remittance they send is sending their younger sister to school, buying a new roof for the family house in Bolivia, etc.

In the US, the lowest income bracket gives a <a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22FOB-wwln-t.html>larger percent</a> of their income than any other bracket. I haven't seen numbers on whether this includes people on the brink of not having their basic needs met, but I bet a lot of them have been there at some point.

Comment author: multifoliaterose 24 July 2011 01:14:40AM *  2 points [-]

In the US, the lowest income bracket gives a <a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22FOB-wwln-t.html>larger percent</a> of their income than any other bracket. I haven't seen numbers on whether this includes people on the brink of not having their basic needs met, but I bet a lot of them have been there at some point.

Note that it's possible that a substantial fraction of these donations are made to community organizations (churches, etc.) and so may effectively serve as membership dues. Despite this I think that this statistic makes a good rejoinder to middle/upper class people who claim that they can't afford to give.

Comment author: pnrjulius 12 June 2012 01:45:35AM -1 points [-]

On the other hand, perhaps the poor give too much! They should be receiving the aid, not giving it out!

Consider all the economic opportunities that poor immigrants are giving up by remitting so much of their income to relatives where they came from. Perhaps it would be better if they saved and invested instead, and then after securing themselves financially, then start giving back?

Comment author: juliawise 12 June 2012 01:00:31PM *  2 points [-]

Perhaps it would be better if they saved and invested instead

If you consider yourself as, say, a Mexican 30-year-old who comes to the US and works as a carpenter, would you prefer to save your earnings and invest them (despite having little formal education, and thus being unlikely to invest well) while your wife, son, and parents continue living in a shack in Chiapas? Knowing that they would despise you for hoarding your earnings while they scraped by? I bet you would send them part of your paycheck. The opportunity cost of saving that money is too high.