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

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

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Comment author: patrissimo 02 January 2011 06:51:29AM *  10 points [-]

At the risk of provoking defensiveness I will say that it really sounds like you are trying to rationalize your preferences as being rational when they aren't.

I say this because the examples that you were giving (local food kitchen, public radio), when compared to truly efficient charities (save lives, improve health, foster local entrepreneurship), are nothing like "save 9 kids + some other benefits" vs. "save 10 kids and nothing else". It''s more like "save 0.1 kids that you know are in your neighborhood" vs. "save 10 kids that you will never meet" (and that's probably an overestimate on the local option). Your choice of a close number is suspicious because it is so wrong and so appealing (by justifying the giving that makes you happy).

The amount of happiness that you create through local first world charities is orders of magnitude less than third world charities. Therefore, if you are choosing local first world charities that help "malnourished" kids who are fabulously nourished by third world standards, we can infer that the weight you put on "saving the lives of children" (and with it, "maximizing human quality-adjusted life years") is basically zero. Therefore, you are almost certainly buying warm fuzzies. That's consumption, not charity. I'm all for consumption, I just don't like people pretending that it's charity so they can tick their mental "give to charity" box and move on.

Comment author: Elizabeth 02 January 2011 04:47:21PM *  4 points [-]

I agree with you completely about consumption vs. charity, and had even mentioned the concept in my point about NPR donation guilt.

I also agree that the close number is wildly inaccurate, but even in context it wasn't applied to local charities and it was intended to make the point that multiple factors could and should be considered when picking charities, even when the importance multipliers on some factors are orders of magnitude higher than for other factors.

I hope this clarifies my meaning without defensiveness, because none was meant.

Comment author: patrissimo 04 January 2011 05:52:52AM 1 point [-]

Ok, great, I'm glad I misunderstood.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 October 2011 06:39:06PM 2 points [-]

Let's say you want to start a school, because you like education. You could found a very large school that educates lots of children, but at a so-so quality. Or you could spend the same amount of instruction to make a tiny, amazing school, a little gem. Some people might find it more fulfilling to build the small, wonderful school. When you've achieved your goal, a tiny corner of the world is just perfect, and it's a part you have control over.

I think this is part of the reason people sometimes are more motivated to improve conditions in their own country than abroad. On some level, I'd rather make one person really happy and successful than make 100 people just barely better off than dead.