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

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

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Comment author: Irgy 30 November 2012 04:46:31AM *  1 point [-]

There's one flaw in the argument about Buy a Brushstroke vs African sanitation systems, which is the assumption/implication that if they hadn't given that money to Buy a Brushstroke they would have given it to African sanitation systems instead. It's a false dichotomy. Sure, the money would have been better spent on African sanitation systems, but you can say that about anything. The money they spent on their cars, the money I just spent on my lunch, in fact somewhere probably over 99.9% of all non-African-sanitation-system-purchases made in the first-world would be better to have been made on African sanitation systems. It makes the Buy a Brushstroke campaign look actively malicious, despite the fact that all it reall did was redirect money from personal junk luxury items to, well, another more public junk luxury item. Neutral at worst.

To me, it's silly to only apply the sanitation sytems comparison to people's charitable donations. They're a softer target, because it's obvious that people could have spared that money, but the end result is people who've given nothing to anyone sitting there thinking "Well at least I'm not that stupid to have made such suboptimal donations", and feeling superior about themselves compared to those who are at least giving something to a cause that's not themselves. Not to mention people feeling actively guilty about raising money for a good local cause just because every donation they gather is money those people could have given to a better cause.

I agree with your point on the whole I just think these side-effects of that comparison are worth raising.