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'Tis the season to feel bad about [charity]

Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
edited December 2013 in Debate and/or Discourse
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Previous spiteful OP:
There is a long list of things that people could do to improve the effectiveness of their charitable donations. Since almost no one does any of these things, people don’t really care about charity.

Recently a secular liberal friend of mine posted a message on Facebook encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army. Someone else brought up something about the Salvation Army's homophobic past and/or present and said maybe it was a bad idea to donate to them, and there was a mild Facebook scuffle.

Feeling uncivil and a little 'spergy, I said that it's probably a bad idea to give to most charities if your intent in giving is to make your donations helpful. If you want to help someone you should want to get the most bang for your buck, which means you want to give to the most effective charity, whatever that is, and not to anything else.

I posted a link to givewell.com and said, "You should only ever donate to one charity: the most effective. The difference between what you give and that optimal charity is composed of ignorance and ego."

By ignorance I mean not knowing what is the most effective; e.g., "man, Japan is in bad shape after that earthquake/tsunami, maybe I should help them out", or "I will buy some canned goods to give to the local soup kitchen".

By ego I mean giving to make yourself feel better and/or to signal ones beneficence to others such that one is giving inefficiently; e.g., "I'll donate to renovate Harvard's aging auditorium".

Beyond ignorance and ego there may be other factors; I'm not sure if I'd classify ethnocentrism or localism as being subsets of ignorance/ego or their own beasts; e.g., "If you're gonna do charity, do it in your backyard first."

Fundamentally, it's better to give inefficiently than to not give at all, but volunteering to partake doesn't put one above criticism. If one volunteers but does the least, or does so in ignorance, or advocates wasteful charity, there is an opportunity that is being missed. People waste time, effort, money, and they do so because they don't know better or they're looking to boost themselves first and anyone else as an afterthought.

What do you think? Charity: could you do better? Could people do it better? I didn't even mention all the charities that are essentially scams, or the religious charities that put proselytization over bettering peoples' immediate needs, the Randian idea that charity is bad or that charity itself is possibly sub-optimal as a means of helping people relative to some alternatives.

Links:

Givewell: http://www.givewell.org/
Concerns about Givewell: http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/blog/2012-12-24/some-general-concerns-about-givewell
Blog post I pulled some ideas from: http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/05/investment-and-inefficient-charity/
Gawker post I pulled some bad ideas from: http://gawker.com/the-three-most-effective-charities-for-helping-the-poor-1475116580

New and less spiteful OP:

There is a long list of things that people could do to improve the effectiveness of their charitable donations, but don't. Why don't we start discussing these things and start maybe doing them?


Recently a secular liberal friend of mine posted a message on Facebook encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army. Someone else brought up something about the Salvation Army's homophobic past and/or present and said maybe it was a bad idea to donate to them, and there was a mild Facebook scuffle.

My own input was that it's probably a bad idea to give to most charities if your intent in giving is to make your donations particularly helpful. If you want to help someone you should want to do so effectively. There's a spectrum of "help" ranging from the completely self-serving photo op to sacrificing oneself for a cause, and most of us probably want to avoid either of those extremes. I tend to think that we really do want to do our best to help, but there are a lot of biases and misconceptions that get in our way.


An example: buying canned goods to give to a food drive. This is strictly inferior to skipping the shopping trip and just giving the charity the cash directly. They know what they need, and they can buy it in bulk, and they don't need to inspect the donation to make sure it's okay, they don't need to sort unsorted cans. Feeding America notes that:

A hastily-organized local food drive can actually put more strain on your local food bank than you imagine. Feeding America members maintain the highest standards of food safety, which means not every product is suitable for donation. Your local food bank will need to sort and inspect all donated items to ensure that they are absolutely safe.

The best way to support hunger-relief in your community is by making a financial donation to your local food bank, and encouraging your friends to do the same. Your local Feeding America member can then utilize the buying power of the Feeding America network to acquire and ship healthy, nutritious food at deeply discounted rates. But if you do want to conduct a food drive, please only do so after reaching out to your local Feeding America member.


There is a better way to help out at the level of personal involvement. It's less romantic perhaps to just fork over cash than to go shopping for the needy, but at least in this case the easier and less engaged method is the more effective one.


There are also many, many charities out there, with many different approaches to helping people, some with overlap with others and others without. It's not easy to know what goes on with them, and there are a lot of scams out there that are geared toward taking advantage of peoples' kindness. There are also ones that simply don't do a good job relative to others at their stated goal. Fortunately, there are organizations that monitor and rate charities. My personal favorite is Givewell, but there are others as well.

If our intent is to give away our money or time to help people out, I think it behooves us to do our best with our efforts; we don't want to cheat ourselves out of doing what we intend to do, and we really do want to improve the lot of people out there. Givewell and its ilk are one tool at our disposal for cutting through the BS that's out there, and getting our efforts through to the people who are in dire need of them.


Finally, and maybe controversially, there's the notion of optimizing one's efforts. Consider the clear example of donating a new auditorium wing to an Ivy League school, and spending that same amount of money preventing malaria or diarrhea in places that are stricken with those problems. That's I think a relatively clear example of not doing as much good as one can. So long as one intends to maximize the good one does, that kind of situation is one that should be considered in one's moral calculus.

There are also immediate concerns that, again so long as we're concerned with maximizing good, can take our eye off the ball. Consider the earthquake/tsunami tragedy and disaster that happened in Japan two years ago. According to Givewell, more aid was given than was requested, which suggests that it wasn't particularly helpful in addressing what the aid was sent there to do.


How should we think about these things? Should we focus our efforts, or not? Can we do better and should we do better?

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Loren Michael on
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Posts

  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    FangedSmile4cca29fb32504.jpg

    There is a long list of things that people could do to improve the effectiveness of their charitable donations. Since almost no one does any of these things, people don’t really care about charity.

    Recently a secular liberal friend of mine posted a message on Facebook encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army. Someone else brought up something about the Salvation Army's homophobic past and/or present and said maybe it was a bad idea to donate to them, and there was a mild Facebook scuffle.

    Feeling uncivil and a little 'spergy, I said that it's probably a bad idea to give to most charities if your intent in giving is to make your donations helpful. If you want to help someone you should want to get the most bang for your buck, which means you want to give to the most effective charity, whatever that is, and not to anything else.

    I posted a link to givewell.com and said, "You should only ever donate to one charity: the most effective. The difference between what you give and that optimal charity is composed of ignorance and ego."

    By ignorance I mean not knowing what is the most effective; e.g., "man, Japan is in bad shape after that earthquake/tsunami, maybe I should help them out", or "I will buy some canned goods to give to the local soup kitchen".

    By ego I mean giving to make yourself feel better and/or to signal ones beneficence to others such that one is giving inefficiently; e.g., "I'll donate to renovate Harvard's aging auditorium".

    Beyond ignorance and ego there may be other factors; I'm not sure if I'd classify ethnocentrism or localism as being subsets of ignorance/ego or their own beasts; e.g., "If you're gonna do charity, do it in your backyard first."

    Fundamentally, it's better to give inefficiently than to not give at all, but volunteering to partake doesn't put one above criticism. If one volunteers but does the least, or does so in ignorance, or advocates wasteful charity, there is an opportunity that is being missed. People waste time, effort, money, and they do so because they don't know better or they're looking to boost themselves first and anyone else as an afterthought.

    What do you think? Charity: could you do better? Could people do it better? I didn't even mention all the charities that are essentially scams, or the religious charities that put proselytization over bettering peoples' immediate needs, the Randian idea that charity is bad or that charity itself is possibly sub-optimal as a means of helping people relative to some alternatives.

    Links:

    Givewell: http://www.givewell.org/
    Concerns about Givewell: http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/blog/2012-12-24/some-general-concerns-about-givewell
    Blog post I pulled some ideas from: http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/05/investment-and-inefficient-charity/
    Gawker post I pulled some bad ideas from: http://gawker.com/the-three-most-effective-charities-for-helping-the-poor-1475116580

    There is no such thing as 'the most effective charity'. This is brought up all the time when people talk about what sort of community projects to contribute to in places like North Africa:

    Mosquito nets in communities below the mosquito line undoubtedly save the most lives in the most direct manner, for example. But not every community needs mosquito nets as much as they need water, or grain, or transportation, or effective police services, etc. So when people point to metrics that show, hey, mosquito nets are just better than anything else, they're propagating a harmful misunderstanding.

    You should ask yourself what you want a contribution to do, and do that. If someone tells you you made the 'wrong' contribution, fuck them - they can make their own contribution to whatever cause they like, assuming they even donate at all (most people in my experience who make that kind of crude comment don't donate to jack shit, citing the 'wasteful' nature of NGOs or calling NGO spokespeople / admins 'fat cats' who just rake in that sweet, sweet admin money).

    You should also be realistic about your expectations when you donate. Your contribution to cancer research or heart/stroke or HIV or Alzheimer's, etc, is going to be extremely helpful, but it is probably not going to cause a cure or breakthrough in treatment (I feel like I shouldn't even have to say that, but I'm blown away by the number of people who have made - or claimed to have made - contributions to medical research foundations and were later pissed-off to learn that the money translated into extra equipment or patient care rather than instantly & magically translating into an anti-cancer elixir).

    The Ender on
    With Love and Courage
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    Defining "most effective" is difficult because there are different ways to conceive of helping people. Once you have a goal in mind though, comparisons become easier. There is also room for debate about which goals are best. Consider the examples of bad charitable giving I gave above. Donating a renovation to Harvard is essentially helping an elite institution that isn't particularly in need of funds.

    Donating to cure cancer sounds nice, but also consider that cancer typically hits later in life; it's largely a first world problem, and you can spend the same money on things like you note, mosquito netting and the like, to give a lot more years to people who otherwise wouldn't live long enough to get cancer.

    Regarding mosquito netting by the way, Givewell weighed in on Against Malaria, which used to be its top-ranked charity:

    http://blog.givewell.org/2013/11/26/change-in-against-malaria-foundation-recommendation-status-room-for-more-funding-related/

    Since naming the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) as our #1 charity in late 2011, we have tracked $10.6 million in donations made to it as a result of our recommendation. In that time, AMF has held the funds while attempting to negotiate a net distribution to spend them on. It has not yet finalized a distribution large enough to spend the bulk of these funds (though it has funded a smaller-scale (~$1 million) distribution in Malawi).

    Lots more info and discussion at the link.

    Regarding "if someone tells you you made the 'wrong' contribution, fuck them", again, one's decision to be charitable doesn't preclude that there may be a better way to achieve one's goal. If our intent is to help people, why be unreceptive to ways of helping people that are even better?

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    FeralPLA
  • FeralFeral That's what I do. I drink, and I know things. Location: ByakkoyaRegistered User regular
    Defining "most effective" is difficult because there are different ways to conceive of helping people. Once you have a goal in mind though, comparisons become easier. There is also room for debate about which goals are best. Consider the examples of bad charitable giving I gave above. Donating a renovation to Harvard is essentially helping an elite institution that isn't particularly in need of funds.

    Donating to cure cancer sounds nice, but also consider that cancer typically hits later in life; it's largely a first world problem, and you can spend the same money on things like you note, mosquito netting and the like, to give a lot more years to people who otherwise wouldn't live long enough to get cancer.

    Exactly. Even if we can't rigorously determine a single "best" charity, we can still make meaningful comparisons. Perhaps mosquito nets aren't quite as cracked up as they could be. We can still recognize that a single dollar spent on health, sanitation, and nutrition in the developing world is usually more cost-effective than a single dollar spent on those things in the industrialized world; and a single dollar spent on those things in any country is more helpful than a single dollar spent on, say, a university's music program. (Nothing against music programs here; again, these are comparisons.)

    Even barring malaria, there are many, many causes that would certainly be at the top of the list over your hypothetical Harvard renovation. A few that easily pop into mind: wells for clean water, anti-parasitics, silver nitrate for birthing centers to prevent infant blindness, cleft palate surgeries.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
    MrMister
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    Defining "most effective" is difficult because there are different ways to conceive of helping people. Once you have a goal in mind though, comparisons become easier. There is also room for debate about which goals are best. Consider the examples of bad charitable giving I gave above. Donating a renovation to Harvard is essentially helping an elite institution that isn't particularly in need of funds.

    Donating to cure cancer sounds nice, but also consider that cancer typically hits later in life; it's largely a first world problem, and you can spend the same money on things like you note, mosquito netting and the like, to give a lot more years to people who otherwise wouldn't live long enough to get cancer.

    Regarding mosquito netting by the way, Givewell weighed in on Against Malaria, which used to be its top-ranked charity:

    http://blog.givewell.org/2013/11/26/change-in-against-malaria-foundation-recommendation-status-room-for-more-funding-related/

    Since naming the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) as our #1 charity in late 2011, we have tracked $10.6 million in donations made to it as a result of our recommendation. In that time, AMF has held the funds while attempting to negotiate a net distribution to spend them on. It has not yet finalized a distribution large enough to spend the bulk of these funds (though it has funded a smaller-scale (~$1 million) distribution in Malawi).

    Lots more info and discussion at the link.

    Regarding "if someone tells you you made the 'wrong' contribution, fuck them", again, one's decision to be charitable doesn't preclude that there may be a better way to achieve one's goal. If our intent is to help people, why be unreceptive to ways of helping people that are even better?

    Cancer is not a 'first world problem'; I don't know where you got that idea.

    Here is a list of causes of death, worldwide.

    Note that cancer is 7th place, while - say - Malaria doesn't even register in the top ten (more people die of motor vehicle accidents than mosquito bites).

    Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death, and has been for quite some time.


    Any other misinformation you care to spread around in your quest to make sure people donate to the 'right' charities?

    With Love and Courage
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    I mean, to use the example of, "Well, obviously nobody should ever donate to Harvard, because fuck those rich academics!":

    If Harvard used donations to create an undergraduate research program that contributed to a means of creating an HIV vaccine, that would be more worthwhile according to the raw statistics than any number of mosquito nets. Harvard is rich, but it's funds aren't evenly divided.

    If they went and built a new auditorium or repainted the walls, okay, that's bullshit misappropriation of funds - but saying no program at Harvard is a legitimate donation source because the institution has a large bankroll is absurd.


    What about people like myself who donated money to people who had their arms & legs blown off in Boston? Guess that must make me a real asshole; those people had money!

    With Love and Courage
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    You were looking at the wrong chart. Here's the one that considers income groups:

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index1.html

    Note the placement of shitting yourself to death on both the list you linked to and the one I linked to relative to first world diseases. You won't find diarrheal diseases in developed areas.

    Loren Michael on
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    kedinik
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    Feral wrote: »
    Defining "most effective" is difficult because there are different ways to conceive of helping people. Once you have a goal in mind though, comparisons become easier. There is also room for debate about which goals are best. Consider the examples of bad charitable giving I gave above. Donating a renovation to Harvard is essentially helping an elite institution that isn't particularly in need of funds.

    Donating to cure cancer sounds nice, but also consider that cancer typically hits later in life; it's largely a first world problem, and you can spend the same money on things like you note, mosquito netting and the like, to give a lot more years to people who otherwise wouldn't live long enough to get cancer.

    Exactly. Even if we can't rigorously determine a single "best" charity, we can still make meaningful comparisons. Perhaps mosquito nets aren't quite as cracked up as they could be. We can still recognize that a single dollar spent on health, sanitation, and nutrition in the developing world is usually more cost-effective than a single dollar spent on those things in the industrialized world; and a single dollar spent on those things in any country is more helpful than a single dollar spent on, say, a university's music program. (Nothing against music programs here; again, these are comparisons.)

    Even barring malaria, there are many, many causes that would certainly be at the top of the list over your hypothetical Harvard renovation. A few that easily pop into mind: wells for clean water, anti-parasitics, silver nitrate for birthing centers to prevent infant blindness, cleft palate surgeries.

    And how do you determine that it is always more cost-effective to spend money in 'X' developing country? Is it more cost-effective to donate towards building a school or hospital in Mosambique than in Connecticut? Sure (well, so long as said institutes can be protected). Is it more effective to build a school or hospital in Mosambique than contributing to a disaster relief fund in Japan? There's no fucking way. Disaster relief funds almost always give the most direct bang for your buck because the money (usually) goes right to things right now that help people in distress right now, rather than preventative measures that may help people at some point in the future. It doesn't matter if the disaster happens directly in the gold-encrusted financial district of NYC - people that need to be dug out of rubble before they run out of air or bleed out need relief much more urgently than kids who don't yet have access to flu shots or elementary schools, if we're going to make such crass comparisons.

    With Love and Courage
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    Givewell on Japan's earthquake and tsunami: http://blog.givewell.org/2011/03/15/update-on-how-to-help-japan-funding-is-not-needed-we-recommend-giving-to-doctors-without-borders-to-promote-better-disaster-relief-in-general/

    We believe that

    Those affected have requested very little, limited aid. Aid being offered far exceeds aid being requested. (Details below.)

    Charities are aggressively soliciting donations, often in ways we feel are misleading (more on this in future posts).

    Any donation you make will probably be used (a) by the charity you give it to, for activities in a different country; (b) for non-disaster-relief-and-recovery efforts in Japan.

    If you’re looking to pursue (a) and help people in need all over the world, we recommend giving to the best charity you can, rather than basing your giving on who is appealing to you most aggressively with images and language regarding Japan.

    If you prefer (b), a gift to the Japanese Red Cross seems reasonable.

    Overall, though, a gift to Doctors Without Borders seems to us like the best way to effectively “respond to this disaster”. We feel they are a leader in transparency, honesty and integrity in relief organizations, and the fact that they’re not soliciting funds for Japan is a testament to this. Rewarding Doctors Without Borders is a move toward improving incentives and improving disaster relief in general.

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    Feral
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    "Crass comparisons" seems like an effort to use purity-based thinking to make considerations and deliberations on better distributing scarce resources distasteful.

    As though it's uncouth to try to figure out how to better help people.

    It happens that Japan and America are rich places that have infrastructure and institutions and people in place that are meant to deal with disasters. They don't need the help relative to places that don't have the infrastructure necessary to take a safe shit.

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  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    You were looking at the wrong chart. Here's the one that considers income groups:

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index1.html

    Note the placement of shitting yourself to death on both the list you linked to and the one I linked to relative to first world diseases. You won't find diarrheal diseases in developed areas.

    No, that's a biased data set. I linked to a chart showing the world averages.


    As to Japan, I actually wasn't directly referring to the tsunami; I pulled that as an example out of my ass. Yes, the current tsunami fund is over saturated: that's why I said a person consider what they want their money to do, and do that.

    With Love and Courage
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    The Ender wrote: »
    You were looking at the wrong chart. Here's the one that considers income groups:

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index1.html

    Note the placement of shitting yourself to death on both the list you linked to and the one I linked to relative to first world diseases. You won't find diarrheal diseases in developed areas.

    No, that's a biased data set. I linked to a chart showing the world averages.

    And again in your own chart it shows that a poor person disease (diarrhea) kills more people than what you hard talking about. It's also not addressing the age issue, which was the overarching point in the first place.

    EDIT: not to mention that you were disagreeing with my assertion that cancer is a first world problem. The chart that I posted, that's also from your link, shows that's clearly the case. Look at low income and lower-middle income groups.

    Loren Michael on
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  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    I mean, here is the source for the WHO's 'categorized' charts: the World Bank's income class categories.

    I mean, some of it's pretty reasonable... but look at this shit: South Korea is listed among the lowest income earners. South Africa is listed among 'middle to high class' income earners. Venezuea, middle to high class. Cuba, middle to high class. Palestine isn't even listed, because 'haha, like Palestine is even a nation,'

    It's not a very reliable vehicle for framing data.

    The Ender on
    With Love and Courage
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    "Crass comparisons" seems like an effort to use purity-based thinking to make considerations and deliberations on better distributing scarce resources distasteful.

    As though it's uncouth to try to figure out how to better help people.

    It happens that Japan and America are rich places that have infrastructure and institutions and people in place that are meant to deal with disasters. They don't need the help relative to places that don't have the infrastructure necessary to take a safe shit.

    1) Resources aren't scarce. People just refuse to distribute them evenly.

    2) It's uncouth to group everyone in a country together and pretend that everyone is as well off as it's wealthiest persons. People living in the suburbs of New York City are fine; people living in Detroit or on a reserve in Manitoba are not fine. And not, there are not fucking magical federal programs that will help these people just because the country itself is rich.

    3) The institutions you mention require money and resources to mobilize, and operate on an international scale, not a local one. Just because there are bulldozers and firefighters in Washington does not mean that they will magically materialize for victims of a disaster in some dark corner of America.

    With Love and Courage
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    Regarding the WHO link that you posted and now don't like:

    Even what you posted shows your characterization to be in the wrong, as noted above. You have yet to post anything that supports what you're apparently trying to say. You have supported my initial assertion about first world diseases.

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  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    This entire line of discussion is the most masturbatory thing ever. I mean, as if the problem is that people overwhelmingly donate to inefficient causes, right? And not that people very rarely donate at all? As if the problem is not that the richest nations in the world have such piss poor aid programs, and give so little?

    Nope, it must be that cancer research is sucking-up all of the funds. And God knows that cancer is not something that happens in Africa.

    With Love and Courage
  • CliffCliff Registered User regular
    Yeah, I am gonna go ahead and label anyone who tries to criticize how others donate their hard earned money into the "self righteous goose" category.

    Wasn't that movie about David Bowie seducing a 16 year old girl while surrounding himself with monsters and rubbing his balls?

    I don't think it was even a movie, it was just some footage of what Bowie does in his day to day life.
    LostNinjaDeebaserzagdrobfrandelgearslip
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    And back to that point: what's crass about saying that there more effective ways of doing what you want to do?

    What's wrong with saying that if we're going to try to do good, we can do better with our efforts and resources?

    I don't get the assumptions that are underwriting your objection to this line of inquiry.

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    kedinikFeral
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    Even what you posted shows your characterization to be in the wrong, as noted above. You have yet to post anything that supports what you're apparently trying to say. You have supported my initial assertion about first world diseases.

    To the surprise of nobody, cancer does actually happen in Africa.

    With Love and Courage
  • PaladinPaladin Registered User regular
    What if there was a charity whose mission statement was to increase the effectiveness of other charities

    Marty: The future, it's where you're going?
    Doc: That's right, twenty five years into the future. I've always dreamed on seeing the future, looking beyond my years, seeing the progress of mankind. I'll also be able to see who wins the next twenty-five world series.
    Honk
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    And back to that point: what's crass about saying that there more effective ways of doing what you want to do?

    What's wrong with saying that if we're going to try to do good, we can do better with our efforts and resources?

    I don't get the assumptions that are underwriting your objection to this line of inquiry.

    It's not crass to say 'there are more effective ways of doing what you want to do': it's crass to tell someone that they are wrong for helping one group of people in distress because, in your opinion, some other group is more deserving.

    Of course we could do better! We could actually put together aid programs worth more than a fraction of a penny on every tax dollar. That would be a pretty good start. We could pull together and contribute about ~8% of the average household income, which is about what would be required to bring most developing countries out of poverty.

    But that has nothing to do with thumbing your nose at people who donate to causes you think don't deserve it.
    Regarding the WHO link that you posted and now don't like:

    I like the WHO's unbiased data sets. It's when you get into the subjectively divided categories that I distrust their numbers, and for good reason.

    The Ender on
    With Love and Courage
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    The Ender wrote: »
    Even what you posted shows your characterization to be in the wrong, as noted above. You have yet to post anything that supports what you're apparently trying to say. You have supported my initial assertion about first world diseases.

    To the surprise of nobody, cancer does actually happen in Africa.

    Not that I ever said it didn't. You could address my actual critiques, or not.

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    Paladin wrote: »
    What if there was a charity whose mission statement was to increase the effectiveness of other charities

    That's somewhat Givewell's intent: rating charities so that people are able to give in more effective ways.

    The problem is that people get insulted when you tell them they maybe aren't getting the most bang for their buck.

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    The Ender wrote: »
    Regarding the WHO link that you posted and now don't like:

    I like the WHO's unbiased data sets. It's when you get into the subjectively divided categories that I distrust their numbers, and for good reason.

    The WHO's unbiased data sets that you posted a link to also support what I noted about first-world illnesses given diarrhea's placement. I'm repeating myself on this point, again.

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  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    The Ender wrote: »
    Even what you posted shows your characterization to be in the wrong, as noted above. You have yet to post anything that supports what you're apparently trying to say. You have supported my initial assertion about first world diseases.

    To the surprise of nobody, cancer does actually happen in Africa.

    Not that I ever said it didn't. You could address my actual critiques, or not.
    Donating to cure cancer sounds nice, but also consider that cancer typically hits later in life; it's largely a first world problem

    You did.

    You're wrong.


    Even if the problem really was that everyone was donating a significant amount of money, but half of that money was being eaten by cancer research, I'm pretty sure it's unethical to tell a donor who's made contributions specifically because their mother was killed by breast cancer that they are giving to the wrong cause. I guess if you're into that, have at it.

    And you haven't posted any 'critiques'. You've made some bald assertions and presented an extremely vague argument about how you feel some people don't deserve donation money while others do, based on ??? criteria.

    With Love and Courage
  • PaladinPaladin Registered User regular
    Paladin wrote: »
    What if there was a charity whose mission statement was to increase the effectiveness of other charities

    That's somewhat Givewell's intent: rating charities so that people are able to give in more effective ways.

    The problem is that people get insulted when you tell them they maybe aren't getting the most bang for their buck.

    The difference is that the bread and butter of a charity is its reputation, so charity consultation is less likely to result in failed charities than redirecting benefactors.

    Or maybe there are too many charities doing too many different things to make an actual difference.

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    EDIT: @the ender

    Are you seriously unaware of what "largely" means?

    Your cancer.org link also supports what I said about cancer being a largely (look that word up maybe) first world problem, considering the first 7 pages at least.

    Loren Michael on
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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    Paladin wrote: »
    Paladin wrote: »
    What if there was a charity whose mission statement was to increase the effectiveness of other charities

    That's somewhat Givewell's intent: rating charities so that people are able to give in more effective ways.

    The problem is that people get insulted when you tell them they maybe aren't getting the most bang for their buck.

    The difference is that the bread and butter of a charity is its reputation, so charity consultation is less likely to result in failed charities than redirecting benefactors.

    Or maybe there are too many charities doing too many different things to make an actual difference.

    I tend to think that there are too many charities. Economies of scale are one factor. There's also the massive good that comes about from actually eliminating a disease relative to simply coming close. Being able to focus and coordinate is very valuable.

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  • LostNinjaLostNinja Registered User regular
    Paladin wrote: »
    What if there was a charity whose mission statement was to increase the effectiveness of other charities

    That's somewhat Givewell's intent: rating charities so that people are able to give in more effective ways.

    The problem is that people get insulted when you tell them they maybe aren't getting the most bang for their buck
    .

    No they get insulted when you tell them they are wrong to care about what they care about.

    There is nothing wrong with doing some research when making a charitable donation to find the one that will put the most of your donation directly to use affecting the cause of your choice; but your argument appears to be more concerned with finding the most "effective" charities regardless of cause and insisting that that is where we should all donate our money even if it isn't a cause that we care about. I guess donating to a cause that you care about and has some special meaning to you is "ego" according to your definitions, but I refuse to think that buying canned goods and taking them directly to the food shelter is a bad thing because my money could have went to buying mosquito nets in Africa instead.

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  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    EDIT: @the ender

    Are you seriously unaware of what "largely" means?

    Your cancer.org link also supports what I said about cancer being a largely (look that word up maybe) first world problem, considering the first 7 pages at least.

    Oh, yes?
    Cancer is an emerging public health problem in Africa. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), about 715,000 new cancer cases and 542,000 cancer deaths occurred in 2008 in Africa.

    These numbers are projected to nearly double (1.28 million new cancer cases and 970,000 cancer deaths) by 2030 simply due to the aging and growth of the population, with the potential to be even higher because of the adoption of behaviors and lifestyles associated with economic development, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

    So by 2030 we're looking at 1.1~ million deaths in the African continent alone.

    But no, cancer is definitely something that only happens in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. It's s 'first world disease'.


    You made a ridiculous blanket statement.

    The Ender on
    With Love and Courage
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    At any rate, while it's fascinating to learn that you discriminate on the value of someone's life based on their economic status, my opinion is that the 1.5~ million people currently killed by lung cancer each year were probably pretty worthwhile, regardless of where they were living, so research to bring that figure downward is also pretty worthwhile.

    This isn't an empirical matter.

    With Love and Courage
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    LostNinja wrote: »
    Paladin wrote: »
    What if there was a charity whose mission statement was to increase the effectiveness of other charities

    That's somewhat Givewell's intent: rating charities so that people are able to give in more effective ways.

    The problem is that people get insulted when you tell them they maybe aren't getting the most bang for their buck
    .

    No they get insulted when you tell them they are wrong to care about what they care about.

    There is nothing wrong with doing some research when making a charitable donation to find the one that will put the most of your donation directly to use affecting the cause of your choice; but your argument appears to be more concerned with finding the most "effective" charities regardless of cause and insisting that that is where we should all donate our money even if it isn't a cause that we care about. I guess donating to a cause that you care about and has some special meaning to you is "ego" according to your definitions, but I refuse to think that buying canned goods and taking them directly to the food shelter is a bad thing because my money could have went to buying mosquito nets in Africa instead.

    No, Ninja! You're wrong to do that! Because the people going to that soup kitchen live in a rich country and everyone knows that rich countries evenly distribute their wealth so that nobody is left in poverty! Those people are just lazy moochers and you're encouraging them to continue being lazy by bringing them food!

    With Love and Courage
  • ArchangleArchangle Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    My personal view on this is that someone who wants to tell me to reallocate my charity, is someone to whom I shouldn't pay any attention.

    Archangle on
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    I looked over my donations for the year:

    I gave money to one of the funds in Boston after the bombing, because I knew someone who had been badly injured there and I felt it was a little bit unfair for people to be violently attacked for daring to go out to a sporting event & celebration.

    I gave money to a few transgendered people I'm acquainted with, because my consciousness of that issue was only recently raised, there aren't many organizations devoted to directly assisting transgendered persons and a direct donation seems pretty reasonable when the person is looking to cover personal expenses for major surgery.

    I subscribed to LethalFrag's Twitch channel, because I enjoy the content & feel the creator more than deserves 5-6~ dollars from a viewer each month. He also keeps his chat clean.


    I didn't give to MSF this year or Child's Play or the hurricane fund because I didn't have the disposable income to do so (though it would be trivial to argue that I could have done those things and more if I'd better managed my money). Guess I must be an asshole, because I didn't redistribute wealth in the correct way; if only I'd consulted @Loren Michael first to get my facts straight as to which lives have more value: violently marginalized minority groups, injured victims of killing sprees or destitute persons living under despotic / feudal rule.

    With Love and Courage
  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    Hyperbole much?

  • Regina FongRegina Fong Allons-y, Alonso Registered User regular
    So, pretty much this thread is telling people that if they don't support charities for developing nations they are badwrong.

    How about mind your own business. Charity is personal, and coming at people like this isn't going to change any minds. It certainly did not mine.

    Deebaser
  • Atlas in ChainsAtlas in Chains Registered User regular
    It changed my mind. Well, not this thread in particular, but the idea has been put forth before on the topic on these forums, and I rather like it. Treating charity as triage is a fantastic idea. Eliminating immediate problems and then moving up the chain will result in more positive outcomes.

    Listing off what you gave this year does nothing to disprove the point in the OP that most charity is ego driven, by the way.

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  • redxredx I(x)=2(x)+1 whole numbersRegistered User regular
    Feral wrote: »
    Defining "most effective" is difficult because there are different ways to conceive of helping people. Once you have a goal in mind though, comparisons become easier. There is also room for debate about which goals are best. Consider the examples of bad charitable giving I gave above. Donating a renovation to Harvard is essentially helping an elite institution that isn't particularly in need of funds.

    Donating to cure cancer sounds nice, but also consider that cancer typically hits later in life; it's largely a first world problem, and you can spend the same money on things like you note, mosquito netting and the like, to give a lot more years to people who otherwise wouldn't live long enough to get cancer.

    Exactly. Even if we can't rigorously determine a single "best" charity, we can still make meaningful comparisons. Perhaps mosquito nets aren't quite as cracked up as they could be. We can still recognize that a single dollar spent on health, sanitation, and nutrition in the developing world is usually more cost-effective than a single dollar spent on those things in the industrialized world; and a single dollar spent on those things in any country is more helpful than a single dollar spent on, say, a university's music program. (Nothing against music programs here; again, these are comparisons.)

    Even barring malaria, there are many, many causes that would certainly be at the top of the list over your hypothetical Harvard renovation. A few that easily pop into mind: wells for clean water, anti-parasitics, silver nitrate for birthing centers to prevent infant blindness, cleft palate surgeries.

    Still...

    a) unless fundamental structural changes occur in Africa, money spent is not likely to have a long term lasting effect beyond addressing the immediate concerns of recipients.
    b) helping some portion of Africa's children is unlikely to result in those changes, as enough of them are reaching adulthood to sustain the nations' populations.
    c) as technological developments build upon each other, new science and technologies will likely have a greater effect over the long term(hundreds of years)
    d) building a few new science labs, paying for people who would not otherwise to be able to afford science educations could result in greater returns(though it is less likely)


    *shurg*

    It is a common debate about how much money we should be spending on developing technology. It comes up constantly in real world politics and a fundamental decision in a whole class of games. I think it is harder to predict the outcomes than you seem to be giving it credit for.


    I'm interested in science and technology. Seeing coverage of returns on science and technology investments are more likely to cause me to donate than reports about helping children oversea live longer, still pretty not great not independently sustainable lives.

    I understand why that last bit is ehh... ethnocentric, colonial and otherwise problematic.

    This machine kills threads.
  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    So, pretty much this thread is telling people that if they don't support charities for developing nations they are badwrong.

    How about mind your own business. Charity is personal, and coming at people like this isn't going to change any minds. It certainly did not mine.

    Who's going at who exactly? I don't wholly agree with Loren but dude's kept it civil this whole time and definitely hasn't pried in to anyone's business.

    kedinik
  • PLAPLA The process.Registered User regular
    I like to err on the side of infrastructure and reusables.

    Jeep-Eep
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Why are we arguing about good/bad charities based on the cause they support? That's ridiculous. Buying mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria in Africa is not intrinsically morally superior to supporting cancer research in a Harvard Medical lab.

    There are differences between charities, and there are such things as good and bad charities, but it has nothing to do with an arbitrary decision over which cause is more international or more immediate or less first-world problem or whatever else you people are talking about. Charities can be evaluated objectively based on their administrative structure. Questions like "how much of your donation is actually going to the cause you want to support vs. how much is going to administrative fees?" or "how transparent is the organization about its practices and governing policies?" are what you can use to judge charities.

    And look: there a website that does exactly that! It compares charities worldwide on a detailed set of objective criteria (not a subjective call on the cause they're supporting) and allows you to know if your money is going to a legitimate organization that will use it responsibly or to a sham organization from where it will never see the light of day again. From there, you can decide for yourself which cause you want to support, and pick the organization that is best at actually supporting it.

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