::  Posts  ::  RSS  ::  ◂◂RSS  ::  Contact

It's not fair to settle for "good"

July 30th, 2013
giving  [html]

Occasionally people will say things like:
  • "What matters is doing good things, and obsessing over exactly what charity is best isn't what altruism is about."
  • "These people are doing their best to help, and they're succeeding. How can you say they should be doing something 'more effective'?"
  • "You must really like maximizing and optimizing to focus so much on finding the best when there are so many ways to help people."
How can I be so arrogant and mean as to put down other people's ways of doing good?

It comes down to fairness. It's not fair to settle for helping one person when I could be helping one thousand. It's not fair to do something I find personally meaningful when that's not what most needs doing. Charity is about helping people, and it's unfair to the people we're trying to help to do anything other than our best.

There are lots of 'good things,' lots of ways to help others and make the world better. When I first started thinking about charity from the direction of effectiveness I was working as a programmer and donating to Oxfam America. Now I've switched to a different programming job where I can afford to give much more, and I've switched to donating to GiveWell's top charities and the Centre for Effective Altruism. What I was doing before was good, but I'm glad I didn't stop there. Both increasing my earnings and switching to more effective charities have dramatically increased the amount I'm helping others, and I got there by looking for the best options and not settling for "good".

This doesn't come naturally to me. In making choices for myself I'm much more of a satisficer, content to stop looking once I find something good enough. But it's not fair to other people for me to take that approach in altruism.

Comment via: google plus, facebook

Recent posts on blogs I like:

High-Speed Rail in Small, Dense Countries

Four years ago I brought up the concept of the small, dense country to argue in favor of full electrification in Israel, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Right now I am going to dredge up this concept again, in the context of intercity trains. In a geographi…

via Pedestrian Observations October 12, 2019

What do executives do, anyway?

An executive with 8,000 indirect reports and 2000 hours of work in a year can afford to spend, at most, 15 minutes per year per person in their reporting hierarchy... even if they work on nothing else. That job seems impossible. How can anyone make any im…

via apenwarr September 29, 2019

Taxing investment income is complicated

How should a state tax investment income if it wants to maximize its citizens’ welfare? This sounds like a simple question but I find it surprisingly hard to think about. Here are some of the positions I’ve moved through over the last few years: Taxing in…

via The sideways view September 22, 2019

more     (via openring)

More Posts:


  ::  Posts  ::  RSS  ::  ◂◂RSS  ::  Contact