It is really hard to be counter-cultural like Mr. Wage. Especially when your plan requires you to remain completely immersed in the culture. It feels like there's a constant friction to overcome--like every choice takes a bit more willpower than it should. I think this is part of the reason that truly counter-cultural people and movements tend to segregate themselves from the rest of the world.
I don't mean to degrade Mr. Wage and his project. I hope this works out for him, but it's a very difficult road.
We're attempting to overcome this worry through community and behavioural economics hacks. E.g. I take every opportunity that I can (like this one) to say publicly that I'm planning to give away the majority of what I earn, which makes it a helluva lot harder for me to back out. Similarly for Matt - it would be embarrassing for him to renege on his commitments when he's been so open about it. And it feels like a much smaller sacrifice (if it's even a sacrifice at all) when most of your friends are doing the same thing - and some, like Jeff and Julia in Boston (http://www.givinggladly.com/2013/06/whats-it-like-to-give-ha...) are doing much more.
It may be the country's Christian leanings that contribute to this, but to be charitable is seen as a virtue and absolute good in this society. This is not necessarily the case in other societies.
Whereas an American might donate to a food bank, homeless shelter, disaster relief, etc., a European might consider those activities the proper role of government and expect their (higher) taxes to go towards remedying the situation.
So, it might be that all industrialized nations share the belief that we should take care of our fellow man, help the needy, etc. Some believe it should be mandated and codified in the laws and policies of a nation; others believe it should be optional and driven by individuals.
When I lived in Germany I wanted to do some volunteer work and read up on the possibilities. A local explained to me, "Offering to volunteer at the library or a school sounds as strange to a German as someone in the US offering to volunteer with street sweeping, or with the IRS. That's the job of the government. That's what taxes are for."
Christians, people who lean right, etc tend to give to social welfare organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, foodbanks, etc. Basically groups that help out individuals.
Atheists, people who lean left, etc tend to give to artistic or societal organizations like a symphony, Greenpeace, etc.
I think the reasoning for this is simple. People on the right believe it is up to individuals to solve these problems and don't want the government involved. People on the left believe it is the government's role to solve these problems so they address their interests elsewhere.
which I favored as opposed to the various studies that show Liberals tend to give less often and in smaller amounts of both time and money:
Maybe so. I was taught to tithe 10% of everything I earned starting with my grade school allowance. 10% to God (which could go to a church or charity) and 25% to the bank. Everything else got spent on Legos and whatnot.
Fast forward twenty years (I'm 25) and I still siphon away 10% of my income into a separate account that I save for either church donations or charitable causes. At that point the money isn't really "yours" or at least that's what is typically taught in Christian culture. Makes it a lot easier to spend it on others.
What I mean is that if you look at countries with say top 50 GDP, many of them will be much lower than the "other western countries".
I also can't help noticing that some people who extol the virtues of religious giving are strenuously opposed to any expansion of government services, and seem to consider the whole idea of government taxation an intolerable confiscation of their money and thus an infringement upon their liberty. Such folk don't buy into the notion of a secular social contract between the state and the citizenry, and I often wonder if it because they see the state as being in competition with the religious establishment.
Still, 20 years is much longer than I have experience for, so I definitely respect people like you who have been working at this much longer!
The world got to us, though. You start to notice that
the coworkers that dress nicer and go to happy hour get
promotions. One guy married a social worker and had four
kids. One guy got tired of living in a studio apartment
in New Jersey.
Now granted, your colleagues might have more expensive houses and nicer cars, but even giving 20% of my income to charity I have a much higher standard of living than my friends who studied less remunerative subjects.
Also, note that 5% of your income donated to effective charities is still huge, and enough to save many lives during your career.
The organizer Chris Jenkins is a great guy, you should definitely feel free to sign up and ask him any questions!
Know what your expenses are and how much you are spending. Know which of the things you spend money for are really important to you, and what you wouldn't actually miss that much. Know how to keep your spending in check as your income grows, not just increasing spending because the money is there.
People tend to react emotionally to the teachers of these principles, like Dave Ramsey or Mr. Money Mustache. But it's not personal. It's just math. You can choose to cut way back on your spending if you want to retire really early, if that's what's most important to you. Or you can choose to spend more extravagantly and retire later (or not at all).
Or instead or retiring early, maybe you want to live really frugally but keep earning as much as possible, so you can give as much as possible. The underlying principles are the same.
I've decided to donate after I've lived the life I envision. If I get sick or injured and can no longer live that life, my savings will be my charity to myself. The subtle difference is that savings can be turned into charity, but not the other way around.
Was I really that unclear?
Donating and saving are two entirely different activities in my life, and the only similarity are the numbers on the ledger. (one has an immediate payoff (donating feels good) while the other is not satisfying at all (just helps me sleep)).
You're advice sounded a lot like the financial version of, "stop eating less and you won't be fat." ... but I guess that does work for some people ...
I sometimes feel that some people on HN make a real effort to misunderstand people.
Edit: sloppy typing
We spend a lot of time agonizing over how much to tell "normal" people about what we're doing and the cost of being "weird". This isn't so much of a factor if you live in a nice EA hub like Oxford-Boston-San Francisco, but for those of us that don't....we're stuck with the internet.
I became acclimated to that "bill" much as one does their car payment or home payment. It is in the range of a small car payment per month now and I only chide myself for not boosting it more. The idea is to make it a routine expense so that you don't consider it a burden. The danger is forgetting to raise it or give to other good charities thinking you have done your part.
I do not mind people who do not give, I only mind the ones who speak up at charity drives at work with any number of excuses or complaints. It is not hard to find a charity to give money too, its hard to give
I became acclimated to that "bill" much as one does their
car payment or home payment. It is in the range of a small
car payment per month now and I only chide myself for not
boosting it more. The idea is to make it a routine expense
so that you don't consider it a burden. The danger is
forgetting to raise it or give to other good charities
thinking you have done your part.
It is not hard to find a charity to give money to.
(I'm not saying this to discourage you, what you're doing is really good!)
You neatly summarized something I have been thinking about lately.
My wife and I are "digital nomads". We work on our laptops while traveling the world. Been at it since late 2011 and we spend a lot of time in places like Thailand where nomads tend to congregate, the vast majority of which cobble together a living through various entrepreneurial ventures rather than traditional employment.
At the moment we are back home visiting family and friends. "Constant friction" is pretty accurate. Not meaning arguments necessarily but constant little cultural differences, differences in how we see the world that can become contentious as ideas about how things should be done inform everything we do.
Meanwhile if you remove yourself to a community of similar people all of those little points of friction go away. Its pleasant if a little group-thinky.
Anyone, if anyone feels inspired by the story and thinks they might want to do something similar, I'm always happy to provide advice (you can get my contact details on my website). Not just through finance; there are a ton of software engineers and entrepreneurs in the effective altruism community, and it's really a place where everyone's trying to help each other be more successful - because we'll all do more good that way. If you think you might want to get involved, or find out more, there's a pretty active facebook group where you can introduce yourself. https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/?ref=br_...
Happy also to take any questions on here.
What did you think of Brook Allen's response:
His point was that the actual making of money might actually cause more harm (fraud, etc) than the good your donations would do. I don't agree; objectively weighing the harm with the benefits is possible, as other comments have pointed out.
I don't think of finance like I think of big tobacco though, and the criticisms I hear of finance tend to fall into one of two camps (i) lumping all of finance into one category; (ii) not really understanding what finance does. There are some areas of finance that are morally dubious (creating ever-more-arcane financial instruments that people don't understand). And I'm sympathetic in general to the idea that a lot of finance is rent-seeking, in which case you want regulation to cut down on that. But you don't have to go into dodgy areas of finance. Matt primarily takes advantage of arbitrage opportunities; it's hard to see how that is fucking over the world.
And even on the Big Tobacco front: if you could go in and substantially change their policies for the better (even if you couldn't make them any way close to perfect), I'd think of that as a really honorable thing to do. The same goes in finance. If you do find yourself in a really dodgy situation, you can always be a whistleblower, and potentially do a lot of good that way.
I like their estimate #1. For earning to give in finance to be net-negative then finance would have to be causing net harm approximately equal to all the deaths in the world.
> From http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organi... Generally, you may deduct up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income, but 20 percent and 30 percent limitations apply in some cases.
Cash contributions: A corporation must maintain a record
of any contribution of cash, check, or other monetary
contribution, regardless of the amount. The record can be
a bank record, receipt, letter, or other written
communication from the donee indicating the name of the
organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount
of the contribution. Keep the record of the contribution
with the other corporate records. Do not attach the records
to the corporation's return. For more information on cash
contributions, see Publication 526.
Well, it's at least worth having a discussion about.
If you are in a career where you honestly think damage is being done by your activities, you need to weigh that against whatever good is being done with the money you earn and give away.
What about the traders involved in the near-collapse of the global economy in 2007-2008? It would take a lot of very effective giving to make up for the damage caused.
"Finance is often taken to be the legal high earning career that’s most harmful to society. The average Goldman Sachs employee earns around $500,000 per year. If someone joined Goldman and donated half of his earnings to Against Malaria Foundation, that would be about enough to save 100 lives per year (or more accurately, saving 4000 QALYs), plus likely have substantial positive flow-through effects. For Earning to Give at Goldman to be net harmful, the marginal employee would need to be causing the death of a hundred people each year. This would mean that Goldman Sachs employees are several orders of magnitude more deadly than American service people in Iraq.
Goldman has 32,000 employees. An upper bound for the harm caused by the marginal employee is thus the total harm caused divided by 32,000. For the harm to outweigh the good, Goldman would therefore have to be killing at least 3.2 million young people each year, or doing something else that is similarly harmful. That would mean that Goldman Sachs would need to be responsible for around 5% of all deaths in the world. Bear in mind that Goldman Sachs only makes up 22% of American investment banking, and 3% of the American financial industry - if the rest of finance is similarly bad, then it would imply that finance is doing something as bad as causing all the deaths in the world."
... then they wouldn't be earning $500,000. That figure is averaged out between a few people who make multi-millions and the masses on more ordinary numbers.
They probably wouldn't be making the average salary of a Goldman Sachs employee, which is probably the arithmetic mean of salary of all current employees, and not the median or mode of new hires.
I get the feeling that this particular accounting methodology is not used to justify actions against wealthy people.
> I get the feeling that this particular accounting methodology is not used to justify actions against wealthy people.
Keeping in mind that I would not use this methodology to justify violence or theft against anyone, I'm interested in knowing what actions you think I'm justifying against not-wealthy people that I should be applying to wealthy people as well.
If violence isn't justified by this, and neither is theft, then I've no idea what actions it does justify. Why don't you tell me?
If someone were to use the original statement to say that it would be ok for the employee to kill 50 people and then save 100 in Africa, I would be against that, even if it were necessary to kill the 50 in order to raise the money to save the 100.
Does that help clarify?
It still suggests that, something like a 70% retroactive tax on bonuses over $10,000 going back 5 years, would be a net good if the money was spent improving people's lives. Yet I think most people would find such a proposal objectionable, despite its legality.
It's within the realm of possibility methinks.
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one that is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve....
As for Doing-good, that is one of the professions which are full. Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution...But I would not stand between any man and his genius; and to him who does this work, which I decline, with his whole heart and soul and life, I would say, Persevere, even if the world call it doing evil, as it is most likely they will."
Or, better, change job.
> First, where do we draw the line? If we’re prepared to donate one-third of our incomes to maximize happiness, then why not two-thirds? Why not live in a tent in a park so as to be able to donate 99 percent and prevent even more cases of blindness?
This is an area where the writings of Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codex) have been really helpful for me. He refers to this as "Infinite Debt" (http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/10/infinite-debt/):
"For years, I felt like I was probably ethically obligated to give all my income to charity, minus whatever I needed to survive. And the fact that I obviously wasn’t going to do that made me not give anything at all.
Once someone told me that my obligation wasn’t infinite, but just some finite amount like ten percent per year, every year, I was thrilled to be able to comply.
And of course there are people who make fun of this. “Oh, you really think you can just give an amount you find “convenient”, then feel like your conscience is clear and you can stop caring and be smug and self-satisfied?”
The proper response to this person is to ask whether they give so much as ten percent.
(“What? No, why should I?! I do my part by yelling at you!”)"
Thus, for me, the only answer that makes sense is that we have no obligation to save the world, but we are allowed to donate whatever we want. Besides who says all lives have equal value?
Does that make sense?
I am willing to help friends, family, etc because I actually care about them, ie making them happy will make me happy.
I am also willing to save the child in this case, because it is a) close b) not especially burdensome and c) will provide me with some measure of happiness. It is a choice I freely make, not a moral obligation (if it was an adult I really hated I might not have rescued him).
The others numbers are also potential Schelling points, but I would argue that 10 is a better one, largely because it matches the Christian Tithe, which western culture is largely familiar with.
In practice, I do find myself with a tiered system of "obligations" (I would also be interested in breaking down this word with you to see if we are using it in the same way, but you may not have either the interest or time, which would be fine). So, loved ones will receive a higher level of help than I give to strangers, which is probably true of most people.
But it's an objective measure externally set for me that is neither 0% or 100% (less the minimum needed to live), so I find it quite helpful.
(I think taxes are great and I think we should all pay more to fund education, research, health care, and social safety nets, but right now a good portion of it goes to arresting people for drug use, killing people in the Middle East, breaking the Internet, and other things I really dislike.)
I would nitpick that the maximum amount you can deduct is set by the government, and thus somewhat arbitrary, and certainly not Morally Objective. However, it is objective to you, the individual, and thus makes a very good Schelling point, and you are finding it helpful, so excellent, good for you.
I also largely agree with your statement regarding taxes, and have nothing to add to it at this time.
That's the status quo. The whole reason we're having this conversation is because not enough people are donating X% in order to fix global poverty. So, what's your burden? What's my burden? 10% is a handy figure because it's small enough to be doable for most people, but large enough such that if everyone were donating 10%, we'd have enough money to basically fix global poverty forever.
It's handy for us to agree to discharge our infinite debts to each other by agreeing upon some figure. 10% fits that nicely.
The real problem isn't that we are not giving enough to Africa, the problem is that we don't buy enough from Africa.
If you try to solve that problem instead the Africans will be much better of, you won't have to worry about convincing me, and you can make yourself rich in the process.
Can you explain your reasoning? If you don't think you have any burden, then naturally the whole point of relinquishing the infinite debt and the 10% Schelling Point won't have any relevance. But in your original comment, you seemed to imply that there was some amount we are on the hook for, you just couldn't understand why we settled on 10%. But if I am misunderstanding, please correct me.
The nice thing about this option is you can save now without having to decide where to give. You can take time to research and make an educated informed decision on where to give. You also get the dual tax benefit of not getting taxed on these capital gains and the deduction of a donation if you itemize.
It's very cool to see people giving critical thought on how they give. But sometimes it can be intimidating to start. Just starting with anything is better than nothing and you can build from there. You don't have to give 50% like this guy. Building it into your lifestyle and budgeting is a slow and gradual process.
It starts at .6% per year, and decreases when the account size is huge.
However when I looked in to this it didn't seem so clear cut.
It is one thing to rationally know that people are without food and basic medicine through the reading I did or videos I watched. It is another to be in a high-need community and find myself trying to explain to a father that I just ran out of the antibiotics he needed to help his sick child fight an infection. Of course it would have been more effective to not buy the plane ticket and ship $1000 more of antibiotics to the community, but that is the cost we (myself and the community) paid to change a lifetime of decisions I would make as a privileged American. The cost sickens me, but it is the reality I have come to understand.
Emotional connections are powerful, but they are difficult to form without the personal connection. My hope is that as technology improves, we will be able to build empathy more effectively even without the aforementioned expensive plane ticket. Perhaps then we will be more hesitant about war and more vigorous in helping refugees, victims of natural disasters, and others.
"Voluntourism is ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the communities they visit." 
“Basically, we failed at the sole purpose of our being there. It would have been more cost effective, stimulative of the local economy, and efficient for the orphanage to take our money and hire locals to do the work, but there we were trying to build straight walls without a level.” 
Take for example Bill Gates. If he had donated all his "surplus" money instead of building a business, he wouldn't have been able to donate the amount that he has; the amount wouldn't even be of the same order.
> in 2011, 17 percent of people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25 a day. That’s down from 43 percent in 1990.
It seems worth pushing to nearly-eradicate this "extreme poverty" now, rather than waiting another 20 years and doing something that would likely have a lesser effect on suffering.
But how do charities get donations without advertising? How do they let people know why they need the money and encourage them to donate? At some point, yes, a charity can spend too much of its donations on advertising, but advertising in general is a necessary evil.
Same with this. The charities might take in less overall if they "saved" money by scrapping these types of programs.
This isn't 100% useless, as it causes economic activity, but it's done under the lie that non-profits are de facto good things.
This is the challenging thing about charities. If I want to evaluate the person selling me socks or smart phones, I look at the good they offer and decide if it is worth $N. If it is, I make the trade. If not, I don't.
But with charities, you have to figure out "is the marginal change the charity will do with $5 worth me having five dollars less?" And that's incredibly hard to figure out. Even the charity itself, assuming it even wants to know, can have a hard time figuring out the net difference of five dollars.
Which is the whole point of effective altruism.
or non-good, marginal good, regular doings, etc.
I will say that I took a holiday last year, and technically that is money I could have used to donate. So in that sense I am just as bad as they are.
Even in the case where the donation drop the payer to a lower tax bracket, I don't see how it helps. Any insight greatly appreciated.
I'm not sure why you're picking on these guys in particular.
Maybe my anecdote goes against the norm?
Most of us could be doing a lot more.
Why does it have to be so explicit? My observations align with yours in regards to how these trips are marketed (if I can use the term) and how most people I know who have done them describe the experience. But I have another anecdote, one which describes why I don't want to hold my speculations or "understanding of the world" in too high esteem:
I know at least one person who was so sheltered that the big realizations on her trip (a "mission" trip as it were so) were that: not all children are born in fancy suites with a host of doctors tending to every need; you can't get processed American lunches out in the middle of the desert; "kids are literally hungry because they don't have enough food". Hearing this was equal parts astonishing and enraging and yet it made me check my own entitlement as well. Why should I want to attack her motivations? Why should I challenge her because the "result" wasn't "good enough", i.e. she didn't suddenly become enlightened as to what it was like to live in such a situation, instead she merely realized that she had a desire to care about the issue and support others who care as well (see: cash donations)? Any minute I could have said obviously, there are people in terrible situations all over the world and it would have done nothing because I already thought it. There will always be "those kinds" of people; we don't want to be them, but they also don't want to be us. The truth is that even if her interests end up being entirely selfish, she'll probably have more of an impact on those things than I ever will. I can appreciate that, even if it's not efficient, altruistic, or whatever. It's frustrating, but not terrible.
Spending $500 on a plane ticket and then spend $500 at local restaurants, vendors, and accommodations won't do as much good as the $1000 would straight-up donated, but it's better than the $100 I would _actually_ donate. Don't make perfect the enemy of good.
And ultimately, it will make me care more about wherever I visited, and prompt further donations in the future.
 Easterly's book is great if you're interested in the stats: http://www.amazon.com/The-Elusive-Quest-Growth-Misadventures...
Their top charity for a long time was a mosquito net distribution agency. It turned out that the mosquito nets were used as fishing nets instead and, since they were treated with insecticide, polluted the local lakes.
To me there are two issues at stake: taking their 90% claim at face value that may very well still leave them a very effective charity.
I am more concerned for the fishing stock. Assume 5% chooses to use their nets to fish with - is the this enough to have a material impact on fishing stocks? Will this effect the community to the point that the rest also have to use these nets to catch enough fish? Even if not, what is the effect of the insecticide?
Your articles seem to be really convincing with usages rate, but unfortunately rather handwavingly with the insecticide.
Obviously there was a lot more to the Civil Rights movement than a lack of malaria. But it was one of the factors that helped. How likely is someone with “body aches, headache and nausea, general weakness, and prostration” to make it to the polls, to school, or to work? How likely are they to march on Washington?
It's easier to dream big from behind a windowscreen. Easier when you're not hungry. When you're not sick. When you're not weakened from parasites and malnutrition. And for those of us who would love to see systemic change, the "one-trick ponies" may be a good way forward.
Giving $3.5k to save a child from dying of malaria is quite a different thing and seems obviously a good thing to do.
This 14 min lecture goes through Singer's example, and it explores his view further. https://youtube.com/watch?v=Pyzv2UWzaos
10% of income is doable.
I treat it like a form of tax in which I have a say. It's going to be taken (that's the way in which I think of it as a tax), but now I get to say who receives it.
Last year I favoured Medicine San Frontiers due to the Ebola outbreak, but in general I favour Liberty, Open Rights Group and small charities that provide computers to Africa, or bicycles for the disabled in the UK (Wheels for Wellbeing).
10% really isn't too much, and so long as you do it early you'll likely never notice it.
Then again... perhaps this is why I don't have a deposit for a mortgage. Or perhaps that was poor budgeting for the bit of salary I did take home and keep.
What makes you think that's how they make their money?
Peter Singer himself wrote, in the New York Times Magazine, nearly a decade ago, an article titled "What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?"
Second, I wanted to be more aware and involved in the issues I wanted to contribute to, which I couldn't do unless I dove in. There are a lot of good organization out there that are making great impact, but there are equal number of "bad" ones that are perhaps having a negative impact or are not aligned to ones values. GiveWell and CharityNavigator can only go so far.
Check out https://80000hours.org for a way more in-depth exploration of the different career-related EA strategies.
A person with a high income but few relevant skills would probably have the greatest impact by donating money. For example, a trader interested in preventing disease might not have any skills in developing or delivering vaccines. But that trader might have a substantial amount of money to donate to organizations that do have those skills.
On the other hand, a software engineer with a modest income might find a very effective nonprofit that could do much more if only it had access to software development talent. For that engineer, donating time might achieve much more than donating money.
And interesting bunch of people where you pledge to donate X% of your pre-tax income to charity for life.
The founder, Toby Ord capped his income to 18,000 British Pounds:
If you can't care about your community enough to donate something, then I think your values may need reexamining. Even if that something is donation of old clothes and used items instead of throwing everything away.
And finally, it's not about how many people donate and how many don't. It's the right thing to do, and asking if you're "the norm" is just looking for a justification. Do the right thing. Don't just be narrowly selfish.
My self interest benefits more if I use the money for myself rather then giving it away and getting the benefits in a form that is heavily diluted. It is the aggregate donations of people that can, in the end mutually benefit my self interest. However my individual donation is just a drop in the bucket; I stand to benefit the most by not donating and letting others donate. Thus, the logical move is to not donate. It is actually counter intuitively detrimental to my self interest if everyone acted this way. Garrett Hardin described the paradox in his famous paper:
This does not mean I think it's ok not to donate. A large part of our lives as humans are not dictated by logic. What I meant in the original post is that from an emotional standpoint I just don't feel a heavy burden that I need to donate. $20000 that could be a donation I'd rather spend on a worthless luxury (i.e. new car) for me... and that's not logic talking either, it's just my gut, emotional desire.
source: used to work a few desks down from Matt.
I'd be interested in increasing my charitable contributions but I'm not sure where would be best to send more money to. I am personally a fan of direct charity instead of going through an organization as I feel it reduces overhead. I like Kiva loans because once I get paid back I just re-loan the money so that slowly I am increasing the amount I loan monthly while keeping my monthly contribution the exact same (or slowly increasing it, I want to get to $50/mo within a few months). I also like Kiva because I know exactly how much is going to Kiva vs the person asking for money (something that is hidden or hard to find out for most charities IMHO).
My approach is not based on anything specific it's more of just what has happened naturally since I started working full time.
My own goal is to give about 50% of lifetime earnings, though with the flexibility to scale that back to a floor of 20% in the event my income drops a lot (I'm at the mercy of tech salaries, and just not willing to jump to a career that destroys my work-life balance).
The tech industry is known for having a disproportionate amount of effective altruists, given how pragmatic and numerical the conclusion to donate to the most effective charities is.
This is pretty impressive to me. Many will say "well, if half of it is 100k, he still has at least 100k", except this is pretax, meaning he keeps less than 100k; besides, before saying it's not a big deal, how much are you contributing?
I personally donate 40% of my post tax income anonymously to various initiatives/organizations, which means even less pretax, but that's what I can afford without jeopardizing my family's well being.
It doesn't have to be monetary, but a little bit of help goes a long way. I'm glad there are people who do whatever they can to help out with the less fortunate.
Here's an idea, and one that may already be implemented (please tell me if you know that it is and who is doing it): One could set up a charitable nonprofit that uses HFT systems to maximize the growth of donated assets before sending them off to other charitable organizations. Investors would be able to influence where the money is donated at the end of the day. In a sense, use the "easy money" from wall street to back altruistic endeavors.
The problem that I see with this is the easy chance for corruption and graft; however, given a clear altruistic management philosophy, a truly dedicated group of people could run a tight ship and make a difference for people in need.
The head of Vanguard is on the record saying that his firm benefits from HFTs actions on the market. Narrower margins are a good thing.
Many foundations invest their money, with the idea that they will have a greater overall impact. I guess a prominent example is university endowments.
On the one hand I think its far more generous, though as pointed out, the trader will end up donating a lot more cash.
Either way, good on them.
I have too much uncertainly about my future to make such a commitment at this moment (and to be fair I really think that politics should arrange a fairer society so that individuals don't need to do such things). It's in the back of my head that if I get rich I could do so much more for society.
Here's the top comment from the second link:
Quote from quanticle:
If you choose a profession that doesn't arouse your everyday passion for
the sake of serving instead some abstract faraway good, you might end up as a
person who values the far over the near. You might become one of those people
who loves humanity in general but not the particular humans immediately
around. You might end up enlarging the faculties we use to perceive the far
-- rationality -- and eclipsing the faculties we use to interact with
those closest around -- affection, the capacity for vulnerability and
dependence. Instead of seeing yourself as one person deeply embedded in a
particular community, you may end up coolly looking across humanity as a
Third, and most important, I would worry about turning yourself into a means
rather than an end. If you go to Wall Street mostly to make money for charity,
you may turn yourself into a machine for the redistribution of wealth. You may
turn yourself into a fiscal policy.
Making yourself is different than producing a product or an external outcome,
requiring different logic and different means. I'd think you would be more
likely to cultivate a deep soul if you put yourself in the middle of the
things that engaged you most seriously. If your profoundest interest is dying
children in Africa or Bangladesh, it's probably best to go to Africa or
Bangladesh, not to Wall Street.
Rationality is not a sin. Calculation is not a sin. Money is not inherently sinful. All of these things are means, and have the capability to do both great good or great harm, depending on the end to which they're applied. Jason Trigg understands this. David Brooks does not. And that's why I, personally, respect Jason Trigg a lot more than David Brooks.
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.
Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”"
Altruism as she defines it is obviously crap. What she fails to do is to clarify the extreme egocentrism that she proposes in an equally critical way. Here's an amusing attempt to do so using her own format:
> "What is the moral code of egocentrism? The basic principle of egocentrism is that other people have no right to exist other than for your sake, that service to you is the only justification of their existence, and that their sacrifice for your good is their highest moral duty, virtue and value.
> Do not confuse egocentrism with self-respect, self-awareness or respect for your rights. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, egocentrism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of egocentrism, the basic absolute, is the total unimportance of the other—which means; not caring one whit about others, using them for your own means, sacrificing their feelings and even their lives if necessary—which means: the other as a standard of evil, the self as a standard of the good.
> Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not use people. That is not the issue. The issue is whether those people have the right to exist without being of use to you. The issue is whether you are really compelled to notionally support the existence, day by day, of people who are of no apparent use to you. The issue is whether your needs are the first mortgage on their life and the moral purpose of their existence. The issue is whether other people are to be regarded as sacrificial animals. Any man worth calling that will answer: “No.” Egocentrism says: “Yes.”"
As usual, the better place to sit is somewhere in the middle. No, you do not exist just to serve others, and total self-abnegation and sacrifice is certainly not a productive way to live. Neither, however, is total self-adoration and worship of your ego. Both are mistaken paths. The far better path is to realise that you need a balance of both respect for your own self, and connection to others, to live a good, fulfilled life.
For your own sake, fobcat, and not for mine, I hope you can read and understand the above...
Since it doesn't want me to reply again [I'm submitting too fast]
If you can support a family of 4 in NY with less than $100k while qualifying as middle class, I'm curious how you manage it. :)
Real median household income for all working age residents adjusted for a family of four peaked in 2001 at slightly over $72,000, and for middle class households at just over $111,000. During the 2001-2008 cycle, however, median middle income actually fell despite the strong growth of the City’s economy, and has continued to fall during the recovery – for reasons that will be discussed further on – declining 7.8 percent in inflation-adjusted terms.
For NYC, $100,000 is a very average middle class income. Cost of living by area does matter.
The moral here is to make a difference - and don't hesitate to give money (if that is what you have) based on the fear that it will me mismanaged or not help.
That said, what I think you intend to get at - don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good - do some basic due diligence, but don't let "due diligence" freeze you into inaction - I agree with that.
(edit: I started a sentence without finishing it -_-;;)
I can think of a few reasonable changes I could make to lower my expenses to < $20k if I wanted to be more aggressive, but my current spending level works to compromise with my (incredibly understanding) girlfriend. Social factors are always there, but the absolute reality of this level of spending in NYC is fantastic.
The numbers will change when a family is involved, of course, but both the article guy and I (probably) have a long time to save up before that happens.
Note: I try to not donate any of my money to any cause ever
What's the point of life if not to help each other survive and enjoy life?
Sure, you need to keep yourself and your family comfortable but to actively distance yourself away from ANY kind of donation is just sub-human imo.
This is an odd argument. Are you saying that paying taxes is some form of altruism? The story is about a guy who donates money with no tangible benefit to himself. We all get benefits and services from the government. It debatable whether the value we receive is equal to the amount we pay in taxes, but the value is certainly not zero.
The only way you get close to the claimed 66% number is if you are including all spending, including overhead, of the programs identified.
Even if you count "non-altruistic" foreign aid (i.e., aid given to a recipient government by a donor government who also benefits, e.g. military aid), this barely budges the numbers. The US goes up to about 0.3%.
Throwing in private aid, like Wage's, makes the US look comparable to Europe because the US gives more money privately than Europe. But this is still within a factor of 2.
I like that Singer holds this guy up as an example, for doing the exact opposite of what Singer actually claimed was morally right.