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Giving What We Can
December 13, 2010 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Giving What We Can is a movement founded by Toby Ord , a 31 year old Oxford academic on slightly more than average income who plans to give away a million pounds during his lifetime.

“I realised that by donating a large part of my future income to the most efficient charities, I really could save thousands of people’s lives. Since I already have most of the things I really value in life, I thought — why not?” -- Toby Ord

The Giving What You Can membership consists of people, including philosophers, development economists, web developers and teachers, who have pledged to give at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities they can find.

The website has interesting things to say about what they term eight persistent myths about aid, which are commonly put forward as objections. It also has interactive tools to figure out how rich you really are compared to other people in the world, and what kind of impact you personally could have.
posted by philipy (52 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Life You Can Save is a similar project that came out of Peter Singer's book of the same name. Their recommended giving level starts at 1% if you make less than US$105,000 and goes up from there. Clearly the more people give the less each person has to give and generally people with more money can afford to give a larger percentage.

1% is such a tiny amount, just 0.083% of your income each month but in aggregate it represents more money than has ever been devoted to developed, probably cumulative in the history of development.
posted by ChrisHartley at 4:56 PM on December 13, 2010


I got confused somehow, and just in case I'm not the only one, let me clarify my own confusion, which took me a second:

He's living on the median income, and giving away all he earns above that. Which is a really lovely and generous thing to do, and kudos to him.

However, he also seems to pay pretty significantly below market for his housing (per the BBC article, which gives a figure for his rent) as he rents from his employer, which helps him live a lot more comfortably at that income level than someone else who was living on less than 20,000 pounds a year but wasn't affiliated with Balliol.

This is the thing about voluntary simplicity--it generally is a lot more comfortable than involuntary simplicity, so when he says "You can have a comfortable, middle-class life on 18,000 pounds a year," what he means is that he and his wife can have a comfortable, middle-class life on 18,000 pounds a year.

It's not necessarily going to be true for everyone, which doesn't take away from their generosity or philanthropy, of course, but which does muddy the waters a bit. My issue with the way the media cover this kind of story is not that they are giving too much praise to people who certainly deserve praise for their philanthropy, but that it gives ammunition to the "BOOTSTRAPS!" people who think that poor people are just lazy for not having a comfortable, middle-class life on 18,000 pounds a year, or in half their house, or what have you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on December 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


1% is such a tiny amount, just 0.083% of your income each month

Wouldn't 1% be 1% of your income each month?
posted by found missing at 4:59 PM on December 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


Hey, great! Giving What We Can is an excellent organization, and I was wondering whether it would appear here at some point. I'm good friends with the guys who have opened the first North American chapter. The media attention they've been getting lately has been really exciting. If anyone has any questions, I'm sure I can get them to answer them.

While following the media reception, I've been interested to hear the arguments and justifications that people give for not giving. The same arguments keep recurring, and they're never very good.
posted by painquale at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2010


And having said that, I really honor his commitment both to philanthropy and to researching the effectiveness of his giving. The Largely Mythological Husband and I try to do the "5 Percent/5 Hours" thing and fail pretty drastically most years, so good for Ord and his cohorts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2010


I'm proud to say I donated my 1% this year to Oxfam. It's not much, and I am a little worried about the moral hazard of pretending that it solves everything. But it makes getting through my days much easier knowing that even if I'm a little miserable at work, a little piece of my effort performed a miracle somewhere in the world.
posted by notion at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


hahaha that mistake is going to look terrible if I ever try and go to school for engineering.

0.083% of your annual income each month, 1% of your monthly income each month.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:02 PM on December 13, 2010


While following the media reception, I've been interested to hear the arguments and justifications that people give for not giving. The same arguments keep recurring, and they're never very good.

Most of the middle-class people that I know who don't make significant charitable donations don't do it because they literally can't afford to, usually because of unusually high health insurance or healthcare costs or child-care costs (most of the poor people I know who don't make significant charitable donations don't do it because they literally can't afford to because, you know, poor). That seems like a perfectly cromulent argument to me; you have to put the oxygen mask on your own face first before you help others.

Part of charity is not judging others without knowing their circumstances--sure, they might be Scrooge, but they also might be paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills for their mother-in-law's appendectomy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:10 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a Youtube video of Peter Singer talking about Giving What We Can.

(I think Nick just killed it in his little summary speech at the hour mark, but he's a friend of mine, so I'm biased.)
posted by painquale at 5:14 PM on December 13, 2010


Most of the middle-class people that I know who don't make significant charitable donations don't do it because they literally can't afford to, usually because of unusually high health insurance or healthcare costs or child-care costs

Yeah, there are lots of people who can't give, but the tortured justifications that I've heard tend to come from people who clearly could give if they wanted to.

I'm one of those people. So when I say that all the arguments I hear are bad, it's because I'm wondering whether there are any good ones that I could lean on. I'm not trying to blame others for not giving; I'm trying to figure out why I'm not giving.
posted by painquale at 5:17 PM on December 13, 2010


Well, I can tell you why we fall short of our 5% goal at the end of the year, when we do--it's because we spent money on stuff.

Or political contributions. But usually stuff. So, I'm with you, painquale--I need to figure out how to buy less stuff so I can give more. And I like that Ord is doing that, and the Life You Can Save folks, and so on.

I just also want to acknowledge my privilege in being a position to choose between stuff I don't absolutely need and charitable giving.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:21 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe anyone feels smug about donating 1% of their income to charity... You do realise that you probably spend more than that on your daily latte, right?
posted by JustAsItSounds at 5:29 PM on December 13, 2010


I think this might catch on much better if the pledge didn't have to be at least 10% of income.

A lot of the power of this is in getting people to ask themselves what they could give, and where they could most usefully give it. If the answer they come up with is less than 10%, that's fine, and it would still be a very important contribution.

I once toyed with the idea of starting a campaign to get people to give half a percent of their income towards reducing global poverty. Why 0.5%? Because everyone doing that would close the gap between the 0.7% of GDP that rich countries have promised to give in aid, and what the US and others did give. And because most people can see a way to find half a percent to give.

The people I floated that idea to weren't enthusiastic and I shelved it. But it's nice that Giving What We Can is getting some publicity, and I'm glad to be able to give it a little more.
posted by philipy at 5:32 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I need to figure out how to buy less stuff so I can give more.

He talks about how he dealt with just that in one of the links.

"When it began, I would be down in the supermarket agonising about whether to buy a more expensive cereal or not but I realise that's a road to a nervous breakdown and that it was much more sensible to work out at the start what you can live on [give away the rest in a lump sum] and then after a year readjust - can I live on less, am I pushing it too hard - instead of perpetually agonising about it."
posted by philipy at 5:37 PM on December 13, 2010


I've got a project for 2011 where I am going to give away money to charity, but I am planning on using other people's money. This giving away your own money isn't as fun.

Seriously though, I made some small donations over the last year. I'm really not in a place to be able to do this, but I'm also a lot better off than most. I'd like to get myself in a better place so I can do more of this.

I pretty much don't need anything. I have a lifetime's of books to read (and they make more and people get them for me faster than I can read them!), I refuse to rebuy any of my music and the stuff kids listen to these days doesn't work for me, etc.

If I were suddenly given a lot of money I don't see it changing my life that much, and can't think of much else I'd rather do than donate it to worthy charities.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:41 PM on December 13, 2010


Most of the middle-class people that I know who don't make significant charitable donations don't do it because they literally can't afford to

There are vanishingly few middle-class people who can't afford to save a life. Electrolyte treatment for kids dying of diarrheal diseases costs just a few dollars. Are you saying your friends literally spend every dollar they earn on food, shelter, medicine? Not to judge them harshly, but that's the point Singer is making. Almost all of us living in industrialised societies can save a life, even the most financially stretched. The reason we don't is that we don't want to and we don't care enough about people on the other side of the world, even if they're suffering and dying in agony.

(Contrast how we react to Singer's fish pond test -- would you save a toddler from drowning in a fish pond even if it meant getting wet and ruining your new shoes? In that case I doubt you'd forgive your friends if they tried to tell you they couldn't do it because they were deep in debt and couldn't afford a new pair of shoes)
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:42 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Good for him. I wish I made enough that I could do this.
posted by strixus at 5:43 PM on December 13, 2010


Are you saying your friends literally spend every dollar they earn on food, shelter, medicine?

If his friends are like a lot of first worlders, particularly inthe US, they're already well behind the eight ball with interest payments. (Which may originally have been for evil Stuff, but has morphed into something worse.)

Then there's retirement, the kids' college fund, insurance, utiities - it ain't cheap living in the first world.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:50 PM on December 13, 2010


Are you saying your friends literally spend every dollar they earn on food, shelter, medicine?

I know quite a few middle-class people who literally spend more than they earn on food, shelter, transportation, health insurance, medicine, child care, and pretty basic clothing, yes. (And as for poor people, yeah, most of the poor folks I know would fall into that category.)

I'm fortunate not to be among that group myself, so we can set the goal of donating 5%, but I am also pointing out that not every middle-class person is so fortunate. As a tenured professor at Princeton, Peter Singer earns a shitload of money and gets excellent healthcare benefits, so he doesn't have to choose between donating to his organization or paying a long-overdue hospital bill that's currently in collections.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:18 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't believe anyone feels smug about donating 1% of their income to charity... You do realise that you probably spend more than that on your daily latte, right?

Sadly, I'm not surprised someone feels more smug making that kind of a statement. Just like the Wednesday morning naysayers who pretend that not voting somehow has some moral meaning. If you're doing less, you're still doing less.
posted by notion at 6:39 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


You do realise that you probably spend more than that on your daily latte, right?
People say this kind of thing a lot, and it irks me. Daily lattes? On what planet? It sort of marks metafilter out as upper-middle-class space, which is weird. I know this may be surprising, but there are people here for whom the whole thought of paying $2 a day for coffee is a really odd idea.
posted by craichead at 6:57 PM on December 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't know anyone who buys a cup of retail coffee every day. Moreover, if I gave $2-4/day to every organization staking claim on that mythical "daily latte" money, I'd be deeply in debt in the span of a few months.
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:01 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


People say this kind of thing a lot, and it irks me. Daily lattes? On what planet? It sort of marks metafilter out as upper-middle-class space, which is weird.

I think it reveals a lot about the person saying it, not so much about the people reading it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:02 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Washington Post's Business (not editorial) section ran an article today about how families making over $250,000 are struggling to get by.

If it's satire, it's brilliantly written. If not, well........
posted by schmod at 7:08 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing to consider (assuming you're in the US): If the current tax deal in the Senate passes, the employee payroll tax rate on the first $106k of income will be reduced from 6.2% to 4.2% - split that extra money down the middle with your charity and you're right on target.
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:12 PM on December 13, 2010


Just a note: on that most effective charities link, Stop TB and the AMF are both listed as being highly ranked by GiveWell, "another charity evaluator".

I only paid enough attention to the givewell debacle before to get my fill of schadenfreude, but is this company still bad news? Do these guys know that?
posted by Acari at 7:44 PM on December 13, 2010


That WashPo article is infuriating:
Being in the red on a $250,000 annual salary might still seem surprising. But taking responsibility for their retirement and their children's future is costly. They are maximizing contributions to two 401(k)s and all flexible spending accounts available to them, and they are squirreling away $8,000 a year into college funds.
News flash: You don't get to count money you're saving against "being in the red". That's not how accounting works. If you're "in the red" and putting over $40,000/year in savings, you're simply not really saving that much. They also do some great sneaky double-counting in their accounting - they include servicing $63k of student loan debt while also counting saving $8k/year toward their kids' tuitions, something that only works for one generation. And if they're earning 5% return to get that $3,000 in investment income, they have $60k in savings, which they could have used to buy the car they're paying a loan on.
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:55 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Chiming on the Givewell, stuff: I saw that too and internally went "huh." Even without the metafilter debacle, Givewell - like almost all of the "charity assessors" e.g. charity navigator, the aip etc - are at best a flawed device for assessing charity efficacy. Most of them are limited by the amount of data charities make public, and the limited metrics they choose to focus on. It's a tough one. People want the info, but it's difficult to legitimately assess a wide number from an equal platform, if not impossible.
posted by smoke at 8:02 PM on December 13, 2010


I don't know anyone who buys a cup of retail coffee every day.

It's common practice in Sydney. I do it, and so do many of my colleagues. But then, we have decent coffee here. If I had to drink Starbucks or equiv., I wouldn't drink coffee at all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:15 PM on December 13, 2010


It's common practice in Sydney. I do it, and so do many of my colleagues. But then, we have decent coffee here.

If you're working a job where you refer to the bloke next to you as colleague, your ability to afford your morning flat white may have more to do with your income than the quality of the espresso at the nearest milk bar.
posted by zamboni at 8:45 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was wondering whether people here would mention the links to GiveWell.

Sorry, Metafilter, but it's a great organization. The mistakes they made here don't really affect the fact that they play a valuable role in philanthropy and that they do it well. It's become pretty important. I expect to hear their name a lot more in the future.

I was surprised to find this out myself. The first time I heard that GiveWell mentioned outside of a Metafilter setting, I tried to explain how we here at Metafilter had shown them to not be worth doing business with. I discovered that I couldn't make a convincing case. So, I returned to the original MeTa thread for some ammo, and was at a loss to find anything very compelling. (Ikkyu2's comments seemed most apt.). There certainly wasn't anything there that would cause Peter Singer to stop recommending GiveWell all the time, if he were only aware of it. If GiveWell really does provide the best evidence-based information about effective giving, then they should be consulted. Their exuberant astroturfing isn't a good reason to ignore them.
posted by painquale at 8:46 PM on December 13, 2010


Why is GiveWell bad news? They fessed up here. I find the shrill MeFi-hate three years running a little over the top honestly. It's like chest-beating "we got you!" kids stuff.
How we fell short: As part of an effort to gain publicity, GiveWell's staff (Holden and Elie) posted comments on many blogs that did not give adequate disclosure of our identities (though we did use our real first names); in a smaller number of cases, we posted comments and sent emails that deliberately concealed our identities. Our actions were wrong and rightly damaged GiveWell's reputation. More detail is available via the page for the board meeting that we held in response.

Given the nature of our work, it is essential that we hold ourselves to the highest standards of transparency in everything we do. Our poor judgment caused many people who had not previously encountered GiveWell to become extremely hostile to it.

Steps we have taken to improve: We issued a full public disclosure and apology, and directly notified all existing GiveWell donors of the incident. We held a Board meeting and handed out penalties that were publicly disclosed, along with the audio of the meeting. We increased the Board's degree of oversight over staff, particularly with regard to public communications.
What else do you want? Seriously, lay it out - they seem to be listening.

And on preview what painquale just said.
posted by stbalbach at 8:49 PM on December 13, 2010


Givewell - like almost all of the "charity assessors" e.g. charity navigator, the aip etc - are at best a flawed device for assessing charity efficacy. Most of them are limited by the amount of data charities make public, and the limited metrics they choose to focus on. It's a tough one.

Sure, it's flawed at best, but it's better to have incomplete information guide decisions in giving than no information at all. Charities that are extremely transparent about their operations are heavily favored, so they aren't just guessing about charity effectiveness. The metric they use is 'cost per life saved', which is a completely reasonable metric and the one that I would favor anyway.

I dunno, I tend to favor evidence-based approaches to decision in general, so charity assessors seem to be pretty valuable.
posted by painquale at 8:57 PM on December 13, 2010


If you're working a job where you refer to the bloke next to you as colleague, your ability to afford your morning flat white may have more to do with your income than the quality of the espresso at the nearest milk bar.

Certainly. I'm an underpaid low level public servant, but most definitely a middle class one. I was just providing a data point regarding the contention that buying coffee every day is somehow bizzare.

I'll let this derail die now. Charitable donations are good. Donate more, if you can afford to.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:01 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the derail - I honestly didn't know what had / had not been resolved, and it seemed like the kind of thing that would have been mentioned in the first few comments on the blue.

For those that think there is an ongoing vendetta here, I think it's a pretty good sign that the response I got wasn't "yeah! fuck those guys!", but "no, they're better now".

I'm really pleased with the idea of the list of most effective charities. Also with the name "deworm the world"
posted by Acari at 9:46 PM on December 13, 2010


I dunno, I tend to favor evidence-based approaches to decision in general, so charity assessors seem to be pretty valuable.

I prefer bassett hound-based approaches to decisions in general. Lol, who doesn't prefer evidence-based? You're not so special there.

I'm not saying that assessors are completely useless, but rather that they should be viewed as one part of a spectrum of assessment methods when it comes to aid (as Giving What You Can has done, for example), and I believe that it it is important their limitations are called out, lest they end up being relied upon as a sole arbiter of aid value.

For example, Givewell themselves have stated how "ratings" and quantitative scores do not do justice to the complexity of aid, and are actually changing their review and summary process in light of it.

There are lots of different ways to slice aid efficacy metrics, and these assessors are just one (though they all use similar methods for assessment; fairly limited metrics) - the charities that they recommend can and sometimes do ended up placing a lot lower on other lists where other metrics are used.

This is not to say that one is right or better than the other etc. Just to highlight the complexity and differences that different orgs with different goals and different metrics achieve. I would also note all those aid assessors are heavily US-focussed, and thus miss many charities that are not based or have a heavy presence in the United States.
posted by smoke at 9:47 PM on December 13, 2010


One of the best things I've ever found is Donor advised funds. I use Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. If you have money for charity, but are not sure how to go about it logistically, check out donor advised funds. It's basically like having a rich persons Foundation with a whole staff taking care of everything for you. All you do is tell them what charities you want to give too, how often, anonymous or not .. they handle the rest. Automated via a web interface.
posted by stbalbach at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


All good points, smoke.

Lol, who doesn't prefer evidence-based?

Heh, while I also like asking basset hounds for advice, I was trying to draw an analogy with evidence-based medicine. When I reread the GiveWell MeTa thread, I was surprised to see a lot of people hating on GiveWell simply because they didn't think that charities should be evaluated like businesses at all ("like ranking religion according to market penetration" was one memorable phrase). Denying that charity efficacy can and should be evaluated strikes me as similar to the position that clinical therapies can and should be evaluated according to evidence.

There are lots of different ways to slice aid efficacy metrics

Definitely. But of course, when choosing who to donate to, you need to decide on some metric or other. From what I've seen on their blog, GiveWell cares about the sorts of things that I think are most important. I'm pretty confident that outsourcing my metric to them, as it were, will result in more good in the world than being skeptical of their metric and trying to muddle through things on my own.

Left to my own devices, I might accidentally give money to bicycle monorails like Google just did.

I would also note all those aid assessors are heavily US-focussed, and thus miss many charities that are not based or have a heavy presence in the United States.

Hm, is that right? GiveWell certainly prefers organizations that send aid overseas. And I'm not really too worried about even if they miss a whole bunch based in other countries. It still seems better to give to a proven and trusted US-based charity than to a UK-based one about which I lack information.
posted by painquale at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2010


Dogs are so generous with the scraps their masters let fall to the floor. It pains me to see the lower- and middle-class selflessly volunteer to bring themselves so close to the poverty line just to help someone else move away from it. Here we are arguing over the generosity of a latte a day, when there are people making thousands an hour just by nature of having stuff already.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:21 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a society we can't afford to cut into the yacht and cocaine allowance! Actually there are a lot of people in the high income brackets who donate huge sums; marginal tax rates could afford to be higher though.

That WaPo article nicely doesn't mention what they're saving annually: $33k for retirement / year in the 401k. After a 35 year career (a short one!) with 7% growth they'll retire with $4.5M. At 5% their college funds will have put aside $113 / kid over 18 years and then they get that $8k/year back. That'll only cover 2 years each at Princeton! One of their locales was DC suburbs, and that's actually too much money for 4 years at UVA or UMD.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:19 AM on December 14, 2010


Oh, $4.5M, plus their house, plus whatever extra they save after the kids are done, plus the extra saved after done paying student loans. So, rich.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:14 AM on December 14, 2010


Left to my own devices, I might accidentally give money to bicycle monorails like Google just did.

Why am I just hearing about this now?? Bicycle monorails!? Give me a piece of that action.
posted by dry white toast at 6:51 AM on December 14, 2010


Anyone who honestly can't find even $5 or $10 at the end of the month is much worse off than I am, and I don't make much money. I wish them the best and hope that they don't wind up needing to be on the receiving end of charity. I've been there, it's not fun.

Anyone who can find $5 or $10 a month should seriously consider giving it to charity.

Deal?
posted by rollbiz at 7:19 AM on December 14, 2010


Damn, and I was just about to be smug over donating 1% of my income to charities…

(1.7%, thank you very much!)
posted by Theta States at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2010


One of their locales was DC suburbs, and that's actually too much money for 4 years at UVA or UMD.

It was also interesting to note that the couple's tax burden in tax-happy DC was.... barely higher than in the suburbs (or hell, in the middle of nowhere in Florida).

It'd be nice if WaPo didn't bury that detail in there, so it could have started to kill the meme that DC's residents are taxed to death. We're not. And our quality of living is pretty damn good these days.

(That said, the school system is a legitimate cause for concern. The cost of private schooling throws the equation completely out of whack, although the additional tax burden that would be necessary to properly fix DCPS is a mere percentage of the cost of a private school. Sigh.)
posted by schmod at 8:29 AM on December 14, 2010


It'd be nice if WaPo didn't bury that detail in there, so it could have started to kill the meme that DC's residents are taxed to death. We're not. And our quality of living is pretty damn good these days.
When my parents moved from the burbs back into the city, they were able to ditch their second car. They said that the savings on car insurance more than offset the higher taxes.

And yeah, that Washington Post article is a mess.
Dogs are so generous with the scraps their masters let fall to the floor. It pains me to see the lower- and middle-class selflessly volunteer to bring themselves so close to the poverty line just to help someone else move away from it.
Their whole point is that your class status seems really different if you change your frame of reference from the local or national to the global. Locally, I make about an average income. Nationally, I'm below average. Globally, I'm in the top 4%. If I look at rich people in America, then I think that I don't need to do anything, because they have so much more than me and can afford to give so much more. But to the average person in the world, I am equivalent to those rich people. And I think that's a useful frame of reference.

(Having said that, there's no way I could donate 10% of my income right now. I pay 10% of my income in tuition to my graduate program, though, and as soon as I finish I could probably tithe if I wanted to.)
posted by craichead at 8:42 AM on December 14, 2010


But to the average person in the world, I am equivalent to those rich people. And I think that's a useful frame of reference.

Yes, those people living on a dollar or two a day would look at the average rich world lifestyle and see our arguments that "I'm barely making ends meet" in the same way that the average American would see the arguments of Prof Henderson. i.e. incredulity that you consider all of those things you have to be normal everyday necessities that are virtually impossible to to without.

The thing to realize is that the people you view as really rich view themselves as normal also, and view the things they have as normal everyday necessities that are close to impossible to imagine doing without. And so the whole set attitudes is replicated at all levels of wealth and income, and it's a rare person that even thinks about giving away more than the tiniest fraction of what they make.

Also interesting is that many or the arguments people make against this kind of pledge parallel the arguments that other people make against higher taxes. The usual stories of "I can't afford to pay more taxes", "If more tax must be paid, someone else should do it", "Taxes don't do any good anyway, they just get wasted", "Helping people out will make them dependent" etc etc.

None of this stuff is bad, it's the way human psychology works. What you see around you is deemed what is normal and right, giving up something you have long had feels all wrong and terribly unfair, and the mind excels at rationalizing and coming up with reasons why what you don't feel like doing would be a bad thing to do.

And I think that's a useful frame of reference.

Changing the frame of reference would be very powerful, because that could really change actual behavior. It probably takes much more than some numbers on a webpage to actually shift people's frames of reference though. But this movement could provide focus for people that are already most of the way there.
posted by philipy at 12:04 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


There were some typos in that last comment of mine. The only one likely to confuse anyone...

many or the arguments

I meant: "many of the arguments".
posted by philipy at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2010


Sadly, I'm not surprised someone feels more smug making that kind of a statement.
Perhaps I was being too obtuse. Here, let me rephrase:
"It is crass to advertise your own largesse, even more so if you are congratulating yourself, in public, for donating a mere 1% of your annual income to charity. It's not enough to feel quietly proud of, let alone proclaim it for the admiration of your peers... In my opinion."
Just like the Wednesday morning naysayers who pretend that not voting somehow has some moral meaning. If you're doing less, you're still doing less.
Now, you've lost me. Yes giving 1% of your annual income to charity is better than giving nothing, but it's a pitiful amount to feel proud of.

As for the latte part, that was just a cheap, tongue-in-cheek jibe at the stereotype of the beret-doffing, navel-gazing, latte-sipping metafiltarian. Consider myself suitably corrected that we don't all drink, let alone (gasp!) buy 'retail coffee'
posted by JustAsItSounds at 11:05 PM on December 14, 2010


I feel like I read this article already, only it was about a whiny rich professor in Chicago. That didn't work out so well for him, since it led to just general disgust and ridicule.

this family has a household income FIVE TIMES GREATER than the median household income in the US (abt 50k in 2006, according to wikipedia). That is more than 500% higher than half of their fellow citizens.

My tiny violin isn't playing anymore because it gave up in disgust.
posted by jb at 6:42 PM on January 5, 2011


re the strange, but tasty coffee derail: I could afford daily retail coffee as a graduate student in the humanities, making abt the same per year as someone on minimum wage. it helped that the grad student run cafe would sell me a coffee for $1 when I brought in my own mug, but then I just had two.

Coffee is cheap -- we're talking $30-40/month, versus a rent of $475 (shared apartment). I don't spend much on clothes and I've always cut my own hair, so coffee is affordable.
posted by jb at 8:25 PM on January 5, 2011


Oops! I just realised why I was confused abt the coffee derail: I thought this was the joneses thread when I posted abt the income thing.

stupid safari and its lack of browser page headings!
posted by jb at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2011


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