What I wish everyone knew about EA
Don't be too dismissive of giving to local recreational sports. Giving sports vouchers to children who are at risk or who have already been involved in a correctional system reduces the likelihood of becoming involved in crime and reduces recidivism. Sports, or pretty much anything that keeps kids busy doing something constructive after school, reduces the pool of future criminals, makes for a safer community, reduces the future demand for prisons, and engenders socially and economically valuable adults. Pretty good returns for low investment.
I hesitate to raise this in part because it is a really vague question-- and perhaps one better suited to hearing your thoughts on in a more nuanced, and therefore inevitably off-line environment. But my concern with EA, insofar as it exists, has never been with the underlying argument per se or even (many of) the more popularly advocated conclusions defended by advocates of the view, all of which strike me as generally plausible. Instead, my worry is more about the culture surrounding EA which has always struck me (as an admitted outsider) as having shared resonances with certain versions of tech-bro-ism and more toxic variants of libertarianism in ways that I find troubling (slightly misogynistic, possibly slightly deaf to certain risks or lived experiences). (Again, my exposure is slightly orthogonal and limited, so I can be talked out of this empirical claim.) Again, as I said, there isn't anything about the ACTUAL EA values or arguments that per se justifies or explains this (the same can be said of tech culture and libertarianism.) Yet it has made me wonder sometimes if there wasn't something in the way of thinking or approaching valuing that supported or at least lent itself to that, given peoples' psychologies. (Like I said, this is an almost unhelpfully vague can't quite put my finger on it kind of worry). And that has made me somewhat hesitant about its role in public discourse EVEN IF its actual value structure is correct. I'm not quite sure if this is a real question, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it (if you have any) even if it just to tell me that my vague sense is bunk.
It’s not an issue of moral cover, in the sense that they are some how trying to hide or are self deluded. It’s more like a business expense that buys them more opportunity to act badly. I’ll request a principle of charitable interpretation lest I have to explain the distinction further.
Some vain, stupid bad people put their names on popular causes (like hospitals, puppies, or EA), but it only calls more attention to their bad deeds. I’m not worried about those people, we always discover them. It’s the bad folks who are too smart to get caught that worry me.
And it is the platform of EA that enables them further. Most won’t even self identify as EA (it’s tacky), but rather will appeal to the pseudoscientific claims of effectiveness as such to enable greater opportunities for bad acting.
I understand that this may seem odd, but if you aren’t a part of that community - or depend on it for livelihood - then, granted, it is difficult to imagine.
And again, a relatively poor person ($250-500k a year) wouldn’t be wrong to use EA to donate $50k. But given that they don’t have all that much economic power, one wouldn’t expect them to think through things very carefully, and nor would it matter if they did since they are powerless. Their participation isn’t the issue, but rather the unknowing support of the platform you - in an absurd twist - don’t seem to think exists.
I applaud your article and appreciate your describing an "effective" process on
deciding what qualifies for "altruism." It is not giving money and resources to
causes one enjoys supporting, but to causes that improve, support and enhance
the "human condition, that is another's standard/quality of life. Basic needs that go unmet
deprive human beings of dignity, hope and the opportunity to develop their God given gifts and talents.
I know why you avoid questions of character: it’s a theoretical opposition, and that is appreciated.
I just wish you would engage the concept more directly.
Perhaps this will help: EA places the burden to do good on the individual without any structural conditions. That is, there is no incentive to meet the demands of EA so why would anyone do it? Moral character.
Yet, would someone with moral character meet the demands of EA? I don’t think so. But you seem to, and it would be great understand why you think that.
If you need help understanding why it’s hard to understand why someone with moral character would be an EA, I am happy to follow up with many more words.
But if you intend to act according to your baseline and simply ignore even entertaining the idea, I’ll save my breath.