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Before I put together the lengthy version of the post, consider how you would react to someone who told you, “I do not give a single penny to charity.” Now, let’s imagine that this person did not ask it, but this is how they answered the question when posed to them. But it should be rather obvious it is not entirely clear how much one “should” give to charity (ignore the moral and religious aspects of this) and if that is obvious it ought to be equally obvious that one can ask the question – dollar by dollar and hour by hour – that the best way to dedicate time and money is.

Evaluation paradigms like GiveWell are obviously an enormous step forward in asking the question, “What is the most effective way to do charity?” But of course, we ought to be concerned about, “What is the most effective way to achieve our goals?” If our goal is simply to do charity well to help people, then this is probably a reasonable approach (though still not to be considered in a vacuum). If our goal is to make other people better off, regardless of how well to do it, then focusing on charity alone cannot tautologically be satisfactory. Why? Because “doing charity” is already in the set of options when we think of “All of the ways” we can help others.

With that little bit to start with – how obvious is the answer to the question of how much time and money should be dedicated explicitly to charitable causes? What other institutions or behaviors by others does your answer depend upon? Can we truly approach this question in the narrow partial-equilibrium way that is traditionally pursued?

More to come.

One Response to “To GiveWell, Should You #GiveLess?”

  1. Alex says:

    Really looking forward to hearing more. I’ve gotten into effective altruism recently. Given current options for individuals to take, things like givedirectly seem like most bang for buck. Hard to know which outcomes to care about, but removing disease and hunger seems like a good start. Hard to know what methods to focus on, but for individual action, institutions seem tough to improve compared to giving money.

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