Charitable Giving: Give Locally...or Internationally?

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Sven Sven's picture
Charitable Giving: Give Locally...or Internationally?

"...if you subscribe to the belief that all lives are created equally -- and your giving is aimed at saving human lives or reducing suffering -- your donations will almost always yield greater returns when given (to reputable organizations) internationally.

...understanding just how little can save a life might make you reconsider your charitable giving. NYU philosophy professor Peter Unger ends his 1996 book, Living High and Letting Die, with a calculation that a $200 donation could help ensure a child lives through its most vulnerable years, from age 2 to 6, in the developing world. Much more recently, the folks at GiveWell, an independent charity evaluator, estimated that their top-rated international charity averts a child death for every donation of $200 to $600. You would be hard-pressed to find a local charity that could actually save a life with a similarly sized gift."

[url=...worth">http://www.slate.com/id/2238732/][u]...worth considering...[/url]

NorthReport

How about just having our governments redistribute the wealth instead of all this power-tripping, lording over others, charity stuff.

Unionist

I'm with NorthReport on this one.

Sven Sven's picture

NorthReport wrote:

How about just having our governments redistribute the wealth instead of all this power-tripping, lording over others, charity stuff.

And, in the mean time, until that happens you'll...what?  Spend $15 on a t-shirt to protest the Olympics?

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Ghislaine

NorthReport wrote:

How about just having our governments redistribute the wealth instead of all this power-tripping, lording over others, charity stuff.

Yes, because government never power-trip or lord over others, do they?

Sven Sven's picture

Ghislaine wrote:

NorthReport wrote:

How about just having our governments redistribute the wealth instead of all this power-tripping, lording over others, charity stuff.

Yes, because government never power-trip or lord over others, do they?

Government giving is pure and altruistic.  Individual giving is evil and selfish. 

A_J

Sven wrote:
NorthReport wrote:
How about just having our governments redistribute the wealth instead of all this power-tripping, lording over others, charity stuff.

And, in the mean time, until that happens you'll...what?  Spend $15 on a t-shirt to protest the Olympics?

What, protest the Olympics myself? Pfft, the government should do that for me.

Sven Sven's picture

A_J wrote:

Sven wrote:
NorthReport wrote:
How about just having our governments redistribute the wealth instead of all this power-tripping, lording over others, charity stuff.

And, in the mean time, until that happens you'll...what?  Spend $15 on a t-shirt to protest the Olympics?

What, protest the Olympics myself? Pfft, the government should do that for me.

Yeah, and if your older neighbor is unable to shovel his or her sidewalk, don't actually go and shovel it for them yourself.  It's better to leave the snow alone and to, instead, spend time "aggitating" for government-provided shoveling for your neighbor.

NorthReport

Is Jimmy Pattison BC's biggest hero because he donates millions to charity and gets the accompanying tax writeoffs and all the prestidge and glorgy, instead of just paying his rightful share of taxes.

Not in my books.

Sven Sven's picture

NorthReport wrote:

Is Jimmy Pattison BC's biggest hero because he donates millions to charity and gets the accompanying tax writeoffs and all the prestidge and glorgy, instead of just paying his rightful share of taxes.

Not in my books.

Great.

But, I'm asking the question for the average person: Is it better to give, say, $200 locally or $200 internationally?  What has more positive impact?

Star Spangled C...

To answer the question, giving internationally would tend to make more of an impact. There was actually a group of economists and  policy experts who crunched a bunch of numbers (im gonna look for the study) related different charitable expenditures and the impact that they make. Giving money to prevent the spread of malaria was deemed the single most effective in terms of the ratio of lives saved to dollars spent.

That said, I think most people tend to give to organizations they feel more of a personal connection to, either because they may have used the service (like a hospital or a school) or because it's impacted their life in some way. So, i had two grandmothers who suffered from alzheimer's so I've given money to that cause. My best friend's mother died of breast cancer a few years ago, so I made a donation to that cause and renew it every year. I work at a hospital which does a lot of good and always needs more money, so that gets contributions as well. Whether rightly or wrongly, people tend to feel a greater connection to things "in their own backyard" than things that are far away.

Sven Sven's picture

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

To answer the question, giving internationally would tend to make more of an impact. There was actually a group of economists and  policy experts who crunched a bunch of numbers (im gonna look for the study) related different charitable expenditures and the impact that they make.

If you come across a link to that study, I'd be very interested in seeing it.

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

Giving money to prevent the spread of malaria was deemed the single most effective in terms of the ratio of lives saved to dollars spent.

Just to be clear: Are you really saying that spending $15 on an Olympics protest t-shirt has less impact than giving $15 towards malaria vaccines?!?!?  Tongue out

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

That said, I think most people tend to give to organizations they feel more of a personal connection to, either because they may have used the service (like a hospital or a school) or because it's impacted their life in some way. So, i had two grandmothers who suffered from alzheimer's so I've given money to that cause. My best friend's mother died of breast cancer a few years ago, so I made a donation to that cause and renew it every year. I work at a hospital which does a lot of good and always needs more money, so that gets contributions as well. Whether rightly or wrongly, people tend to feel a greater connection to things "in their own backyard" than things that are far away.

That, of course, makes sense.  I just think that too many people are myopic and focus narrowly on issues in their own neighborhood, province, or country and are either unaware of or ignore the fact that dollars contributed to some key international causes can have a huge positive impact.

Star Spangled C...

Sven wrote:

That, of course, makes sense.  I just think that too many people are myopic and focus narrowly on issues in their own neighborhood, province, or country and are either unaware of or ignore the fact that dollars contributed to some key international causes can have a huge positive impact.

You're right. I just think it's the natural outcome. Even within your city, province or country, people tend to give where they feel a sense of personal connection. So if you graduated from, say, University of manitoba, you're more likely to make a donation to them than to University of Toronto. If you got treated at Mt. Sinai hospital, you're more likely to give there than to Toronto General. Obviously students at one school aren't inherently more deserving of support than those at another or patients at one hospital more deserving than at another but people just tend to feel closer to one based on what they've experienced in their own lives. I mean, the hundred bucks a year i give to the breast cancer charity would probably have more impact if spent on malaria nets but because I've never met anyone with malaria and have known people who have died from breast cancer, it just feels like more of a priority somehow.

Sven Sven's picture

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

I mean, the hundred bucks a year i give to the breast cancer charity would probably have more impact if spent on malaria nets but because I've never met anyone with malaria and have known people who have died from breast cancer, it just feels like more of a priority somehow.

I think the priority should, at the very least, be consciously thought about.  Not saying that it's wrong or right -- but I think people should at least take a bit of time to consider the relative positive impact of $200 going to breast cancer research or whatever other local organization versus $200 going to people starving to death or dying of perfectly preventable diseases today.

Sven Sven's picture

On a related issue, I think this matter of prioritizing should even apply to government expenditures.  Canada and the United States are rich countries and even the poor people are relatively rich compared to the truly poor of this world (the couple of billion people scratching out a living on a buck or two a day).  Yet, people get so wrapped up on "agitating" for what are, essentially, middle class entitlements (additional tuition funding, retirement benefits for those not indigent, etc.) when there are, literally, billions of people in the world who are barely surviving (and often not even able to do that).

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

God. Seeing babble's right-wing residents pat each other on the back just fills me with the Christmas spirit. Goosepimply stuff.

What is "impact"? Saving a child's life? I suppose that's nice. As long as the kid's alive, eh? Such a mathematical reduction reveals the ideology motivating the whole question. First, that a life can be reduced to a dollar amount. Pennies a day! Second, a blindness to why global poverty exists in the first place, a reiteration of the illusory first-world/third-world divide. It's the same world, and our "middle-class entitlements" are purchased on the backs of the poverty we enforce in the third world--this dynamic is easily erased in the Western imagination by forking over a few bucks to Oxfam, etc. while our destructive lifestyle continues apace. As if the left hasn't "agitated" for centuries on precisely this question. I don't know about you, Sven, but I don't measure my "agitation" in dollars. A Marxist would call that "reification," the capitalist strategy par excellence. Simply put, it minimizes (actually, it ridicules) the possibility of real social change (see above) and fashions a metric which--surprise!--privileges its own logic. It's one of many tricks employed by our spectacular society: revolution is impossible, brother. There is no alternative. So, can you spare a dime?

Meanwhile, the other effects of life--health care, clean water, education, art, literature, culture--we might as well give up on them!

It's all part of the same canard Sven usually brings out (cf. Conservatives are more generous than 'liberals', "issue fatigue," et al.)

mersh

Ah, neoliberalism and the holiday spirit -- quantifying human life and success, while privileging invidual action. So much to unravel here: the conflation of countries with actors, the zero-sum/false-dichotomy thinking behind philanthropy, and the disregard for actual, meaningful change sought (and brought about) by trade unions and other groups. It's not completely impossible to work in international solidarity while also trying to stop the erosion of workers' rights and earnings closer to home, you know. Oh, and maybe do some fundraising for local agencies, too. And yes, I have been known to wear a snarky political t-shirt and contribute to local causes simultaneously. Just don't ask me to chew gum while I'm doing it.

WillC

Sven wrote:

Great.

But, I'm asking the question for the average person: Is it better to give, say, $200 locally or $200 internationally?  What has more positive impact?

Donations have their most positive impact when they are given to organizations which are promoting government action towards ending inequallity.  For example, $200 given to Rabble does more then playing Lord Bountiful with some charity. If the left could pressure the Cons to give just .5% more for aid to Africa, it would improve things so much more than even Lord Jimmy could.

Sven Sven's picture

Catchfire wrote:

What is "impact"? Saving a child's life? I suppose that's nice. As long as the kid's alive, eh? Such a mathematical reduction reveals the ideology motivating the whole question.

What "mathematical reduction"?  Questioning whether it's better to spend $100 on malaria vaccinations versus $100 on a tuition credit for a middle class Canadian or American kid (and, in Canada and the U.S., in relative world terms, "middle class" means just about everyone)?

Sven Sven's picture

Banjo wrote:

$200 given to Rabble does more then playing Lord Bountiful with some charity.

Are you saying that a $200 donation to rabble has more value than a $200 donation for malaria vaccinations, for example?

remind remind's picture

Catchfire wrote:
Seeing babble's right-wing residents pat each other on the back just fills me with the Christmas spirit. Goosepimply stuff.

well worth a repeat.......

Sven Sven's picture

Catchfire wrote:

It's all part of the same canard Sven usually brings out (cf. Conservatives are more generous than 'liberals'...

I don't think I've ever said that, here or elsewhere.  And, of course, that's not my point.  My point is that it's worth considering, at the very least, the relative impact of dollars spent here locally in North America versus dollars given to help the truly indigent of the world.  I think that progressives are concerned about "the little guy" -- but most of the littlest and the poorest (in absolute numbers and as a percentage of population) are not here in North America.  Sure...contribute money to rabble.ca (I have) but think about the huge impact dollars can have for the poorest of the world.

remind remind's picture

Seems to me getting rid of global corporate control and elite class rip offs of the poorest of the world would  have much better long term success...

George Victor

"God. Seeing babble's right-wing residents pat each other on the back just fills me with the Christmas spirit. Goosepimply stuff."

 

Yep. They themselves have the bucks to play the game of charitable chairs and feel virtuous. You have encapsulated the question wtih a wonderfully humorous twist, Catchfire. The early 20th century working class out of England (my folks), detested the providence of the Sally Ann - and asked only for work. The dole was not acceptable, because of what was intuitively understood about its impact on human self-respect.

Ghislaine

remind wrote:

Seems to me getting rid of global corporate control and elite class rip offs of the poorest of the world would  have much better long term success...

Obviously. But, in the meantime donating to a progressive charity is not a right-wing act. 

RosaL

Well, I agree with a lot of this. But while I'm agitating for the revolution, I do think I should try to alleviate suffering (and prolong life) in the meantime (on a "band-aid" basis), so far as possible. It certainly won't solve the problem but it will ease someone's pain for a bit, maybe help them to survive, or give them a little bit of something they want or need, or keep them warm for awhile. (If you're the "someone", this makes a lot of sense!) And it's not going to stop me from working for the revolution Wink That's how I saw things when I myself was desperate and I'm sticking to it. 

remind remind's picture

Did someone say otherwise, Ghislaine?

WillC

Sven wrote:

Banjo wrote:

$200 given to Rabble does more then playing Lord Bountiful with some charity.

Are you saying that a $200 donation to rabble has more value than a $200 donation for malaria vaccinations, for example?

You missed the point in my post.  Perhaps that's why some people are right wing. They can't see the essential point. I'll repeat it:

If the left could pressure the Cons to give just .5% more for aid to Africa, it would improve things so much more than even Lord Jimmy could.

Sven Sven's picture

If the Canadian government gives money to aid the poor in Africa, is that morally superior to you or me giving money to aid the poor in Africa?

ETA: I just notice the rabble.ca banner ad: "GIVE UP YOUR GIFTS FOR AFRICA - Find out how you can change lives for the holidays".  Giving up "holiday" gift giving is an excellent idea, actually.

saganisking

yes Im sure people in desperate need around the world are so grateful that you sit around talking to each other on computers on their behalf

 

Sven Sven's picture

saganisking wrote:

yes Im sure people in desperate need around the world are so grateful that you sit around talking to each other on computers on their behalf

I don't think discussing issues is pointless.  But, only discussing issues while people are suffering and dying now is what doesn't make any (moral) sense.

George Victor

And the political point: if the world were free of libertarian greed the "suffering and dying" would be greatly reduced.

G. Muffin

Do both.

Sven Sven's picture

George Victor wrote:

And the political point: if the world were free of libertarian greed the "suffering and dying" would be greatly reduced.

And until the world is free of "libertarian greed" is some distant century, you'd elect to keep your dollars in Canada?

G. Muffin

Sven wrote:

George Victor wrote:

And the political point: if the world were free of libertarian greed the "suffering and dying" would be greatly reduced.

And until the world is free of "libertarian greed" is some distant century, you'd elect to keep your dollars in Canada?

Um, no???

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Sven wrote:
If the Canadian government gives money to aid the poor in Africa, is that morally superior to you or me giving money to aid the poor in Africa?

I don't do morals. I do ethics. And yes, the Canadian government paying its colonial and environmental debt to Africa in the form of economic aid is far ethically superior to my measly, individuated donation.

What good does my $200 'save-a-child' donation do if the lifestyle and means with which I make that money contributes to the deaths, suffering and weariness of hundreds, thousands, billions? When I have means to donate, I donate to groups that advocate change, be they political parties, NGOs, or local action groups. Anything else reminds me of the early modern period when an emerging middle class could purchase forgiveness with coin from their local bishops and priests, while the sinning carried on apace.

G. Muffin

Catchfire wrote:

Sven wrote:
If the Canadian government gives money to aid the poor in Africa, is that morally superior to you or me giving money to aid the poor in Africa?

I don't do morals. I do ethics.

Won the thread.  Google fu.

Sven Sven's picture

Catchfire wrote:

Sven wrote:
If the Canadian government gives money to aid the poor in Africa, is that morally superior to you or me giving money to aid the poor in Africa?

...the Canadian government paying its colonial and environmental debt to Africa in the form of economic aid is far ethically superior to my measly, individuated donation.

If the Canadian government were to give money to aid the poor in Africa, as you suggest, who would determine the amount of the debt owed to Africa?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Is that a serious question? Al Gore, obviously.

Sven Sven's picture

Catchfire wrote:

Is that a serious question?

Yeah, it is a serious question.  If "charity" is to be avoided (because some feel that it has the flavor of the mighty lording over the weak), then how are voluntary payments by millions of individuals different than a voluntary government payment (funded by millions of individuals)?

Maysie Maysie's picture

Catchfire, thank you. For everything you've said in this thread. Smile

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Sven, your last question remains outside the scope of the OP. Such a sum would be negotiated the same way we negotiate contracts and other international treaties, except we would do it in good faith, humbly and with our eyes wide open. The West would consult with the government heads and stakeholders, representatives and aid workers. It's not an easy process, which is why I balked at your question. In terms of Afghanistan, for example, Tariq Ali suggested that no serious solution or reconstruction could ever begin without an interrelating dialogue with China, NATO, Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia and the Taliban. Of course it's complex, seemingly impossibly so--but why not? We've spent the last four centuries at least fucking the place over.

So it's not simply the charity dynamic magnified, it's an agreement that acknowledges our wrongdoing and takes to heart the experience and opinion of the people we owe. Its about dialogue and consensus, not supercilious ostentation and degradation.

Unionist

Yes, I second that - thanks Catchfire for reiterating what "giving" should really mean in this holiday season and throughout the year.

Sven Sven's picture

Catchfire wrote:

Sven, your last question remains outside the scope of the OP. Such a sum would be negotiated the same way we negotiate contracts and other international treaties, except we would do it in good faith, humbly and with our eyes wide open. The West would consult with the government heads and stakeholders, representatives and aid workers. It's not an easy process, which is why I balked at your question. In terms of Afghanistan, for example, Tariq Ali suggested that no serious solution or reconstruction could ever begin without an interrelating dialogue with China, NATO, Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia and the Taliban. Of course it's complex, seemingly impossibly so--but why not? We've spent the last four centuries at least fucking the place over.

So it's not simply the charity dynamic magnified, it's an agreement that acknowledges our wrongdoing and takes to heart the experience and opinion of the people we owe. Its about dialogue and consensus, not supercilious ostentation and degradation.

What you are envisioning is still a voluntary act by Canada and the Canadians the country represents: To agree to have dialogue in the first place is a voluntary act.  To agree to negotiate is a voluntary act.  To agree to negotiate in good faith is a voluntary act.  To approach negotiations "humbly" is a voluntary act.  To acknowledge wrongdoing is a voluntary act.  And an act that is voluntary means that the actor exercises control over the actor's role in the relationship (and if the actor is the more powerful of two actors, then that actor unavoidably retains control over the relationship and over the contemplated interaction -- which is the very thing you seem to want to magically avoid).

Sven Sven's picture

It seems to me that many progressives simply hate the idea of individual voluntary actions -- and that collective voluntary action is somehow preferrable (presumably because it can be controlled by bureaucrats, who of course are all-knowing and understand what's best for all concerned).

Sven Sven's picture

I suppose gift-giving should be verboten, too.

Giving a gift to someone who needs what you give should be something that is handled by all-knowing bureaucrats - not by greedy and stupid individuals.  On the other hand, giving a gift to someone who doesn't need what is being given is simply wasteful and environmentally detrimental.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Sven your last two posts are pushing the trolling limits. Stop it.

Sven Sven's picture

Maysie wrote:

Sven your last two posts are pushing the trolling limits. Stop it.

Is sarcasm trolling?

Caissa

post 44 prior to the parentheses  seemed like it might be going in an interesting direction.

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

post 44 prior to the parentheses  seemed like it might be going in an interesting direction.

Yeah, the parenthetical was snarky.  But, I think pre-parenthetical does touch on something that seems to be true: Whether a transfer of money to a poor country is done collectively or individually, the transfer is voluntary.  I don't see how it is ethically superior to make a collective voluntary transfer.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Did I ever, on babble or in my life, say that voluntariness was a bad thing? What a bizarre inference.

Every time I respond to one of Sven's provocations I'm at the brink of not doing so because I think, what's the point? I find his responses disingenuous, and that they frequently, deliberately, miss the point. And yet we beat on, boats against the current, etc...

Anyway, I wholeheartedly support individual action. It doesn't surprise me that you draw that conclusion, Sven, because you are unable to think dialectically. That is, the individual is not separate from society. Your libertarianism prohibits you from seeing that, and so you can't comprehend how the individual is mediated by his or her bretheren. You think that one person giving money remains disconnected, alienated, from his or her fellow humans--in a way that's true, because that's what capitalism has been trying to achieve for roughly 150 years. But in reality, that act--individual though it is--is simultaneously part and parcel of a larger, social, ideological project. We are all pariticpants and protagonists in modernity; we seek to change the world that is changing us. If we are aware of this dynamic, individual acts take on much greater force--but if we remain blind to this fact, as you, Sven, have repeatedly proven yourself happy to remain, things like "charity" become comical, farcical acts. They are deliberately anti-social, individuated and absurd--like damming the Amazon with a twig. Start getting a few million twigs together--and dam it, we can change the world.

Margaret Mead wrote:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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