Saturday, October 14, 2006

Charity is selfish

There is a thought provoking article on Slate which claims that charity is selfish. Well, I guess intuitively that makes sense. After all we volunteer because it makes us feel good (or less bad).

"If people really were altruistic, there would be much less volunteering. ... It would almost always be more effective to volunteer less, work overtime, and give more. A Dutch banker can pay for a lot of soup-kitchen chefs and servers with a couple of hours' worth of his salary, but that wouldn't provide the same feel-good buzz as ladling out stew himself, would it?"

But then given the fact that all humans are selfish isnt it better to channel your selfishness towards volunteering than say designer shoes? Some U of Chicago economists (who else) have conducted an experiment which shows how little altruism has to do with many charitable donations. Some findings as presented by the Slate article

"Using controlled trials to compare different methods of door-to-door fund-raising, professor List's team discovered that it was much more effective to raise funds by selling lottery tickets than it was to raise funds by asking for money."
"More effective still was simply to make sure that the fund-raisers were attractive white girls rather than a dowdier assortment of males and females representing all shapes, races, and sizes."

Now I know why I am not so good at raising money :)

For me the most interesting part of the article is where it talks about how we allocate our charitable dollars.

"Someone with $100 to give away and a world full of worthy causes should choose the worthiest and write the check. We don't. Instead, we give $5 for a LiveStrong bracelet, pledge $25 to Save the Children, another $25 to AIDS research, and so on. But $25 is not going to find a cure for AIDS. Either it's the best cause and deserves the entire $100, or it's not and some other cause does. The scattershot approach simply proves that we're more interested in feeling good than doing good."


Anonymous said...

great article. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Anonymous said...

Ola, what's up amigos? :)
In first steps it is very nice if someone supports you, so hope to meet friendly and helpful people here. Let me know if I can help you.
Thanks in advance and good luck! :)

Anonymous said...

Powerful post.