Why You Haven't Donated to Haiti Yet.


Ryan Sager explains why and how people donate to causes. Snippet:

As economists and social scientists have begun to dig around in recent decades into people's true motives when they give to charity, what they've found hasn't exactly been in keeping with the flattering way we humans like to see ourselves. While altruism may play its part, there are also many other factors at play when we donate: guilt, the desire to boost our social status, the need to feel good about ourselves, even our sex drives. Any attempt to understand why we give — or to get us to give more — must deal with this dirty and tangled reality.

More here.

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  1. Blah, blah. I’m a black box. None of you knows why I do what I do.

    1. Altruism does not exist.

      People do things for others because they want to. That is selfish.

      1. I hear that, but what does it mean? I want to do something at a cost to me that doesn’t provide me with, say, $100 of pleasure, but benefits someone else. How is that anything other than altruism? Maybe I feel that way because of that time I fell out of a tree, but that’s not apparent to me, and it’s certainly not apparent to anyone else.

        I think there’s an unnatural aversion to “altruism” in our ranks because of the way it’s been used as a justification for all sorts of oppressive and tyrannical acts. That, and because Rand spent so much energy attacking it.

        1. I think you’ve made a fundamental mistake. If you donate $100 to charity, it gives you $100 worth of pleasure, by definition. If you did not value the act of giving at $100, you would give less. This mechanism is at work whether you are conscious of it or not.

        2. I’m generally with JB on this one though man, we do benefit from charitable giving in all sorts of ways. Saying that it doesn’t provide you with $100 worth of pleasure when you donate $100 is both arbitrary & silly. It obviously did provide you with $100 worth of value or you wouldn’t have done it. Either that’s because you really love the people of Haiti or wherever, because you really want people to know you’re a charitable guy, or just because you think it’s worth more than $100 today to live in a world where people reach out and help each other in times of need is rather immaterial. To give you an alternate example. You might be willing to go to a bakery and spend $10 on an extraordinary cupcake. The cupcake probably doesn’t provide you with “$10” worth of nutrition, and you can definitely get cupcakes for cheaper – but it just so happens that *this* cupcake reminds you of the ones your mom made when you were 7. You’re not paying $10 for a cupcake in reality… You’re paying $10 for something that brings up a great memory for you. A good feeling.

          The fact is you’re willing to forgo the opportunity $100 might have granted you in some other area of your life (dinner, movies, a new watch, etc.) by definition means that you saw more value in sending that money to someone else to help them rebuild their house or get food or whatever.

          I wouldn’t underestimate the psychological benefits of these things. Ultimately, maybe we’re playing a semantic game, but I tend to view “altruism” as rather paradoxical. People are purposeful actors, they act to replace a lower value with a higher one – if one of their higher values is helping other people recover from natural disasters, and giving $100 to charity accomplishes that to the extent that someone is capable, then that person has successfully replace his existing state of being with a more satisfactory one – according to his own value structure.

          How is that altruistic?

          Anyway… We all benefit immensely from a world where people help each other out in times of need voluntarily – and I think we all know that rather intuitively. Call it altruism if you want, but we are all better off for it and that – it would seem – negates the very definition of altruism itself.

          1. See, I think you’re approaching this the wrong way.

            It’s not that all “altruistic” acts are really rationally self-interested because they give you pleasure, for some wierd reason.

            It’s that *irrationality* is pleasurable for self-interested reasons. Pure reason cannot accomodate all human needs. Almost all human being take pleasure in doing irrational things simply because they feel like it. Some of those acts are altruistic, some not.

            Some people get their kicks by trolling message boards. Is it rationally self-interested to troll message boards for kicks? is it altruistic? Fuck no. But it can be fun.

            1. Yes, Hazel, I like to troll you guys. It’s especially fun when it comes to altriusm. I probably voluntarily donate more to the federal government each year than the average libertarian donates in a lifetime.

          2. It obviously did provide you with $100 worth of value or you wouldn’t have done it

            It is this unprovable assumption that lies at the core of libertarianism and classic economics.

            Imagine you are sitting there, trying to decide whether to donate a hundred bucks, or to buy a nice pair of shoes. Do you think “Hmmm…the net present value of the small stream of happy do-goodie feelings I will occasionally have when remembering this donation is $110, while the NPV of the small string of joyful moments I will occasionally experience when someone noticed my nice shoes is only $105…therefore I will donate.”

            Not only is this absurd, it is also impossible to calculate accurately anyway, even if someone attemped it. Simply put, this is NOT how people think, and behavioral economists have know this for some time. Too bad libertarians are still preaching that we are all members of Homo Economicus.

            1. You misunderstand what “Homo Economicus” means – and I have never preached that idea, most libertarians don’t.

              Secondly, Behavioral Economists are almost invariably retarded.

              That is all, because I don’t actually have time right now to put you in your place, you reject.

              1. No, you preach that people are somehow able to intuit the answer to that question, and that if someone’s intuition was wrong, the market would quickly find a way to correct it. Then you preach that this would somehow lead to an optimal world, even though the market has zero concern for future generations and rarely meets the assumptions necessary for its theory to work.

                Behavioral economists are “invariably retarded”? Uh huh. That sure refutes my point. Just call anyone who provides data that smacks down your theory stupid…that’ll sure win you some debates.

                1. As I said, Chad, I don’t have time to explain why to you right now. Deal with it, or go actually get smarter.

                  1. Also, I will simply repeat the fact that you completely and utterly misunderstand econ… And especially what people around here regularly argue. You’d think that it wouldn’t be that hard to figure out… But as I said, go get smarter.

                    1. Sean, I used to worship the same gods you do, and could and did spout your arguments verbatim.

                    2. No, Chad… You can’t. Nothing you’ve *ever* said makes me (or I believe it’s fair to say, anyone else around here) think that you have the slightest clue what our position on anything is.

                      Considering the strawman FAQ you sent out the other day, especially… I don’t think you would know what I thought or what my arguments were if I could beat them into your brain with an iron rod.

                      That said, god damn, the beating would be fun.

    2. You do it to be mysterious.

  2. Wow, this is some really good stuff dude.


    1. You know, when I was a kid, I used to eat those little cans of Dinty Moore beef stew. And I liked them. Have you ever seen that stuff? Ye gods.

  3. Not to suggest that this is an unworthy post; I just find that such studies fail because of the insane complexity of human motivations.

    1. There’s some pretty good evidence that altruism is at least partially about self gratification in some form.

      1. Evidence?

        Living organism must always operate on the basis of self interest. There’s no “selfless” being.

        Even Mother Teresa, perhaps especially Mother Teresa.

        1. Mother Teresa sickens me.

        2. There are no selfless beings. But there are plenty of irrational ones. And it’s not all bad.

        3. Ever read “The Selfish Gene”. Highly recommend it if you can find it. One of the more-interesting takes on this, I believe.

    2. I beg to differ, ProL. Steven Pinker has me convinced that human nature is getting more and more scientifically knowable.

      1. You would bring up Pinker, who I like. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying we aren’t there yet. Shoot, psychology, for instance, is about as weak a science as, as, climatology.

        Too soon?

        1. It’s never too soon to begin the discussion. In scientific inquiry as well as anything else, practice makes perfect. Even if Sager’s article has some errors, it still helps the process along by being part of the dialogue.

          1. I don’t object to the discussion. I object to making many conclusions from it. Next thing you know, they’ll be telling me about the dangers of Global Anger.

          2. I don’t really think practice will make perfect here because a lot of scientists are busy trying to “know” the unknowable. People’s values vary a great deal in general, and while some broad statements like “humans act to fulfill their values” will apply to everyone, anything more specific than that really won’t cut it.

            A lot of sociological experiments fail miserably because in a lab individual people behave a certain way, and then they extrapolate their subjects’ value-driven behavior into the whole of society. That’s immensely flawed.

            When scientists are capable of knowing all the little things like what people’s favorite blanket looked like when they were 5 years old or what happened on the family vacation to Disney World at 9, then maybe they’ll have a shot at accurately running studies like they’ve been doing. Until then, they’re mostly on the wrong track…

            (Disclaimer: Pinker’s evolutionary studies are, imo, often general enough to be worthwhile though.)

            1. Ooh… good personal example…

              Remember these? I haven’t had one of those apple pies since I was like 12, and my local grocery store just started selling them for 50c… I bought 6.

              Had I not known about them or not liked them as a kid, I wouldn’t even have noticed them on the shelf. A researcher would have never known the back story, so they might very well be confused by why I would pick that versus something healthier or (admittedly) tastier. There are “better” options in basically any category you want to name, as far as food goes. So by an outside perspective, I probably “irrationally” chose a sub-optimal product and even paid money for it. But they’d never know why those things are higher value to me than alternative options.

            2. A lot of sociological experiments fail miserably because in a lab individual people behave a certain way, and then they extrapolate their subjects’ value-driven behavior into the whole of society. That’s immensely flawed.

              Liberitarian experiments fail even more miserably, because they extrapolate what people DON’T do in the laboratory into the whole of society.

              1. obvious troll is obvious. stfu chad.

                1. Pointing out the mile-wide hole in your vaunted theory makes me a troll.

                  People do not behave anything like those in an economic textbook, and even if they did, markets would still fail when the assumptions underlying free market theory are not correct…which is most of the time.

                  1. If only you actually managed to point out a “mile-wide” hole, Chad… Cept… You didn’t.

                    Thus, you are just being an obvious, and idiotic troll.

                    1. Yes, Sean. I know that you worship Praxeology, which is the most worthlessly idiotic thing I have encountered in my life.

                      Axiom: People act.

                      …Skip a few thousand shady, fuzzy leaps of hand-wavy logic….

                      Conclusion: My economic theories are true, because my assumption is true!

                      Praxeology doesn’t get three steps deep before any rational person looking at it would be saying “well, kinda…usually…it depends what you mean…” to every “logical” deduction it makes. This largely comes from the fact that it is trying to deal with humans, whose actions, emotions and thinking are inherently ill-defined – unlike, say, a point, a line, or whole number. This leads praxeology to become utter nonsense as its errors compound after each logical manipulation.

                    2. …Which is precisely why controlling people via massive “world government” is soooooooo much better, right Chad?

                      Cause… You know, it’s been proven time & time again that everywhere dictators and socialists run the show, the people are way better off than when they’re free to act on their own choices.


                      I’m getting bored with you. I really am… Everyone here knows who you are, and we all know that you’ve got that fun combination of ignorance and wildly excessive arrogance that makes you impossible to reason with, impossible to talk to and for some reason, makes you into the biggest dictator shill I’ve ever seen around here.

                      You have no redeeming qualities as a human being.

  4. I know why you do what you do, ProL. And if you pay me $50, I won’t reveal your sick Star Trek slash fic fantasies to everyone. Oops.

    1. Kirk/Spock or Worf/Wesley?

      1. The latter, clearly.

        1. Please tell me that there’s no such thing.

    2. Nah, you don’t know, either.

      1. I am a sin-eater. Feed your sins to me.

        1. I’ve remained sinless so I could throw rocks at people.

  5. I haven’t donated to Haiti yet because i’m a broke-ass motherfucker. THERE SAGER ARE YOU HAPPY

    1. I am, unfortunately, with you on that one.

      1. I used up all my donation money this year on the Reason Foundation.

        So start writing better fucking articles already!

        jk, jk.

    2. I spent all my extra dough going to the coldest fucking Orange Bowl in history. Fuck you south florida!

      1. Of course, now it’s in the 70s, and sunny.

    3. According to Rush Limbaugh, if you have paid taxes, you have already donated. 😉

    4. How about because I’m a cold heartless bastard and I just don’t care? I mean, there’s literally millions of dying people in the third world everyday that, judging by TV ads, my pocket change would help tremendously. Yet, my charity dollar mostly goes towards US based organizations. I’m forced to conclude I don’t give a damn about the third world.

    5. I fulfilled my charitable giving quota this year with Reason and the NRA.

  6. I’ve been too busy laughing at Pat Robertson to donate. Was that pact made before or after the devil escaped from that monastery in Europe, as seen in the 1960 Twilight Zone episode “The Howling Man”? I can just imagine Lucifer thinking, “The first thing I’ll do is liberate the Haitians,” as he strokes his beard and begins his transformation:

    1. I was imagining some kind of voodoo thing involving the sacrifice of a chicken. This being Haiti and all.

  7. I think the wonderous thing here is the proof of Ayn Rand’s Egoism. All acts, even seemingly alturistic ones, are at their core motivated by a desire to do something for oneself first. Altruism is done because it elicits feelings of joy (or apparently alleviates feelings of guilt, boosts social status, or helps sex drives, though not sure I follow that one).

    1. That reasoning is tautological: ALL acts are selfish at some level, therfore there are no unselfish acts.

      If that’s your reasoning, what is Rand railing against? There is no such thing as altruism!

      1. Altruism is a philosophical doctrine that justifies the sacrifice of some to the desires/needs of others.

        Altruism is a mask for collective rule.

      2. Either Branden or Rand, herself, once dealth with that very same proposition in an issue of her newsletter. Their position was that while all acts are motivated they are not necessarily selfish, ie., truly (objectively?) in one’s rational self interest.

        1. dealt

        2. How does “eliciting feelings of joy” make an act in one’s rational self-interest?

          That’s basically saying “if it feels good, it’s rational”, which is totally fucking absurd.

          1. I don’t think you can ignore your own emotional state on this — i think that’s some kind of evasion. The reason an Objectivist does things that are in his rational self-interest is because that is what will most contribute to his long-term survival, and ultimately, his happiness. Survival is only a means to an end, however, because you must survive as a human being, not an animal. Metaphysically, you are a human being capable of conceptualization. So, I think the nature of human beings is to empathize with other human beings. If you feel you want to help people who encounter unfortunate circumstances, and you can afford it, then you should, because to do otherwise would be evading your emotional desire to do so. To deny that desire would be on some level denying the nature of who or what you are — evading the fact that other human beings (can) have value, that helping others can be valuable, and that unfortunate circumstances can bring even great human beings to deplorable circumstances. I think it’s the principle of justice to help other human beings try to overcome random circumstances that might have put them in those unjustified circumstances. (Note there’s a difference and it depends on the recipient though — they could just be a mooch).

            In the case of Haiti, maybe this doesn’t apply because in some sense the devastation is due to the extreme poverty of the nation, which is unfortunate but not the responsibility of other people to alleviate.

            Still, the devastation is so great, there are probably many people who could be very valuable that have encountered serious problems. It’s not an every day disaster — it’s truly exceptional circumstances. Since Haiti doesn’t normally get earthquakes, it’s not like this event is just the result of total incompetence. So there could be some worth to recover by donating.

            But, obviously there’s no Objectivist requirement to do so.

            So, I think your argument that “eliciting feelings of joy” cannot ever be in your rational self-interest ignores the metaphysical fact that you are a human being, and therefore ignores the “self” in “self-interest”.

            1. That’s more of a Stirnerian Egoist perspective than an Objectivist one. The Objectivists are pretty clear in their injunction that people should behave rationally, and not simply according to whatever desires they might have at the moment. They aren’t hedonists. Stirner on the other hand basically said there are no “shoulds” at all, including being selfish or not. It’s up to the individual to decide to express his nature, which each person does according to his nature and to the extent of his power.
              He shares the Objectivist distain for people who follow the injunctions of others, but that pertains not just to altruism, but also to injunctions to rationality or atheism or humanism or whatever.

  8. I gave money after the 2004 tsunami. Consciously, I think my motivation was being horrified at the extent of the devastation and loss of life. Kind of like with Haiti. Whether that motivation comes because I saw that Orion Slave Girl dancing on Star Trek that one time is anyone’s guess, but I certainly don’t know.

  9. Not to say that it wasn’t to make me feel good about “doing something”, but I’m not sure what that even means. I don’t think empathy can be dismissed that easily.

    1. There is an evolutionary basis for empathy. We are social beings after all.

      1. I tend to agree. Which means it was just a hardwired, instinctive response. We just can’t win, can we?

  10. “Any attempt to understand why we give ? or to get us to give more ? must deal with this dirty and tangled reality.”

    What’s dirty and tangled about it? i mean any more than why i like a certain person or a certain activity. Its just not easily quantifiable.

    This incidentily iw why people can’t be centrally managed.

    1. Ho-lee shit.

      That woman really makes me to want believe that there is a Hell for her soul to burn in.

  11. The concept of complete and total self-sacrifice being the only true standard of “altruism” is either complete BS or else “altruism” is a BS thing to aspire to.

    Only lunatics do things for no personal reason. Being nice because it makes you feel good doesn’t make it any less nice.

  12. A couple years ago, I helped an old lady push her out-of-gas car out of a street with a lot of traffic to a side street. Perhaps I’m a latent decrepophile.

    I also recently gave a car ride to a (much younger) woman who was working a temp job, (about 1/2 mile from where the McD’s we were at) and was confused by the bus lines. And I forgot to ask her for her telephone number. Perhaps I’m just a moron.

      1. Well, there’s a lot more evidence for the second perhaps than the first.

        1. But, you got granny’s number, right?

  13. …there are also many other factors at play when we donate: … even our sex drives.

    People donate to get laid?

    1. Oh. When they said ‘sex drive’ I thought they meant that USB-thing I hide in the sock drawer.

    2. The progressive ideology has ‘charitable actions’ as part of its schtick. Volunteering gets you progressive tail.

  14. I’ve been too busy looking for teen sex in chat rooms:

    Reports: Ritter caught in police sting
    Former U.N. weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting, the Pocono Record reports:

    A former chief United Nations weapons inspector is accused of contacting what he thought was a 15-year-old girl in an Internet chat room, engaging in a sexual conversation and showing himself masturbating on a Web camera.…..sting.html

    1. “Feet of clay” is the phrase that comes to mind.

      Ritter was the only person I am aware of who said there were no WMD before the Iraq invasion.

      1. Yeah, but the whole time he was in-country he said there were. He gets back to the US, waits a while, and now there aren’t? Any way that shakes out he’s a liar or amazingly incompotent.

        1. I vote for both.

  15. I think when it comes to Haiti there’s a cost-effectiveness factor coming into play. People want to see *results* from their money, especially charity.

    Nothing sucks more than giving someone charity and seeing zero improvement in his prospects, especially as a result of his own failings. Haiti’s situation is one where you get a strong sense that it’s a case where charity hurts more than it helps. It’s like the deadbeat cousin who lives in his parents basement, who will never get a job unless forced to by dire necessity. They need to be pushed out of the nest in order to learn to fly.

    1. For general charity towards Haiti (or a lot of other third world countries), I’d agree entirely. However, this is a different situation – It’s life saving aid after a disaster, not “establishing a new framework for the country” or some other such bullshit.

      1. Although I tend to agree. I have the feeling that a flood of aid agencies into the country and the infrastructure they are going to set up are ultimately going to end up reinforcing Haiti’s dependency. The NGOs aren’t going to pack up and leave as soon as the rubble is cleared. They’re going to to get embroiled in social reconstruction.

        I’d limit my donations to immediate relief only, but that doesn’t seem possible. There will likely be a ton more cash than they really need, and they’ll end up using it to keep up operations afterwards.

      2. For general charity towards Haiti (or a lot of other third world countries), I’d agree entirely.


        I understand and share concerns about donating money only to have it prop up some vicious tin-pot dictator.

        But if someone is seriously thinking here that if they make a donation for relief in Haiti, it’s going to make the situation worse, I’m going to have to suggest to them that they come to their freaking senses.

    2. Not everyone can be as hard-working and ingenious as you were when you chose to be born in a country that’s not in dire poverty.

      1. “when you chose to be born in a country that’s not in dire poverty.”

        You are assuming we exist as individuals before we are born. If you believe that, that’s fine. If not, then you have to admit that we don’t really exist as individuals until WELL after birth, and so your snark is irrelevant. If one country is generally more productive than another, it makes complete sense that some citizens of the more productive country would be hesitant to give to the citizens of another country that has proven that it would most likely waste the money. But that’s just charity in general. In this circumstance, the argument of productivity doesn’t hold.

        1. I assume Hazel had the good fortune to be born into a wealthy country, and that skill, hard work, and perseverance had nothing to do with much of the success Hazel may have found in life.

          I find it morally abhorrent to be judging the individual members of a population for the fact that they happen to live in a poor country, and downright evil to do so after a major natural disaster. The people of Haiti are not more lazy than the people of America (the opposite is very likely true). They have been victimized in numerous ways.

          Obviously aid should be monitored and made as effective as possible. But morally judging Haitians and blaming their poverty on a lack of ingenuity and ability to work hard is just wrong. You try living on $2 a day. I bet they waste a lot less of their money than the average hard-working America.

          1. Is someone judging Haitians?

          2. I think you missed the point of my post.

          3. “I find it morally abhorrent to be judging the individual members of a population for the fact that they happen to live in a poor country, and downright evil to do so after a major natural disaster.”

            Are you hitting on me?

            1. Tony finds it morally abhorrent if anyone has a dollar more than the next guy – especially if Tony, himself is the next guy.

          4. If it’s not too personal, how much have you donated, Tony?

          5. If it’s not too personal, how much have you donated, Tony?

          6. I’m not judging the *individual* members of the society, Tony. I’ve commented in other threads on this topic that many Haitians would probably be fine if they were lifted from that environment and transported to a US city at random.

            I’m arguing that Haiti has social pathologies, which includes BOTH the people, and the social environment they create, which reinforce Haiti’s poverty. What Haiti needs is vast cultural transformation of the kind that CAN happen to an *individual* if he is removed from his culture and allowed to flourish in a healthy one.
            It’s vastly more difficult and requires a cultural revolution when you want to do it to a million people at a time, though. (not to refer to the chinese cultural revolution).

          7. Tony, everyone has choices, regardless where they come from or what their financial or political starting point is.

            Kids from the poorest parts of Africa use the skills that they do have, their minds and will power to do great things.

            Eg: William Kamkwamba

            While people from the richest parts of the world and who have immense wealth can easily squander their lives & fortunes…

            Eg: All these people

            There is actually a pretty easily observable cycle anyway – where one person, like William Kamkwamba, works hard and makes his fortune by being productive and inventive. As a result, his children will be much better off than he was, and will grow up in lives of comparative luxury. Those children will have never had to work as hard, but they do grow up with the example of their father. Then they have kids… And those kids (Kamkwamba’s grandchildren, lets say) only get the weakened example of their own father, and are living off the wealth generated by their grandfather…

            By the 3rd or 4th generation, all the money is gone, and lessons of hard work and ingenuity that created the original wealth have been lost on the grandkids & great grandkids.

            This story has repeated itself through history countless times. Hell, one of my roommates is a prime example… Her great grandparents owned a highly successful shipping company in Georgia, and yet her father grew up poor.

  16. I donate money because I get a tax break.

    I donate myself and time because it makes me feel good and it helps someone else at the same time. Plus I have a good time doing it. We all win in that case.

    1. I donate myself and time because it makes me feel good and it helps someone else..

      I donate myself and time because helping someone makes me feel good.

      Now answer the question: Why?

      Perhaps it’s a demonstration of higher status.

      1. and what, pray tell, is wrong with that?

        But I think it’s true that helping other people activates a circuit in the brain that makes you feel better, Adam Smith talks about this (without the neurobio) extensively in TMS.

        The people who don’t want to help out, however, should neither be forced to nor excessively prodded to, because they will get in the way of those of us what to help.

      2. But then we have people who can come around and demonstrate their higher status by explaining why all acts are selfish.

        1. I don’t think that’s a demonstration of “higher status” though, Tony. Pointing out that you’re not giving money or your time for “no return”, and that the returns you are getting are psychological and emotionally beneficial to you isn’t robbing you of the goodness you might feel for giving to charity. It’s just pointing out that altruism in the purest sense is really a misnomer.

          You aren’t giving up something of yourself and getting nothing in return… Unless you are trying to suggest (as Chad has been hovering around the point on this thread) that when you give to charity, you’re miserable doing it, you hate it and you don’t feel even the slightest bit good about yourself.

  17. I definitely buy the social status motivation. All the retards on my Facebook are patting themselves on the back for texting Wyclef Jean & donating $5 or some shit, and agressively guilting others to do the same.

  18. This was my horoscope in The Onion last week:

    Remember: There are millions of people in the world that are less fortunate than you, and pretending to care about them will get you laid.

  19. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

  20. And also, fuck that bitch Naomi Klein.

  21. I think the difference between people who donate time and money to charity is their upbringing. My kids bring food to a pantry once a week and volunteer in other ways. I grew up in the same way but my husband did not and It took him awhile to see the benefits that our children receive from participating in volunteering.

    1. Nah, I just let you win the argument so you’d start putting out again.

      1. Win or lose ?

        1. He likes to lose.

  22. We give based on our own emotional reactions. Some of us have emotional reactions that are very empathetic, and others don’t. It depends on one’s own values and interpretation of the world. The problem with progressives is that their policies (welfare, etc)are aimed at alleviating their own emotional responses, giving little heed to the unintended consequences of such actions. Their apparent altruism is really a selfish desire to stop feeling bad, often at the expense of the people they feel bad about.

  23. I haven’t given to haiti because our benevolent government will be doing so on my behalf.

  24. I don’t care what your motivation is – just send me a check, I can deal with it.

    And that is what matters, the needy person get either gets the money or they don’t.

  25. I take in stray cats and they reward me by destroying every stick of furniture I own and bankrupting me with vet bills. Worse than the fucking Haitans.

  26. Ritter was the only person I am aware of who said there were no WMD before the Iraq invasion.

    Yeah, it’s just too bad he didn’t come to that conclusion while he was in Iraq, otherwise I would have taken him more seriously.

    1. Also, just to be nitpicky, there were WMD in iraq, just not the “unaccounted for WMD” that the case for invasion was made on.

      (we also went ahead and took it for our own purposes)…..nium_x.htm

    2. The generals running the Iraq war are not in Iraq. I’m pretty sure I remember him being in Iraq. But even if he wasn’t, his teams were and his reports would be based off what his teams learned.

      But here’s the real fun. What’s he doing these days?…..p;srvc=rss

  27. Well I guess this means that since I haven’t and won’t donate, I’m a truly unselfish person.

    1. Nah. It means you’re a smart one.

      Check out the comments – most entertaining!

  28. The money will end up in the pocket of Satan the same corrupt kleptocrats who have made Haiti a failed state for decades. I hope the Haitian peasantry storm the Presidential Palace and lynch the President and every other government functionary they can get their hands on.

  29. I have a deep aversion to throwing money down a shit hole. There’s nothing wrong with temporary charity, but Haiti is a perpetual, permanent basket case. Nothing will change. Where are these refugees from political and economic reality going to live? Who will build and pay for it? Who will feed them? In less than six months the hurricane season starts. What then?

    1. My $200 will be a drop in the ocean of relief money. What Haiti needs is a good student libertarian movement and a free market think tank. Is there any such group that would welcome our assistance?

      1. How much more limited you think their government should be?

        1. You already know the answer to that one.

    2. Whole thing sounds like a remake of New Orleans and Katrina.

      1. Yesterday Mr. Obama, referencing the Haiti disaster, said, “There, but for the grace of God, go we.” Really, Mr. President? There’s no difference between Haiti and America? Catastrophes are a whim of God? Shame on him.

        1. There’s no difference between Haiti and America?

          There won’t be if he and his ilk have their way.

  30. Sex drive? Well, if the quake had hit the north side of Hispaniola, I would have donated to rebuild Sosua. Heck, I have already been making regular 1500-2000 DP donations to hot young Dominican girls for years.

  31. I never “give” money to anyone for anything.

    I exchange money for goods, services, or perceived benefits.

    But send money to someone I don’t know or care about? Not going to happen.

    “Charitable” giving to “feel good” or score social points is not the way I operate.

  32. Altruism is done because … helps sex drives, though not sure I follow that one

    RTFA. Hot women asking men for charitable donations get more money than non-hot women.

    Basically, the men are giving in the unlikely hope that they will get to “donate” again to the charitable solicitor.

  33. I would donate money for fast, well-armed ships for a Haitian pirate fleet. It makes more sense than giving money to the same UN and NGO parasites who have been “assisting” the country since Papa Doc got the boot.

    1. Could a WASPy libertarian become dictator of Haiti? Benevolent dictator, I mean?

      1. But would you really have the pure, strength of will necessrary to become Haiti’s benevolent leader?

        1. Oh, sure.

  34. Obama has already borrowed money from the Chinese and donated to Haiti in my name

    1. And our children and grandchildren really appreciate it.

  35. We won’t until we invade.

  36. Please tell me that there’s no such thing.

    It’s called the Internet, Pro Lib. Check it out sometime.


  37. That should have been “We won’t KNOW until we invade.”

    re: this

    Could a WASPy libertarian become dictator of Haiti?

    1. “””Could a WASPy libertarian become dictator of Haiti?”””

      Don’t know, but the U.S.S. WASP could help with that invasion.

  38. How about this: I’m a hard-core libertarian, a sort of post-Objectivist, I know Haiti is a basket case on the best of days, and I sent money for relief.

    And here’s why, as far as I can tell: because this was a f***ing awful thing that happened, and I don’t want to live in a world where nobody will help when f***ing awful things happen.

    So I guess that’s a selfish reason.

    1. It is selfish. And you were right to do it if you think it will help them and if your donation is a value to you.

    2. It’s not a selfish reason. It’s an irrational one. But there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Not everything in life has to be based on a rational calculation. Lots of awesome things aren’t.

      1. Hazel, I really don’t agree. It’s not irrational to want to live in a world where people help each other, and it’s also not irrational to want to feel good about helping.

        I don’t really know why you keep pushing that point, but it just doesn’t really stack up for me…

        Irrational would be saying something along the lines of “I want to help Haiti, therefore I sent a basket of fruit loops to China.” What I read in Anon Libertarian’s post above is that:

        A. He/she wants to live in a world where people help out when “f***ing awful” things happen.
        B. Something f***ing awful happened to the Haitian people (which is quite apart from anything their culture or government has done).
        C. It seems to Anon that sending money to Haitians will help them, and thus make him/her feel good and contribute to a world which looks more like the one he/she wants to live in.

        At no point is that irrational. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s incredibly rational and clearly thought-out. And since this person is in fact replacing a state of being that’s less satisfactory (a world where no one helps each other) with one that is more satisfactory (a world where people pitch in when “f***ing awful” stuff happens), then that person is in fact pursuing a value of theirs in what could be construed as a self-motivated/”selfish” manner.

  39. Has the Presidential Suit called on the Congress to fast-track a free trade agreement with Haiti, yet?

    1. Trade? Trade what? How much is scrap concrete worth?

  40. Why […] haven’t [you] donated to Haiti yet[?]

    My dog ate my wallet.

    1. My President ate mine.

      1. That’s what I said – My “dog” ate my wallet.


  41. Xeones,

    I refuse.

  42. Speaking of Haiti, this was fast…

    Fights between gangs were seen on the streets. Machetes were flailing and it was impossible to predict what would happen next.…..27143.html

    Anyone care to wager how long before breathless reports of cannibalism begin making the rounds?

    1. Machetes were flailing and it was impossible to predict what would happen next.

      I’m guessing you could safely predict some maimings, and probably some killings.

  43. I haven’t donated “yet” because I donate to the Red Cross regularly. This incident doesn’t change my priorities.

    Why do I donate? Because it makes me happy to know that I am a better person than you. Seriously.

    1. That’s sensible. Doctors without Borders is a good one, too.

      1. I’ve donated to them before as well. In contradiction to classic economic theory, which says I should choose the “best” charity and donate only to it, I spread my money all over the place. It is more fun, and there are countless good charities that are close enough to equal that it makes little difference which one I choose.

        1. There is nowhere in any “classical economic theory” that says anything remotely of the sort you fucktard.

          1. Really? I’ll direct you to Stephen Landsburg, who probably made the most clear argument that, from a classic economic point of view, you should donate only to one charity.

            Pray tell, why wouldn’t you, unless you were donating to get free calenders or magazines? If charity A does more good with your dollars than charity B, then why would you donate your second or third or tenth dollar to B, just because you had already donated to A? Unless you were a billionaire that could actually affect the marginal utility of a charity by donating more cash than it could handle, A is still best for your last dollar, just as it was your first.

            1. Oh, I don’t know… perhaps because you value a number of different charitable activities and no single organization reflects every aspect of charitable direction that you might want to support?

              Perhaps you want to support some disaster relief because you don’t want to live in a world where people who’s houses are destroyed by floods & earthquakes go homeless, and yet (and I know this is going to come as a surprise to you, Chad) you also support charities for abused women & children because you believe that the world is better when vulnerable people have help escaping bad situations, AND maybe you even also want to support various children’s charities because kids shouldn’t be entirely at the mercy of the whims of their parents or be made to bear the consequences of adult’s failures…

              Gosh Chad, is it really inconceivable to you that maybe there is no singularly “best” charity at all!?

              But then, look who I’m talking to… The world government guy… Obviously it is hard for you to imagine a world where one top-down solution imposed on billions of people isn’t able to solve everyone’s problems or reflects everyone’s individual goals or values.

              I think I can unequivocally say that anyone who makes the argument that “economics” shows that it’s best only to give to one charity, doesn’t really understand economics even a little bit.

            2. Perhaps, Chad… You genius, you… You might consider that different charities serve entirely different purposes and reflect a multitude of different values I might want to see expanded in society.

              I might/have donate(d) to one charity (like the Red Cross) because I want to live in a world where people help each other out in times of natural disasters. I might donate to another, such as the folks at PlayPump, because I want to help people who’s only “crime” was to be born under a severely oppressive and stupid government get water and maybe have a chance at survival, and perhaps I might/have donated to such organizations as Children, International because I love kids and it saddens me to see them get handed shitty lives for no other reason than bad luck.

              And maybe… Just MAYBE, I might also want to give some money to organizations like Kiva because I strongly believe that investment, within a profit & loss framework encourages quality economic growth and makes the whole world better off – first by providing jobs & livelihoods to people in developing countries and also by providing people like me with quality, inexpensive goods as supplies increase.

              The flaw in your reasoning is the bizarre assumption that you could just pick a “best” charity into which to sink 100% of your money. But this is the same flaw in basically all over your top-down thinking, since you never bother to recognize the limitations of your own understanding. Being the most truly arrogant bastard I’ve ever encountered, this is unsurprising.

              But while Stephen Landsburg’s article (I suspect you’re referring to this one) might lead you to believe he’s arguing that you never change your mind or donate to different organizations, I suspect that he would tell you that you’ve misunderstood him.

              To quote the article:

              “You can puff yourself up with thank-you notes from a dozen organizations, or you can be truly charitable by concentrating your efforts where you believe they will do the most good.”

              What he’s saying is (like P Brooks did below) that if you pick a cause to donate to, find the best people you can to spend your money. Look before you leap/think about your choices carefully, because your money is a limited resource that should go primarily to the goal it’s directed at.

              That doesn’t conflict with what I’m saying at all – Landsburg is saying, if you only have $100 to donate to a specific cause, make sure that money goes to the best people available, rather than scattering it amongst a bunch of organizations…

              That said, if I had millions of dollars, instead of the more modest income of a freelancer, I might donate to a bunch of “redundant” organizations which served my various philanthropic goals (disaster relief, children’s charities, economic education, angel investment, etc.) on the assumption that different people will be reached by each different organization. Of course, in this case, the money I had available for charitable contributions wouldn’t really be all that “limited”, so I’d be able to afford to cast a wider net.

              Regardless, I don’t think Landsburg is saying what you think he’s saying. And I just have a challenge to put out there for any readers and lurkers on this thread: Isn’t Chad a perfect example of someone who is “puffing himself up” with thank you notes? I think so…

    2. Now Chad has just made my point (which he tried to deny) earlier. He gives to charity because it makes him feel good.

      That’s wonderful. It’s not in any way, shape or form the definition of “altruism” which would be a sacrifice and something he didn’t want to do but did anyway.

      Fortunately for the Red Cross, Chad values being a smug asshole more than the couple hundred bucks a year he gives away. I guess being a giant douchebag has its uses afterall. The Haitian people thank you.

      1. Sean, I given away 5% of my after tax income and have my entire adult life. Then I don’t claim the charitable deduction, which is implicitly almost another percent. It is closer to a couple hundred bucks a month than per year. I doubt many people give that much, especially people my age. I would guess the few who do are little old ladies giving away a bit of their Social Security check to the church or whatever.

        Of course donating makes me feel good. Of course, it makes me feel good to know that I am a better person than you. But would I get more happy fuzzies if I took the money and, say, turned it into a bi-annual vacation to some exotic locale? I have no idea. It is irrelevant. I donate because it is the right thing to do.

        Don’t you get it Sean? This isn’t me choosing between a Nintendo game and a couple of books, where I do kinda think along the lines of “which one will I enjoy more and get more entertainment out of”. It is me placing a very substantial fraction of my income in something for a reason that has nothing to do with what happiness it brings me. The logic that you assume must be the case in no way enters into the decision, yet you insist it must because your theory requires it to. It is just beyond your theory to concede that people don’t always behave the way the theory requires.

        1. Which means, if you had actually fucking read the thing I wrote earlier that you are PURSUING ONE OF YOUR VALUES!

          Which MEANS: You are not behaving altruistically.

          Altruism is a *sacrifice*, yet you have just stated quite explicitly that you are replacing what you believe is a less satisfactory condition with a more satisfactory one, according to you own value structure.

          You are behaving EXACTLY as the “theory” describes.

          1. Where you’re idiocy comes into play Chad is that unlike me, you are incapable of recognizing that people’s values extend beyond the tangible “cheap chinese crap” and in fact most people’s purchasing decisions do have more to do with the immaterial than the material.

            Somehow you think this is incompatible with libertarian thought and the economics that I’ve been trying to teach you over the months, but this is not true. What is true is that you haven’t a fucking clue what you’re talking about.

          2. Again, Sean…ALL behavior is consistent with your theory, so it is utterly pointless to point out that mine behavior is as well. Of course it is. Can you name something that I could do that is inconsistent with your theory?

        2. And PS Chad, I couldn’t care less what you donate, but congratulations on having something that makes you feel like you’re better than everyone else.

          1. It’s not about “feeling” Sean. I AM better than most everyone else. You could be, too. Instead, you are a spiteful crank. I suppose, in your vast theory of the world, that somehow makes you happy. Too bad it harms everyone else.

            1. Yes, typically, when I think of the greatest people in the world, my mind goes straight to dictators, thugs and their wannabe henchmen and sycophants.

              No, you’re right. You’re the superior human.

  44. I donate to the Red Cross regularly.

    Why does that not surprise me?
    Chad donates his money to a bloated, inefficient organization which pays its head more than half a million dollars, and devotes a large portion of its energy and money to making itself bigger and more important (in Washington) rather than actually providing aid.

    Attaboy, Chad! It’s the thought that counts.

    1. Yeah, it’s terrible that he gives to organizations that do some good in the world while you can look for excuses to be a selfish prick.

      1. I think the point was that there are other organizations, Syd. You’re making the one of the many mistakes Chad did earlier in basically assuming that it’s Red Cross or “selfishly” buying a Nintendo. Those aren’t the only 2 options.

        1. Yes, Sean. And I donate to those organizations, too. I probably donate to twenty a year. You are right in that the Red Cross (and United Way) are not the best charities out there. I usually donate to them because someone hits me up for it and makes it really easy, and well, that provides an added incentive.

          You are deliberately avoiding my point: The logic which determines how much I donate has nothing to do with my personal happiness. It surely has an effect on my happiness, but that is just a side benefit.

          1. I didn’t make the point about the Red Cross, Chad… You’re debating someone else on that point…

            You’re also debating a strawman where you pretend that I’ve ever claimed that your motivation was for “personal happiness”… What I said was:

            “you are replacing what you believe is a less satisfactory condition with a more satisfactory one, according to you own value structure.”

            Do you realize that this doesn’t necessarily mean you are personally going to be playing with toys or running around giddy like a 12 year old girl with a pony, but that the world itself is now a place that fits your concept of value better.

            You behaved *exactly* as my “theory” suggests.

            You hold certain values about the world and about what your role in the world is. You repeatedly claim that one of those values is giving to charity, because presumably the world is a better place in your eyes, when people give loads of their money to charity to help the less fortunate. Am I wrong?

            By donating to charity, you are explicitly pursuing something of value to you. You are not behaving irrationally, and you’re not “sacrificing” anything. You are contributing what you believe is the “right” or optimal “price” to pay for a society that conforms more closely to your values.

            Like most people, you probably didn’t sit down with a calculator and determine all the “stuff” you might be giving up for that payment to the Red Cross. Neither are you probably sitting down each week before you go to the grocery store and thinking up all the different things you won’t be able to get once you’ve bought food instead.

            Again, it’s all about opportunity costs. For you, the opportunity to do something charitable – something you believe will help the world look more like the place *you* want it to be – is worth $XXXX per year.

            I can’t know what that figure is this year or next year or any other time, because I have no way of knowing the extent to which you value different things or what your financial position is… I don’t care if you tell me.

            But you’re exactly illustrating my point, although I still believe you don’t understand it. You are acting in a self-interested manner by choosing to support causes that you want to see succeed.

            There is nothing wrong with this, but you are not being “altruistic” in the sense that you are not benefiting. As I said earlier – if you were actually not benefiting at all, then you wouldn’t do the thing – or, if you kept doing it, you would be a fool of the highest order. So now that I have you in a corner you don’t realize you’re in, let me ask you this question:

            Does giving to charity make the world a better place, there by improving your life… Or not?

            Does supporting the Red Cross and others conform to your own sense of values and ethics? Or not?

            1. You behaved *exactly* as my “theory” suggests.

              Sean, ALL behavior is consistent with your theory. If I were to drink a quart of motor oil, or blow up my neighbor’s car, or spend the evening wallowing in my own feces, it would be perfectly consistent with your theory. This implies that it has precisely zero explanatory power, and therefore is worthless. You may as well be arguing about how many angels are dancing on the head of a pin.

              Having such an assumption at the core of your political and economic beliefs is simply absurd, especially when that assumption runs against countless experiments (run by “idiots”, apparently) that show that people simply do NOT behave or think in the manner required for your theory. Your only response is something along the lines of “Well, deep down inside, they must have thought the way my theory requires, because, well, my theory requires it!”.

              1. It couldn’t possibly be because you don’t actually understand the ideas being expressed, could it, Chad?

      2. I think the point was that there are other organizations, Syd. You’re making the one of the many mistakes Chad did earlier in basically assuming that it’s Red Cross or “selfishly” buying a Nintendo. Those aren’t the only 2 options.

  45. For example

    American Red Cross, whose CEO was paid $565,000 in 2008, gets only three out of four stars from Charity Navigator.

    Charity Navigator is a nonprofit that rates other nonprofits, with the self-described goal of serving as an “intelligent guide to giving.” The group is unaffiliated with any other charity in the world, and claims objectivity and independence.

    Charities are rated on organizational efficiency and organizational capacity, answering questions such as: How effectively does a charity use the dollars it gets from donors? Does it overpay its CEO or staff? Does it spend more on fundraising than on its mission? Does it have the infrastructure to get things done? Is there anything unusual on the balance sheet?

    In other words: Is the charity competent? And is it honest?

    Your welcome, Syd.


    Selfish Asshole

  46. Of course, if you you do not comprehend the notion of, or simply couldn’t really give a shit about, marginal returns (other than your own smug self-congratulation) by all means donate based on name recognition and slick television ads.


  47. Gaaaah!

    Your You’re

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