Re: Join Wall Street

1

Also, charity seems like a highly inefficient way of allocating scarce resources. There's all the money that gets spent promoting the charity so that it can raise more money, plus there is a huge fundraising bias in favor of the more charismatic and popular causes.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
2

My reaction was almost the same as the OP, except that I felt slightly more positively inclined -- it's good that those people feel a sense of cause and commitment. That enhances their life in a way which also impacts the world positively. But it didn't make me want to follow their example.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 5:52 PM
horizontal rule
3

All of this gives me a lot to think about. I guess I think of doing foster care as seeing a toddler in a pond, although the drowning isn't immediate and there are other people around and the analogy breaks down quickly. But there are people with needs and not enough people stepping up to meet those, and most days it only takes a minimal amount of effort from me to do that. I do think day-to-day work probably feels different from being a trader who gives huge amounts of money, though.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
4

Unless somehow foster care could crash the whole economy, I don't see how it is much at all like a trader.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
5

I smell bullshit, particularly in that this dude is 25. Presumably the calculus goes something like "I'll give away money for a while when many of my friends are all living like grad students, and still be safely UMC to rich when I start to need more money." It reeks of a kind of have your smugness and eat cake too mentality. I mean, not that it's a bad thing to give lots of money away, at all, but let's not all start blowing this guy just yet.

Also frankly (a) speaking as someone who knows, working for evil business things is pretty evil and giving money away isn't really sufficient penance especially since (b) this guy's not actually giving away that much money in the grand scheme of things. Depending on where he works and what he does I'd bet that there's a good chance that he nets out evil even with giving a lot away.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:07 PM
horizontal rule
6

4: Well, not that part. I lose money in terms of paying more for the kids' care than we're given by the state and also in terms of all the lost wages because I don't work all the hours I could, but if there were a heaven I'd apparently still be screwed because I'm not a Christian, so who cares?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:09 PM
horizontal rule
7

Ugh, I did not like this article. My objections were mostly covered by the Post commenters, to wit: 1) no acknowledgement of the harm that high-finance folks might be causing in their daily work; over-reliance on easily measurable outcomes; artificial certainty that a certain approach to analysis is accurate; and most of all an uncritical acceptance of Peter Singer's highly debatable framing.

People want to give money to good causes, however they define that, fine. People want to martyr themselves in service to their principles, also fine. It's a free country. But those folks aren't doing anything I'd aspire to.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:10 PM
horizontal rule
8
But this type of thing - and often charities in general - make me a little sad as they symbolize the death of collective action.

Agreed. And don't just symbolize it, but signal it, reflect it. I suppose it can be viewed as sheer realism, but the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, who then might be willing to aid in the general welfare if so moved, isn't particularly something we should give in to.

I could be argued out of this, I think, if handed a Robin Hood type of story.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:13 PM
horizontal rule
9

6: You could try Semitism.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:13 PM
horizontal rule
10

I also generally have a deep and maybe not all that well thought out negative reaction to a lot of the Silicon Valley/wall street giving analysis type stuff. I mean, sure, quantify and analyze the work charitable organizations do, that's great. But I suspect a lot of it has overreliance on single and not particularly meaningful metrics, and also every public service organization doesn't have to be run like a data-driven revolutionary start up business, not to mention that so many of the social entrepreneur types or whatever seem totally unbearable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:18 PM
horizontal rule
11

Aww, Mobes, I mostly just meant that fostering too is prone to the starry-eyed reliance on the parable in which the old man made a difference to one starfish and awwwww. Obviously that's not a way of addressing underlying societal problems, yet it's hard to know where to draw the line.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
12

A friend of mine is a good friend of one of the GiveWell founders, so what I've heard might be a bit biased, but it sounds like a generally good idea to me. I have the sense that a lot of these charities lack transparency and it's good to have someone trying to monitor their impact, even if we can debate the right metrics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
13

I hadn't even considered 5.1.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
14

I'm frightened by how much my thinking is in line with Halford's here.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:42 PM
horizontal rule
15

From the link in the OP:

Take Jeff Kaufman. A Cambridge, Mass.-based developer at Google, Kaufman and his wife, Julia Wise, managed to live on $10,000 in 2012, they say. Together, they give away at least 45 percent of their income each year (the rest goes to savings and taxes).

Living on $10,000 a year, as a couple, in Cambridge, is pretty tough, but a lot rides on the paranthetical: the rest goes to savings. I would actually call the money put toward savings/retirement an expense. Living on $10k a year (remarkable) and putting away, say, $30k or more a year in savings is going to take care of things for the future.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:43 PM
horizontal rule
16

A basic thing is this: institutions, especially political institutions, especially the interplay between political and economic institutions, are the most important thing, period, swamping the importance of everything else. The increasing dominance of Western capitalism by finance, and by a particular sort of unembedded finance, is extremely dangerous, and directly responsible for the slow-moving catastrophe that is Europe right now. Insofar as working on Wall St. is going to further entrench these trends, it's likely he's doing more damage than he's helping ameliorate.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
17
"I feel like I'd read stuff by Peter Singer."

Is that a way of saying you didn't even read the stuff, but other people have talked about it and hey whatever I'm making loads of money I'll just drop a name here 'cuz it makes me sound like I have a philosophy?

This is of course a completely good faith question.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
18

Also, it's not clear how much this differs from Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth, except there's some talk about data and most of these people probably aren't sending out the Pinkerton's to crush organized labor. At least, not personally.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
19

I think it means "I read an excerpt from something by Peter Singer in class".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
20

Let me be the first to suggest that I net out evil even without giving a lot away


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
21

16 is right.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:54 PM
horizontal rule
22

16 gets it right.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
23

Let me be the first to concur with 16.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:57 PM
horizontal rule
24

Burma Shave.


Posted by: To get it right only took 16 | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 6:58 PM
horizontal rule
25

16 is soooooooo wrong.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
26

In addition to all the objections other people are raising, the article seems to me to illustrate some of the problematic aspects of consequentialism. Is it really reasonable to assume that all possible acts of charity or ways of improving the world are comparable according to some common standard, and therefore determining the best option is a straightforward optimization problem? These people sure seem to think it is, but I have my doubts.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
27

How the fuck do you live on $10k a year in cambridge? That wouldn't pay the rent for anybody I know, let alone on a 2bdrm.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:02 PM
horizontal rule
28

27 was my thought, too. Maybe they were living with their parents. But I thought the article suggested that they had lived on $10k _before_ they moved in with their parents. Maybe they owned a house and then sold it, or rented it out?


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
29

27: Yeah, I have trouble believing it, but supposedly they have a blog outlining their expenses.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
30

25 is right. Institutions are epiphenomena.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
31

Also, as Halford notes, the guy at the beginning is (according to the figures given in the article) apparently saving about 20 people a year from malaria. Which is great for those twenty people, of course, but that's not very many people compared to, say, the total number of people in Africa at risk of dying from malaria. He compares it to people doing direct-action stuff like the Peace Corps, which is admittedly on a similarly small scale, but that's not the only comparison. If those PCVs come back and go to work for NGOs or government agencies that direct millions of dollars a year to fight problems in the world, suddenly they seem to maybe be doing more than some quant giving 50 grand.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
32

I hope the answer is "well, we reserve our bonuses to tide us over."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:06 PM
horizontal rule
33

Of course, as an employee of a government agency that spends millions of dollars a year to fight problems in (one small part of) the world, I may be biased.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:10 PM
horizontal rule
34

There was a similar story in the Washington Post several years ago, about a math professor at a community college near DC. He lived a spartan life and gave away the $$$ he made by writing textbooks.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:12 PM
horizontal rule
35

I don't think my job causes much harm, but I'm not clear that it does a whole lot of good, either. Good enough for me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:13 PM
horizontal rule
36

And writing math textbooks sounds dreary.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
37

Profitable ones, that is.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
38

Several friends have recently raised the question of whether my current work is going to be a net cause of harm, to which I say "what dude shut up what no what".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:16 PM
horizontal rule
39

Of course, as an employee of a government agency that spends millions of dollars a year to fight problems in (one small part of) the world, I may be biased.

Don't worry, working for the Bureau of Land Management Cerbat Mountains Wild Burro Program is crucial to not only our generation and future generations but the world in general. The world of burros, at least.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:17 PM
horizontal rule
40

It looks like their rent was about $900/month as of April 2011 (according to they guy's blog).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:20 PM
horizontal rule
41

Actually, it's the Burro of Land Management Cerbat Mountains Wild Bureau Program.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
42

Oh, well, let's see. 900 times 12...carry the one...hmmm...subtract from 10,000...oh, that's plenty to live on.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:23 PM
horizontal rule
43

40: so they were only $800 short on their rent for the year; how'd they eat?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:24 PM
horizontal rule
44

So pwned.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:25 PM
horizontal rule
45

Oh, they get by by selling some stock now and then, as young marrieds do.


Posted by: Mitt Romney's wife, I forget her name already | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:26 PM
horizontal rule
46

Their spending was at 20K before this year. I'm guessing that this means they're no longer paying rent this year and the 10K is non-rent expenses.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:28 PM
horizontal rule
47

I wonder if their charitable giving pushed their taxable income down to $10,000.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:28 PM
horizontal rule
48

Doesn't Google provide free food? But maybe not in its Cambridge outpost. Maybe they dumpster dived!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:28 PM
horizontal rule
49

Google might have free food, sure. Maybe they sold Google's free food for profit?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
50

I bet 47 is right. That's a bit of an infuriating lining to the halo.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
51

Don't worry, working for the Bureau of Land Management Cerbat Mountains Wild Burro Program is crucial to not only our generation and future generations but the world in general. The world of burros, at least.

I'm sure it is, at least from the burros' perspective, but I don't see what that has to do with me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
52

No, rereading, I think UPETGI is right in 46. They're talking about expenses. But it seems like the accounting they're using is conveniently leaving out benefits provided by others that don't get to them in cash.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
53

I guess that depends on how much of their savings is tax free...


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
54

Well we don't know exactly what it is you work for, teo, do we?

I'm now imagining that it's the Alaskan equivalent, which would be the Department of Nuisance Bear Relocation or something.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
55

Okay, from footnote 1 on the guy's blog:

Spending on ourselves "Doesn't include taxes, education, savings, or benefits such as work's portion of our health insurance."

The other footnotes are informative as well.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
56

So what's the best post on that site? I nominate this one.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
57

I knew a guy who never wore shoes around here. Don't think it's that guy, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
58

My SnarkWell calculator is telling me that these people seem pretty well-intentioned and I should spend my time more effectively on other things.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
59

Yah. Also working for google is not the same kind of societal ill as working on finance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
60

Maybe he could qualify for a free pair of Toms.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
61

58: Did you read the link in 56? At the moment when your ego leads you to create needless hassles for city bus drivers and civil servants, I think you lose your claim of moral superiority.

I honestly wonder whether that guy has ever worked telephone customer service.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
62

Well we don't know exactly what it is you work for, teo, do we?

I don't know, do you?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
63

61: No, I hadn't read that yet. Just the expenses stuff. I will have to update my dataset and re-run the analysis.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
64

I agree with 59. Unlike in the finance guy, what they're doing is on the whole pretty noble. That doesn't mean they're not insufferable too.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:54 PM
horizontal rule
65

Now I'm trying to figure out if I know this guy. I don't think so, which is both a relief but kind of disconcerting at how big the office has gotten. (And yes, the Cambridge office has food, mostly lunch. Living on it five days a week would be possible if slightly awkward if you work here; bringing your spouse in for fifteen meals a week would be hard, and an order of magnitude off from what's officially permitted.)


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
66

I honestly wonder whether that guy has ever worked telephone customer service.

No?

So what?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
67

And, I mean, okay, I can imagine the bus drivers that were randomly enforcing a policy that doesn't exist were put out by his noncompliance, but he was seemingly perfectly nice to the person on the phone and they were perfectly nice in response. Is the issue that he called the customer service line at all?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
68

He's just a well-meaning barefooted hippie, Witt, who harbors $60k in stock options and gets free food at work.

I do agree, though, that this guy doesn't deserve scrutiny in the way the finance guys might. The living-on-$10k-a-year thing was just pretty hard to believe.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:01 PM
horizontal rule
69

parsimon don't be such a jerk about hippies. Some of them are perfectly nice, if misguided.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:02 PM
horizontal rule
70

|| Anyone serious about improving the lives of at least two people could share a good recipe for mole. Not as good as saving 50 kids from malaria, obviously, but probably better than educating people about the lack of a footwear policy on the Boston buses. Anyone have a favorite? |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
71

Even after reading the bus stuff, he still doesn't seem that annoying. I'm sure my class bias is doing a lot to moderate my response, as I agree about creating needless hassles when you could just wear some kind of footwear just for the bus. But it's not like he's claiming that ultimately expensive sports cars create social goods so we should aspire to have them.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
72

70: DON'T COCK IT.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:04 PM
horizontal rule
73

It is definitely impossible that MBTA bus drivers, blue collar salts of the earth that they are, could also be pain in the ass petty tyrants who fuck with people for no good reason. As a cyclist, I certainly cannot imagine that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:06 PM
horizontal rule
74

He takes the bus? Also not something he could afford on the budget he claims.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:07 PM
horizontal rule
75

Oh man, the barefoot thing is to reduce shoe costs! Not sure if that makes it kinda awesome, or even crazier.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
76

I honestly wonder whether that guy has ever worked telephone customer service.

Of course he hasn't. Most people haven't. I think you phrased this the wrong way.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
77

This hits close to home for me. GiveWell has basically given up and concluded that there are probably no big undiscovered efficient causes and has started putting their resources into researching boutique projects for megadonors.

AidGrade looks promising but I haven't seen much out of them yet.

The existential risk charities all seem like they are either not really doing anything, crazy, or both, and anyway I don't know how to evaluate their effectiveness.

So all this means that the make money to give it away option is less appealing, unless I can make a lot of money, which it would take several years just to find out, and abandon my current comfortable life in a job with reasonable hours that isn't soul-crushing


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
78

75: Both?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:09 PM
horizontal rule
79

There probably is a policy giving bus drivers general discretion with respect to safety, which could possibly be stretched to include barefootedness even if it's not written in specifically.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:12 PM
horizontal rule
80

I bet there's no policy against prancercise.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
81

In the grand scheme of the world, he's harmless. And I certainly agree that bus drivers can be petty jerks at times.

I think I'm reacting to what seems to me to be a rather self-centered weighing of the burden his behavior is putting on other people. Announcing that you're recording a phone call is a pretty adversarial way to begin a customer service inquiry. (Cont'd)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:17 PM
horizontal rule
82

75: I knew it! I'd been about to point out that a person can buy shoes at Goodwill/Salvation Army/what have you for like 2 bucks, but it seems that that's not on the radar.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:20 PM
horizontal rule
83

(Incidentally, the "you should land on the ball of your foot not the heal" barefoot thing is for running, not walking right?)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:21 PM
horizontal rule
84

Announcing that you're recording a phone call is a pretty adversarial way to begin a customer service inquiry.

I think it's required by law if you're going to record this conversation which, sure, why'd he have to record the conversation anyhow.

I think I'm reacting to what seems to me to be a rather self-centered weighing of the burden his behavior is putting on other people.

I mean he seems wildly self-centered, sure, even more prominently in the ways he thinks he's helping people. But he seems fundamentally harmless, certainly compared to people in finance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:25 PM
horizontal rule
85

83: no? It depends? Not really? ("heel".)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:26 PM
horizontal rule
86

Unless he's working on Google Books.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:26 PM
horizontal rule
87

This video certainly has heel first for walking but not running. I can't really figure out what ball-first walking is supposed to work.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:28 PM
horizontal rule
88

My perspective is, bus drivers and customer service agents have to deal with unpredictable, sometimes violent, often litigious people every day.*

Asserting your right to flaunt a commonly abided-by social practice may be perfectly legal, but I think anyone with actual experience would know that it can be hard to distinguish eccentricity from a warning sign of willingness to escalate. I know several of our most upsetting patron situations started with ostensibly innocuous eccentricity that escalated.

tldr: UMC white guy feels entitled to assume people will know he's a false positive on the danger scale, and doesn't care that his desire for a showdown is making a bus full of people late.

*my perspective is colored by the number of bus shootings around here.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
89

I missed the fucking with the bus part. I hate when people fuck with the bus on purpose.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:37 PM
horizontal rule
90

To be honest, I never read any of it at all. But I feel strongly about keeping the bus moving.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:38 PM
horizontal rule
91

I don't think he fucked with the bus. He just didn't wear shoes, and one time a bus driver asked him to get off, and after he got off he called to see if it was against the rules to not wear shoes, and eventually they said "no". And presumably then he felt victorious. Good for him.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:40 PM
horizontal rule
92

I can't really figure out what ball-first walking is supposed to work.

It's standard practice when going uphill on snowshoes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
93

91:

He said that he didn't care and on his bus you had to wear shoes. I said "I'm sorry, you're wrong" and sat down. We started going. About five minutes later, at the corner of Boston Ave and High St. Uh. The driver stopped the bus, and when custo-, when other passengers asked why the bus driver said that, uh, they were waiting for the police to come, uh, and pick me up. Um. So then we sat there for about ten minutes. Um. An MBTA inspector showed up. The MBTA inspector told me I needed to get off. Um. I did what he said.

Seems like he at least regused to exit the bus on the bus driver's say-so.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:46 PM
horizontal rule
94

*refused


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:46 PM
horizontal rule
95

The driver stopped the bus, and they all sat there waiting 10 minutes until the police (really just transit police) showed up, after which he meekly got off the bus when the transit officer asked him to.

Not the world's biggest jerk by a long shot -- as you said, fundamentally harmless. But I stand by my "self-centered" comment.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:48 PM
horizontal rule
96

Pwned because I couldn't get cut & paste to work on my phone.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:49 PM
horizontal rule
97

It was clear to everyone involved that he was making some sort of point.

Now, what was the point? Was it worth making? That depends.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:52 PM
horizontal rule
98

You know, I do mildly wonder whether this guy would do the same work he's doing for Google for, say, $20k a year (double what he's currently living on). Or give him $30k.

I have a general notion of something you might call right livelihood. What would this guy do if he didn't work for Google? Right now he seems to be doing exactly what he wants to do, while assuaging his conscience for making way too much money for it. I suppose that's something, better than blowing the cash on $200 shoes or something. But it's a very strange construction for a life indeed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:54 PM
horizontal rule
99

Speaking of Boston transit, if one wanted to visit that city without driving all the way in, could one park overnight at a commuter rail station?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:56 PM
horizontal rule
100

I can't believe none of you have mole recipes to recommend. Am I going to have to Google this?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:57 PM
horizontal rule
101

Yes. Alewife station is the most obvious place to park and ride your way in, but it depends on where you'd be coming from.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 8:59 PM
horizontal rule
102

100: I've never tried to make it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:00 PM
horizontal rule
103

First you need to tell us what kind of mole you've got. Star-nosed?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:01 PM
horizontal rule
104

101: From the south.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:02 PM
horizontal rule
105

Alewife isn't actually commuter rail -- it's just the last stop on the red line, which line brings you most conveniently into town. Alewife features a large parking garage; it's possible that fees there could add up if you're going to be in town for days and days.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
106

104: In that case you'll have to ask the resident Bostonians. I don't know the southerly direction.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
107

You can park at most of the stations on the Providence and Franklin commuter train lines, or at Riverside on the Green D line.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:09 PM
horizontal rule
108

Oh, well that doesn't sound difficult.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:11 PM
horizontal rule
109

Clarification: The Green D line is light rail. It runs more often and is cheaper than the commuter train, but it's slow.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:11 PM
horizontal rule
110

Is there a difference between light and commuter rail in terms of required footware?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:18 PM
horizontal rule
111

Sounds like we need an experiment to find out.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 9:52 PM
horizontal rule
112

Wow, lots of hate for a guy who's probably saved hundreds of African children for malaria by the age of 25. Do people really think that his work for a hedge fund is advancing the decline of the fabric of civilization at a rate nearly enough to outweigh saving hundreds of children from malaria? Or even saving 10 kids from malaria? 10 kids. I think what he's doing is great.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 10:18 PM
horizontal rule
113

What if his hedge fund invests heavily in Bangladeshi textile factories?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-13 10:20 PM
horizontal rule
114

Hey Charley--I doubt you're cooking at 2 in the morning but it's hard to go wrong w/ Rick Bayless. Have not tried these specific recipes but it's available free: http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/view?recipeID=225
http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/chicken-in-oaxaca-yellow-mole-with-green-beans-and-chayote-or-potatoes


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 1:47 AM
horizontal rule
115

I can't believe none of you have mole recipes to recommend.

No, but here's a recipe for dormouse. I'm sure you could adapt it. (Laser, aka Silphium, is a herb that went extinct in antiquity. Substitute a small pinch of asafoetida.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 3:09 AM
horizontal rule
116

Joking aside, if you find a stranded starfish you probably have a moral duty to throw it back, but I'm not sure you have a moral duty to spend your life patrolling the beach to look for them, unless you really like being a beach bum. On the other hand, if huge numbers of starfish have repeatedly been cast up on your local beach, and you have a ton of money, you should probably give some of it to the experts who are trying to find out why, and if they find out that the root cause is human activity, then give some more to the people who are lobbying to change or stop that activity.

The analogy has now been stretched to breaking point, and I ban myself.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 3:46 AM
horizontal rule
117

The other problem with this as a plan is weakness of will. How long will this last surrounded by enormously money-minded people with vast amounts of money? My bet would be that school fees will be the first crack in the wall.

generalisation: if you can imagine x as an OK-ish class discussion subject, it's not good enough. I think learning to defend abstract propositions without regard to content as an intellectual exercise may be worse for us than we think (see FP's recent "liberal case for autonomous weapons" thing). It is, literally, sophistry as in "making like a sophist" and there's a reason the term got Englished as a pejorative.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:14 AM
horizontal rule
118

Also, charity seems like a highly inefficient way of allocating scarce resources. There's all the money that gets spent promoting the charity so that it can raise more money, plus there is a huge fundraising bias in favor of the more charismatic and popular causes.

There's also the reality that the tax deduction for charitable contributions (which costs the treasury $40 billion p.a.) distorts giving in favor of the pet causes / institutions of the rich. Eighty-four percent of the benefits of the deduction accrue to the top 20% of income earners, and 38% to the top 1%. Not surprisingly, less than a third of charitable contributions (on generous assumptions) actually benefit the poor.

Inefficient and regressive as it may be, the deduction for charitable contributions is utterly immune to reform, because the higher ed and foundation types go to the barricades to defend it every time the issue comes up.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:45 AM
horizontal rule
119

Yeah, I mean, given that there is a pretty direct line from working on IT > making people more dependent on IT > everyone needs a new smartphone > exploitative labor practices and extractive industries, I am very dubious about the foundations of this business of "earn more to give away more." As it is, I see only two meaningful courses of action: live to further capitalism to the nth degree, thereby bringing things to their logical conclusion; or remove yourself from the system to the greatest extent possible and do whatever you can to disrupt, destabilize and destroy the institutions and artifacts of civilization. Everything else is basically just rearranging deck chairs on the Mary Celeste.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:52 AM
horizontal rule
120

118: Those are good points too. Everyone should read The Revolution Will Not Be Funded by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:54 AM
horizontal rule
121

You can't change the system if you buy into it that much, and charities can only do so much good unless the system is changed.

I haven't read the thread, so I'm probably pwned.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 5:04 AM
horizontal rule
122

||
Oh my Jesus, who actually takes actual baths?! Dying to get into bathroom, listening to splish-sploosh rubber ducky noises.
|>


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 5:44 AM
horizontal rule
123

If fake accent comes, we must have a meetup. In this heat I would not drink anything.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 5:47 AM
horizontal rule
124

If fake accent comes, we could have fake accent and Awl, if we only had an Awl.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:13 AM
horizontal rule
125

||

Carry on masturbating to Lou Reed.

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:18 AM
horizontal rule
126

I actually feel pretty conflicted about the high-frequency-trading-for-charity guy. Objectively speaking, it's great that he donated $50k to a reasonable-seeming charity last year. That's probably more than I'll ever do. But it seems so crass that he took that job solely for the money, when (as the article points out) he could be working on so many other things that might have more intrinsic value. It bothers me that both his talent, and his contribution to charity, are being measured solely in financial terms.


Posted by: torrey pine (YK) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:32 AM
horizontal rule
127

Is there a difference between light and commuter rail in terms of required footware?

Light rail has higher acceleration, so requires shoes with a better grip?


Posted by: torrey pine (formerly YK) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:35 AM
horizontal rule
128

I guess I'm not that conflicted about the individual choices here. If those high paying jobs are going to get done by someone, and they are, then isn't it better that the excess cash save kids in Africa than getting wasted on hookers and blow? And, sure, while these kids might do more good if they changed the system, we shouldn't fool ourselves that that is actually an alternative. Isn't the better question whether they are doing more good than working unsuccessfully to change the system?

Yes, it's too bad that those kids in Africa are in the situation they are in, and that the richest country on earth can only help them through individual initiative, rather than collective action. But that's no more the fault of these kids than it is of you, me, and that asshole up the block who thinks government is Too Big. Much less, in fact, since they're 25, and the society they find themselves in is no creation of theirs.

I'm as annoyed by earnest sanctimony as the next guy, and have to avoid mirrors on account of it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:53 AM
horizontal rule
129

The thing that gets me (in addition to the air of smugness) is that these people are chosing to use their smarts and talents at Wall St (or elsewhere in the machine) and sending their money, where money is probably less critical (and more fungible) than innovation and talent for solving longstanding problems. Also, it's kind of a big fuck you to folks who need guide dogs or some other thing that wasn't as worthy as saving a life. Sorry, I just can't get behind the metric of the disability adjusted life year as the only metric for success in charitable giving.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:21 AM
horizontal rule
130

128 -- the individual choice seemed to be "what, as a deeply idealistic talented young person, should you do with your life" and offering up "making lots of money for relatively evil companies and then giving about half of it away" as a purportedly better answer than working in some form of public service. That seems pretty dubious for a number of reasons.

But I think we can all agree that it's better for wealthy people to give lots if money away than not, as long as it doesn't crash the market for luxury sports cars, which would be a horrible aesthetic loss to civilization.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:44 AM
horizontal rule
131

Also, it's kind of a big fuck you to folks who need guide dogs or some other thing that wasn't as worthy as saving a life.

This was definitely the part of the article that irritated me the most.

I feel more or less indifferent to the rest of it, I think, although that is possibly (probably) due to the WaPo framing rather than an actual response to the content. All these people are probably very nice in real life.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:48 AM
horizontal rule
132

For some personality types, writing a check is better than interacting with the unfortunate.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:59 AM
horizontal rule
133

For some personality types, the unfortunate would rather not interact with them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 8:14 AM
horizontal rule
134

The world would be a better place if everyone prayed to St. Joseph and spent 30 minutes in silent contemplation each day.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 8:15 AM
horizontal rule
135

the market for luxury sports cars, which would be a horrible aesthetic loss to civilization.

ms bill and I are on a road trip for our wedding anniversary and pulled into a hotel yesterday with our rented Toyota Yaris (c'mon, I got a deal). Just behind us? A red Maserati convertible - spectacular. The valet parkers very nicely asked how we liked our car and didn't say a word to the Maserati driver.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 8:28 AM
horizontal rule
136

126: It bothers me that both his talent, and his contribution to charity, are being measured solely in financial terms.

This. It keeps striking me as a variant on the ways in which better-off people solve problems by throwing money at them, feeling that that makes them capable problem-solving persons. In fact, throwing money means hiring other people to do the work. Given the economic structure of modern societies, someone's got to come up with some money somewhere along the line, but I guess I'd prefer that the young money-making powerhouses keep the nature of their acts in clear perspective.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 8:42 AM
horizontal rule
137

This thread seems remarkably judgmental to me. Yeah, the guy might seem a little annoying in some ways, but speaking as someone who unambiguously contributes nothing useful to the world, it's pretty hard for me to criticize a guy who's funneling large amounts of money to malaria prevention. Maybe the rest of you are all saving more lives and restructuring society toward our inevitable utopian future or whatever, in which case, fire away.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 8:55 AM
horizontal rule
138

Yeah, it's not the individuals that get me, it's the interpretation of their actions in the article. It goes in the direction of "Don't hate finance, look where those incomes can be put!" -- with plausible deniability, of course.

Actually the article reads a bit like it was intended to be about this trend of charity impact analysis, but then was framed with the Wall Street stuff at the beginning, with a headline to suit.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:06 AM
horizontal rule
139

@137 I don't think it's the funneling large amounts of money to malaria prevention part that's bothering people. It's the idea that working for an entity as incredibly toxic as the current finance industry is easily cancelled out by giving some money to charity.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
140

Further to 136, I looked for the Will MacAskill paper ("Want an ethical career? Become a banker") mentioned in Matthews' piece, and find this. Concluding paragraph:

In general, the charitable sector is people-rich but money-poor. Adding another person to the labor pool just isn't as valuable as providing more money so that more workers can be hired. You might feel less directly involved because you haven't dedicated every hour of your day to charity, but you'll have made a much bigger difference.

It is a bit difficult to argue with that, though I do wonder whether the charitable sector that provides, say, mosquito netting to ward off malaria -- the people on the ground -- is really that rife with aspiring workers. It's incredibly difficult work, from what I've understood.

The linked article talks about deliberately, or just incidentally, making a boatload of money in order to enable the hiring of people to do the scut-work that you're unwilling to do yourself. As a baldly realist assessment of the way the world works, fair enough; as anything remotely approaching a reordering of extreme income inequality, not so much.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
141

139: But a lot of the critical comments are directed at someone who works at Google.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:28 AM
horizontal rule
142

A lot of the comments are pulling back from being too critical of the Google guy, especially relative to the finance people.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
143

Or saying that although what the google guy is doing is good, he's still does the sort of things that we like to make fun of here.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
144

A lot of the comments are pulling back from being too critical of the Google guy, especially relative to the finance people.

This. It's the implicit "See? Those banksters are just a bunch of good hearted folks after all!" message that irked me.

I suppose was at least a bit prone to think "Dude, get over yourself" about the google guy, but he's actually doing something worthwhile with his money. And google at least produces stuff that people find useful as opposed to destroying the economy and collecting huge bonuses for doing it.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:46 AM
horizontal rule
145

Yeah, fine, I guess this is the Internet Mean Girls place, after all. Maybe I'm a little touchy after spending two weeks dealing with people whose attitude toward everything they encounter seems to be "it'll never be good enough, so why bother doing anything at all?"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
146

speaking as someone who unambiguously contributes nothing useful to the world,

You are seriously undervaluing knowledge here. From what I've read in the popular press about your research, it seems like it has a lot of obvious value to a lot of people who, like, what to know how the universe works.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 9:57 AM
horizontal rule
147

You pretend it's inevitable
Because you really don't care
Just worry about things you can change
Like the color of your hair


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 10:00 AM
horizontal rule
148

But I believe in this-and it's been tested by research
He who fucks nuns will later join the church


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 10:01 AM
horizontal rule
149

146.2: I spend my time thinking up theories that will be proven wrong. At best, that helps figure out how the universe doesn't work.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 10:01 AM
horizontal rule
150

||

I'm put in mind of this diatribe from ogged back in the day. A memorable, serious, true-ogged diatribe.

|>


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 10:03 AM
horizontal rule
151

I think Google is also fairly toxic, or not any less toxic than say General Motors or Dow Chemical or Pfizer or any other large American company. Better than finance, mostly, but way worse than whatever Essear does.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
152

There is no way that essear's employer is less toxic than Google. (And I say that from a place of love as an alumnus.) In fact, one could argue that to first approximation essear is working for a finance company, though the profits go to a different place than most finance companies (which makes it better than a typical finance company, but arguably worse than what the people in this article are doing).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
153

I think there's a huge environmental difference between google on the one hand (whose negative impact on the environment is pretty small) and companies like GM, Dow, or Pfizer.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:11 AM
horizontal rule
154

152 makes a good point I suppose. 153 is ludicrously wrong, or more precisely assigns only social benefits and no costs to one set of firms while doing the reverse to another one.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:18 AM
horizontal rule
155

152: Ha!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:22 AM
horizontal rule
156

I don't think it's very useful to make hard-and-fast distinctions between Giant Corporation X and Giant Corporation Y. By and large they are owned by the same people, managed by the same people, supplied by the same suppliers and marketed to the same consumers. Certainly we can say that Glaxosmithkline is worse than Pfizer by some particular metric, but overall? They do the same shit.

If these goody-two-shoes types really want to help, why don't they get medical training and go work for MSF for some token wage and all found? Or live in a cheaper area of the country than Cambridge, where you could live below the tax line and thus not pay war taxes? At the end of the day, aggregating with all the other employees, your net contribution to a corporation should be in excess of your compensation, or eventually the corporation will go out of business. So if you've advanced global capital by $160,000/year, and your gross pay is $80,000, and you're donating $30,000, pretty much any way you slice it you've done more harm than good.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:23 AM
horizontal rule
157

where you could live below the tax line and thus not pay war taxes?

Oh, for fuck's sake.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:25 AM
horizontal rule
158

I don't buy 156.2, but 156.1 is basically completely right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
159

157: Admittedly, that's not the path I would choose in every case, but the less work you do to create value for corporations, the less you're contributing to the problem. You're not solving anything, of course, but then if we're assuming an essentially reformist perspective for these folx, nothing they could countenance is ever going to solve anything.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
160

Google is awesome for the world! Without Google we wouldn't be able to find stuff on the Internet so easily.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
161

I would think that Essear's work has a small but non-zero chance of opening a wormhole that destroys the Earth and that he has the most toxic job of all by an expected utility calculation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:33 AM
horizontal rule
162

I think the google guy is living under the tax line. (It's a little tricky to tell without knowing the details of his retirement accounts, and AMT might come in as well.)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
163

Hmm. Searching for "[my employer] is evil" in Google seems to mostly turn up offhand comments, things that are incoherent, or conservatives who think its evil derives from being too liberal. Searching for "[my employer] is a finance company" returns no direct quotes. Searching for "[my employer] is a hedge fund" turns up a lot of reasonable-looking stuff.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:38 AM
horizontal rule
164

I'm put in mind of this diatribe from ogged back in the day. A memorable, serious, true-ogged diatribe.

Thanks for that link.

I was going to make a different comment but now I'm reading the comments on that thread and it's an interesting companion to this discussion.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:40 AM
horizontal rule
165

Pfizer's a tougher case, but I seriously don't understand the argument that Google is no better than GM or Dow


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:40 AM
horizontal rule
166

||

As the cases of bottled water and energy drinks stacked in the corner of the Yapalaters' dining room attest, the family is cost conscious...

The NYT is fuuunny.

|>


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:52 AM
horizontal rule
167

One might, if one were feeling particularly low as the ticker-tape of college reunion status updates scrolls down the ol' Livre des Visages, argue that the rising "watch me mortify myself; no, seriously, watch me; also, please give me a book deal" content on the Internet is an unseemly touchdown dance in the endzone of history.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 12:58 PM
horizontal rule
168

I think I've mentioned before, but each kid we had we donated $1k to planned parenthood- since we were able to choose the number and spacing of our kids, we want others to be able to as well. Or we're just buying indulgences for the sin of bringing more (per Ogged, PBUH) world destroying white middle class people into being.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
169

That's $1000 you could have invested in their college fund, you moral monster.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 1:38 PM
horizontal rule
170

That's $1000 you could have invested in their college fund, you moral monster.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 1:38 PM
horizontal rule
171

Apparently, SP has two kids.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 1:51 PM
horizontal rule
172

Two white kids, racist.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 2:05 PM
horizontal rule
173

That's $2000 you could have spent on collectible pogs.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 2:13 PM
horizontal rule
174

MsF doctors could possibly sneer at the OP people, although I'm pretty sure MsF accepts their money, but there is a bit of reproach for every merely pleasant dollar spent by a liberal who doesn't want to bring the system down. Which includes me, most of the time; I feel a sting from 10% and do not want to move in with parents to give more money away. Pay a lot not to, in fact.

Anyone else read Sharon Astyk?

I actually did leave a crazy-rich-making industry to do something I thought had good externalities. I still hope the university system does more to establish what we should do to keep ecosystems supporting us and a few other species than it does to identify and legitimize Jeavons-profitable extraction, but I am not at all sure, and the more time my colleagues spend in poor countries the more they argue otherwise -- which does not get them grants, it loses grants.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 2:50 PM
horizontal rule
175

174.2 I am friends with her via secret fostering discussion groups, which I guess I disclosed already when she wrote her post about fostering. I'm really intrigued to see how many people here read her, which I think is a good thing!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 2:52 PM
horizontal rule
176

150: That was an excellent post. One of his best.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 3:41 PM
horizontal rule
177

yes of course, finance is simply evil and destroys the world, while also producing nothing but simply shuffling paper around. what unholy self-righteous morons you people are.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 3:41 PM
horizontal rule
178

I've actually been waiting eagerly for DSquared to chime in on this. Please say more!


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 3:47 PM
horizontal rule
179

177: I was going to point out that finance provides any number of goods to the economy, but I figured I would let some non-anarchist, non-anti-capitalist get in with that one.

Speaking of which, has anyone heard anything from personal contacts in Turkey? I've seen a couple of things now from anarchists, and am reading the BBC article, but it is hard to tell exactly what is happening.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 3:56 PM
horizontal rule
180

Finance, like GM, Pfizer, Dow Chemical, etc, provides some good to the economy while also massively and uselessly overcompensating a bunch of complete fuckheads and otherwise generally being an evil industry. Finance is perhaps somewhat unique in that in its current form it has been particularly responsible for destroying the country to the benefit of the extremely wealthy. The point is that these folks are netting out evil, not that everything every financier has ever done is evil. But some folks are pretty clearly touchy on the subject.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
181

Destroying the country is bad now?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
182

177: that sure set everyone straight! Well done!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
183

what unholy self-righteous morons you people are.

I cannot speak for other commenters, but it isn't really the province of us poor sinners to stake a claim to holiness.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
184

181 -- its democracy has failed, and as you know there is but one solution.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
185

184: Food fight?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 4:49 PM
horizontal rule
186

Don't sell them short, dsquared; it's not all world destroying evil. There's also the petty evil of price fixing, market manipulation, and money laundering.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 5:01 PM
horizontal rule
187

Tangentially to Natilo's Q above: An interesting take on social media and the Turkish protests: http://bit.ly/17KlJlX


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 5:42 PM
horizontal rule
188

But this type of thing - and often charities in general - make me a little sad as they symbolize the death of collective action.

Agreed. And don't just symbolize it, but signal it, reflect it.

I also generally have a deep and maybe not all that well thought out negative reaction to a lot of the Silicon Valley/wall street giving analysis type stuff.

... as anything remotely approaching a reordering of extreme income inequality, not so much.

I've been procrastinating on commenting on this thread all day. Because I think the conversation is interesting, but I just don't have a strong emotional reaction either way to the people described in the original article.

Ultimately I think they are doing a good thing. Are they doing the very best thing possible? Almost certainly not, but who is? Does their project smack of vanity and ego? Sure, but is that so bad?

I also don't feel very moved by the, "working in finance is evil" argument because, heck, if he wasn't doing the job somebody else would. If he is either making unique contributions to high frequency trading or failing to make unique contributions in some other field (curing cancer was mentioned in the article) that would be unfortunate, but I don't think we can assume that either of those things are true.

I think the real objection is the arguments quoted above (and those in the rant that parsimon linked to) -- are they ignoring avenues to collective action, and do they concede to much to a fundamentally unjust and unfair system? I think they are clearly choosing individual action over collective, and that makes me sad but, personally, I can't judge them too harshly for that.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
189

That was me.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
190

I don't actually have anything against what these specific people are doing. I was mostly just annoyed at Matthews's implication that this is a better way to accomplish societal goals than public service or government action.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
191

190 is how I feel as well.

Am I the only one who thinks "JOIN WALL STREET" could be the slogan on a billboard that someone dies underneath in a 1930s crime film? Probably.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:17 PM
horizontal rule
192

190 is correct. That teo!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:19 PM
horizontal rule
193

No, this teo!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:20 PM
horizontal rule
194

A green and yellow beo.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:29 PM
horizontal rule
195

This post to 190. I don't think Matthews is the only one making that implication.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:32 PM
horizontal rule
196

I was mostly just annoyed at Matthews's implication that this is a better way to accomplish societal goals than public service or government action.

I thought Matthews presented that as their belief (and was perhaps slightly too credulous). I doubt he would write for wonkblog if he actually believed that. But I haven't gone back to re-read the article.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
197

I will amend my 191 to say that it's the view that's being presented, and less who is presenting it that I'm skeptical of.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:38 PM
horizontal rule
198

197: Right, me too. I don't particularly care if it's Matthews buying into the argument or just describing it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:40 PM
horizontal rule
199

I will amend my 191 to say that it's the view that's being presented, and less who is presenting it that I'm skeptical of.

Oh, I'm skeptical as well. But I still think they get credit for actually doing something to try to make a positive impact on the world.

It's true that, perhaps, it just sets up somebody else to come along and claim to be following in their footsteps except this next person only gives less money and is more actively libertarian in their politics, but wants the same credit. That person would be very irksome. But for those two, I think their action is impressive enough that I'm inclined to tip my hat to them and agree to disagree on the larger picture.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
200

180: Agreed with most of Halford's criticisms of finance, to which I might add corrupting the political system in order to preserve their pursuit of profits. But you don't have to stretch very hard to see the social benefits of finance, either.

Silicon Valley over the last sixty years would have been a much lonelier place if you limited it to companies that were able to fund their own growth entirely out of founder's capital plus accumulated profits. Anyone with a conventional pension or 401(k) has benefited substantially from the finance industry, though this is partially offset by those who saw their pension funds looted by the same. The classical justification for financial markets is that they allow for the transfer of risk from individuals and firms to broader markets that can more easily diversify away much of the specific risk associated with an individual firm, and this is often true.

So there are definite social benefits, even though we are all too aware of the social costs when the financiers screw up.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 06- 1-13 11:07 PM
horizontal rule
201

If this guy really wants to do good in a counterintuitive way, he should work as a fundraiser for a really unpopular but worthy cause. Nothing says he has to make it himself.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
202

Belatedly, I made mole from scratch once - it took five people six hours. Do not recommend (or recommend if you have friends like mine who would enjoy helping you and providing snacks). Bittman's recipe (from the how to cook everything in the world cookbook) was equivalent once you added more chillies and chocolate. Or just add extra chocolate to the jarred stuff and it'll taste about the same.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 3:40 PM
horizontal rule
203

Similar mole story.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 3:56 PM
horizontal rule
204

On the original post, the people profiled seem vaguely silly to me, but also like they're doing much more good in the world than I am, so I'm not going to judge them. My big project these days is wondering if I have the energy to volunteer for a mayoral campaign.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 3:57 PM
horizontal rule
205

Weren't you just talking about how you weren't even sure who to vote for? Volunteering for a campaign seems like a big leap from that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
206

204 -- No, they'll pay you if you get elected mayor. And then you can give all the money to charity.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
207

Volunteering for a campaign seems like a big leap from that.

Only if you value your time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
208

The link in 195 is interesting and illustrates part of what's frustrating about this sort of thinking. Already-existing institutions are taken as almost part of the landscape, and change within them, essentially impossible. The employees of [insert evil category of your choice] institutions, for example, are seen as almost completely fungible, their net contributions to good or evil always apparently at replacement level despite their compensation and selection depending precisely on an ideology of massive differences in ability and performance. Voluntary contributions to charities, however, seem to exist entirely outside this general-equilibrium framework--as if the nonprofit organizations don't have year-to-year budgets and fundraising targets and so on.

And this Jeff guy doesn't seem to acknowledge the intractability of the "now-from-never" problem of social change as far as probabilistic estimation goes; it's very easy to model mechanisms where if N people pick action A, the good outcome happens with 100% probability, whereas if only N/2 people do it, the probability is 0%, and each person's decision is heavily dependent on beliefs about others' decisions and so on. And these aren't just toy models--it's pretty clear that's what's going on in a lot of relevant examples of social and political change.

I don't have any of the answers, of course. (Well, I have some: replacing elections with random lot, and abolishing copyrights and patents. But you already knew that.) But it's clear that the sort of decision calculus Jeff is engaging in is massively biased against funding precisely the sort of social/political movements that, for example, built the European welfare states of the 20th century. Or, much more recently, the sort of work that Sor/os did in Eastern & Central Europe in the twilight years of the Cold War and after.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
209

Oh, hey, trapnel, I shared. Your wool-trafficking story with the one member of my knitting group who would appreciate it and she very much did.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
210

Glad to hear it!


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 7:34 PM
horizontal rule
211

I didn't read all of 208, but I skimmed enough that I'm going to assume that estimating probabilities is the best thing you go to for the world.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
212

Goddamn you, Moby, that was a very serious, thoughtful, argument, one which has never before been made in such detail or with such care.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06- 2-13 10:02 PM
horizontal rule
213

Late to the party. Wish to support trapnel's great comment in 208, and also add: If by midcareer you achieve success and influence in almost any field you can have a significant positive impact. But the key is that you need to preserve an accurate perspective on how the world works and avoid ideological capture by the imperatives of the profession. To the extent that these guys have adopted a theory of social change that says that progress works through rich individuals buying mosquito nets, they are dead wrong and not well equipped to avoid intellectual/ideological capture by various toxic beliefs that circulate in finance. That will limit the good they can do (although they can buy some mosquito nets, which is nice) and maybe lead them to do harm.

So my general advice to people is to do whatever turns you on and you think you will be successful at, but also keep your ideology, analysis, and ethics straight. If you achieve something you will have the chance to put those into effect. A Wall Street or elite consulting (e.g. McKinsey) background is one of the best ways to get a position in e.g. the Obama Administration.

The other piece of advice I give is that the best way to make change in America is to get rich and either buy a politician or get into government. We need a couple more George Soros, or a left-wing Bloomberg.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 12:53 PM
horizontal rule
214

I find PGD's praise of my comment very wise.

I honestly have no idea how one would be able to maintain, say, a faith in the importance of worker codetermination or the fundamental misguidedness of profit-maximization as the key to capital allocation through a 30-year career as a financier or elite consultant. Some do it, I suppose. But psychologically, very difficult.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 2:49 PM
horizontal rule
215

I know people who come out of finance pretty pissed off at finance. Apparently you see a lot of crap. Anyway, Soros and to a lesser extent Warren Buffet seem to have kept their heads on straight.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 3:41 PM
horizontal rule
216

The day that Bella Abzug died I got into a fight,
it was more like a discussion with a guy who
always thought that he was right.
He tried to talk to me about changing things from the inside:
"Corporations only pay you when you're on their side,"


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
217

working for google is not the same kind of societal ill as working on finance


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 4:00 PM
horizontal rule
218
The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism. This is the principal thesis in my book, "Cypherpunks." But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us that the death of privacy will aid governments in "repressive autocracies" in "targeting their citizens," they also say governments in "open" democracies will see it as "a gift" enabling them to "better respond to citizen and customer concerns." In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the "good" societies closer to the "bad" ones.
The section on "repressive autocracies" describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations. All of these are already in widespread use in the United States.

(from the link in 217)


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
219

212: When you have a hammer....


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
220

Addendum: Google has just sent me an e-mail asking if I will participate in a user survey about Google Drive. If they pick me, I get $175. Will await your suggestions for the best use of the money (if I even get chosen).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 5:34 PM
horizontal rule
221

Penn State legal defense fund or Oxfam.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 5:40 PM
horizontal rule
222

One of those things is not like the other.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 5:54 PM
horizontal rule
223

One of them isn't going to be paid by my taxes regardless of the merits.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 5:56 PM
horizontal rule
224

A Wall Street or elite consulting (e.g. McKinsey) background is one of the best ways to get a position in e.g. the Obama Administration.

an example of ideological capture, or efficacy, or both?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06- 3-13 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
225

Felix Salmon responds to this story, and is moderately skeptical, for reasons similar to those given in this thread:

Finally, and most importantly, there's GiveWell's built-in bias towards relatively small-scale, replicable and quantifiable interventions. (Robin Hood has the same bias, for the same reasons.) Such actions are an important part of the philanthropic universe, but the Robin Hood and GiveWell types have a tendency to become evangelical about the way in which virtually all charities should adopt such a framework, and that, I think, is a very bad idea, for reasons that Rob Reich explored in his Boston Review essay about foundations.

Reich explains that things like bed nets are public goods, best provided by the state. And that philanthropies are best placed to do something else entirely: they "can operate on a longer time horizon than can businesses in the marketplace and elected officials in public institutions," he says, "taking risks in social policy experimentation and innovation that we should not routinely expect to see in the commercial or state sector." He continues . . .

. . .

Jason Trigg, in this light, is not a moral hero equivalent to a man who has saved dozens of children from drowning; instead, he starts to look more like someone contracting a third party to provide a service which is probably best provided at the state level in the first place. There's nothing bad about what he's doing -- far from it. But I do think that what he does is limited along a number of axes, and that if he spent less time working at high-frequency trading, and more time out in the field learning about the way that non-profit develop organizations work in practice, then he might develop a richer, more nuanced, and probably humbler view of what his financial contributions can and can't achieve in reality.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 3:02 PM
horizontal rule
226

I should read the Reich article, but I'm dubious about ruling out services that the state ought to provide while they manifestly don't. Seems to me (and Deborah Spain) that most of those services had a generation or so of charitable provision before the state grudgingly took it up (sometimes forced by the newfound political energy of people newly in decent health).

Tl;dr: bootstrapping is hard.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 4:37 PM
horizontal rule
227

In Stata it is pretty easy:

bootstrap rmse=e(rmse), reps(x) seed(y): regress (Your model)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 4:58 PM
horizontal rule
228

225: Man, I've had my differences with Salmon in the past, but by and large that piece is spot on.

I especially liked this part (just before what NickS quoted):

Instead, however, I think that GiveWell faces three very big problems. The first is model risk: although GiveWell is very open about the models that it's using, there's no particular reason to believe that they are robust; obviously, their recommendations are no better than the models used to generate them.
The second is that GiveWell imposes a substantial burden on the large number of charities it investigates and doesn't recommend; that burden carries a real cost.

This other Salmon article on philanthropy is pretty good too, overall.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 7:09 PM
horizontal rule
229

Seems to me (and Deborah Spain) that most of those services had a generation or so of charitable provision before the state grudgingly took it up (sometimes forced by the newfound political energy of people newly in decent health).

Man, I've had my differences with Salmon in the past, but by and large that piece is spot on.

I'm still in the camp of thinking that the people profiled in the article are basically doing a good thing, and that if that's what they're motivated to do, I'm certainly not going to try to talk them out of it.

But, I think Felix Salmon does a good job of fleshing out a critique of "quantitative philanthropy" in way that extends the misgivings that people expressed earlier in the thread.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
230

But the alternative Salmon proposes to quantitative philanthropy is so expensive that his examples are Gates and Buffet, though. Making the multibillionaire perfect the enemy of the good leaves us imperfect people with ... what?

More importantly, I think most of his complaints apply even there. E.g., if I've decided to work on (or donate my mite to) a long-term, very hard problem, I need a model to decide which problem. Once I have a problem, there are some range of probable approaches and their associated foundations; maybe my model will also tell me which to try, but someone is going to need to quantify whether I think the approaches being worked on are worth my finite resources or not -- or at least order them, and the easiest ordering IRL is usually quantification.

I don't get what alternative is proposed, and usually didn't earlier in the thread. It isn't my experience that most charities need more fulltime volunteers than money, since the volunteers they have are not making a living wage (and therefore are regularly wiped out by exhaustion, or health problems; or are supported by their families). Political action? Completely instead of things that help people now? That reminds me of the joke ?) about Bolshevists forgoing charity because it only delays the revolution.

I know a few people on the old model of `retire with a competence and some vigor, work on the really intractable social problems until one of the three is gone'. Pity retirement's becoming rarer.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
231

Once again, I would fain commend to your attention The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. Might be the most important book of the century.

The non-profit industrial complex is not broken. It is serving its purpose admirably. Protecting entrenched interests, maintaining class stratification, preventing (and often actively subverting) more democratic alternatives of wealth redistribution from arising. There's about 8 million examples in every field of non-profit work.

I don't know if Salmon's recommendations would actually do much if they were widely adopted. Sure, I'd love it if my non-profit got more cash up front, and less stupid advice about how to spend it (or stupid rules, in the case of the big funders). But any solution that relies on individuals voluntarily changing, via moral suasion, is pretty certainly going to fail.

In conclusion, burn shit down.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
232

That will be a fun one to order through Left Bank Books. Before shit burns down. I am too bourgeoise to burn shit in the active voice.

There's better to do with it, anyway.

The fork on which popular opinion roasts those who would change it: are you suffering as much as possible to bring your goals about? No? Then you don't really believe them. Yes? Well, you couldn't expect anyone else to do that, it's much too hard!


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 8:11 PM
horizontal rule
233

I don't get what alternative is proposed, and usually didn't earlier in the thread.

I didn't see Salmon as identifying anything as the "perfect" form of philanthropy. I saw him as laying out some of the inevitable tradeoffs at work in any philanthropic decision.

To me, that's a much-needed corrective for a certain subset of semi-philanthropic people who are otherwise highly susceptible to magical thinking of the quantitative variety.

Obviously, I'm working with a pretty different set of biases overall, though. For example, I have a dear friend who is very devoted to animal rights and ethical vegetarianism. But I don't subscribe to a worldview that says there is some way we could calculate which is the "best possible" way to spend our time and I should quit my work and follow *her* passion if the numbers said I should.

By the same token, I don't want/expect other people to be as consumed with my particular interests as I am.

Basically, when it comes to philanthropy, my feeling is:

First, do no harm.

Second, do something that holds meaning or value for you in some way (give to lung cancer charity because your mom died of it, or whatever).

Third, invest a proportionate amount of time/energy in verifying that the avenue you're choosing is basically legit (meaning, if you spend more than $10 of your time for a $100 donation, it's too much).

Finally, don't sweat the details and acknowledge from the start that there WILL be some amount of waste in your dollar. Get over it.

(If the person is unusually thoughtful I add a caveat to #2: Consider a uncharismatic or problematic cause -- eg harm reduction or something. Everybody wants to pay for hungry kids, nobody wants to pay for adult male substance abusing homeless people.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 8:40 PM
horizontal rule
234

Smooth W gets it right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 8:52 PM
horizontal rule
235

Before shit burns down. I am too bourgeoise to burn shit in the active voice.

That was active.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 8:55 PM
horizontal rule
236

233.last: Actually, I can deal with paying for them, I just wish they'd help out with the dishes once in awhile.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-10-13 8:56 PM
horizontal rule