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The linked post, "A Sappy Giving Tuesday Post", by Matt Yglesias, is in part an introduction to basic EA ideas (like what Givewell tries to do when they rank their top charities), but it also touches on a variety of important practical considerations for EA that I'd like to see more discussion of on the Forum.  Below are a few paragraphs that I especially liked.

On how EAs should adopt a balanced and humble tone when telling other people about effective giving:

I always find it interesting that casually tossed-off charity recommendations invariably generate less backlash than the brasher claims of Effective Altruist groups that they have identified the One Most Important Cause to support. And as a realist about human nature, I think that’s something EA needs to assimilate. Part of being effective is minimizing backlash, and framing your own recommendations in a way that smacks of arrogance makes people want to take you down a peg.

On how he thinks about the support he gives to other institutions

The article does a good job describing what I think is a common experience of wanting to balance utilitarian EV-maximization versus deontological good citizenship and honorable behavior.  (Of course, recently the Forum is awash in reminders that blatant dishonesty and crime should be unacceptable in the EA movement.  But I would be interested in hearing more discussion of these issues through a lens of smaller-scale, more everyday actions like Matt describes):

Living here in D.C., I have the opportunity to take advantage of a lot of free museums and the National Zoo. I sometimes give to these programs and/or buy memberships whose value doesn’t really pencil out with the understanding that membership is a way to support the institution. But the main reason I do that stuff is because I like these institutions. One of the things I like about them is that they don’t charge admission, so visitors can check them out on a whim and people who couldn’t afford tickets can still enjoy them. But I would not personally struggle to pay an admissions fee to these institutions if they charged one, and I do benefit from their ongoing existence, so I like to pitch in. I do think of this as part of an ethic of trying to be a not-awful person, but it’s really just about being a cooperative member of society — someone who doesn’t free ride — rather than being a truly other-directed gesture.

On Marginal Charity

Throughout, the post emphasizes a multitude of ordinary, but intelligent and EA-informed actions that an ordinary person can take with little effort -- from making more effective political donations to making more helpful contributions at your child's school or local food-bank, the post is a great guide to implementing Robin Hanson's concept of marginal charity in real life:

I worry sometimes that people pay attention to national politics mostly because it’s fun (Eitan Hirsh’s political hobbyism) while telling themselves they are paying attention for high-minded reasons like the fate of the country. I’m not going to tell you to stop following national politics (I’m trying to make a living here), but it really is worth considering that to the extent you follow politics for high-minded reasons, you ought to prioritize your local politics.

Your state and local elected officials are relatively likely to respond to you if you write to them. What’s more, the bar to becoming the best-informed person in your social circle or among your coworkers is probably relatively low. By consistently paying attention to local politics and engaging with local elected officials, you can become a local politics influencer who is telling other people who to vote for and which local pols are hardworking and effective and which are lazy time-servers.

Personally, I would enjoy reading more posts like this -- in addition to describing their directly EA-oriented work and giving, hearing people talk about the various ways that they try to exercise marginal charity in other parts of their life.


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