I think Rhodri Davies produces interesting content that is largely underappreciated in EA. He's particularly strong at providing a historical perspective on philanthropy issues.

The podcast I linked to in this post covers tainted donations -- donations from a source that is considered "bad" in some sense. Typically the key question is whether you should accept or return such funds. You may prefer his twitter thread covering essentially the same content.

This content was produced before it was known that the FTX money was (likely?) from fraudulent activity, and it wasn't designed for an EA audience, but in the current circumstances, EAs might find it to be interesting context.

Those of you who love content in audio format might favour this podcast. However I think its content is of variable interestingness. Here are a few of my opinions:

  • Rhodri talks about St Augustine's views on tainted donations -- this is not very interesting in my view, since it tells us little more than "people were thinking about this topic as early as the 5th century"
  • Similar comments apply to The Venerable Bede
  • Rhodri's coverage of St Aquinas is a bit more interesting. It includes a distinction between "ill-gotten gains" (money from quite bad sources) and "filthy lucre" (actually criminal sources, I think). I still didn't feel like Aquinas had provided us with a clear rationale for this distinction, or even a clear view on whether "alms"/charity from ill-gotten gains was permissible, but at least it felt like there was a bit more interesting content.
  • I found the story about the Paris Guild of Prostitutes interesting. They asked to make a financial contribution to the building of the Notre Dame cathedral, which permitted them to have their trade depicted on the stained glass windows. They suggested that instead of a depiction of their trade being on the stained glass windows (!) there should instead be a depiction of the Virgin (!!)
  • George Bernard Shaw's argument was worth hearing. He claimed that "practically all the spare money in the country consists of a mass of rent, interest and profit, every penny of which is bound up with crime, drink, prostitution, disease, and all the evil fruits of poverty" and "all our money is tainted".

Given that the interestingness of the content was, in my view, variable, I ended up stopping listening the podcast partway through and switched to the twitter thread instead, having noticed that the two seemed to overlap very heavily.




Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:32 PM

Thanks for this summary. While there are many disanalogies between historical examples and current events, I think it's easy for us to neglect the historical evidence and try to reinvent wheels.