I'm quite new to Effective Altruism and find the movement compelling.  I'm an investor and sometimes come across business opportunities that could be quite profitable but make me uncomfortable being a part of.  I'm wondering what many of you would decide to do when faced with a hypo like the below:

Suppose a local government has decided to have a casino in their city and have approached you as a possible development/operating partner.   Assume that:

1) You believe casinos should be illegal due to societal harm caused.

2) You would earn superior returns on your time and financial investment in this casino project vs. any other available venture.

3) If you decline the opportunity, the city will proceed with another partner and the casino will be built regardless.

Would you be a part of this project or decline?  Does it matter just how superior the returns are, how high the societal harm is, etc. or does your decision not change?




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In this hypothetical it sounds like you think the harm done will occur regardless, and so the tradeoff is between the additional benefits you can accrue from your ROI, VS the moral discomfort you will have in buying in? So there's both a moral uncertainty based on how strongly you personally think casinos should be illegal, how strongly you think the means justifies the ends (i.e. how important is it that you aren't the one responsible for the harm here, and an empirical Q of how much additional ROI you are actually getting compared to the next best option.

It also depends if this is something done in a personal capacity VS something that an EA organization is doing, because then there are other considerations that are harder to measure. E.g., even if you fully take the "ends justifies means" view, if CEA buys out a bunch of casinos, what negative effect does that have on movement building, and is that worth the marginal extra ROI compared to the next best investment?

1) You believe casinos should be illegal due to societal harm caused.

Here’s an important factor: if you really believe this, you’ll probably do a bad job running a casino. You’ll probably be more successful if you try to run something else.

One might naively think that this isn't relevant to an 'EA' perspective, but I think it's a pretty straightforward application of an EA principle that the ends don't justify the means (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/K9ZaZXDnL3SEmYZqB/ends-don-t-justify-means-among-humans). 

It sounds like the poster would be taking an active role in managing/operating the project, so this makes sense. But would your answer be the same if he were being approached as a passive investor?

Hi there,

I believe declining in it is a better option, as it doesn't provide a long-termist approach to helping the future become better. Choose another project that can in the future be bigger or big enough to probably cover for the negative impact the casino may provide.

I see this problem a present vs. future discussion.

If you want a business approach take, you can look up discussions on how opportunity costs are computed. A relevant economic concept.


Again, for the down votes please specify why my honest comments were inappropriate. Thanks

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