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mhendric

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I think you are being unrealistically harsh on yourself. If I understand you correctly, you donate x% to a charity, and are now adding even more money by selling used manga. You wonder whether this is just an elaborate way of justifying your manga consumption.

I don't see why your manga consumption would require any justification! If physical manga are something you enjoy, it is completely fine to enjoy them. Selling them afterwards to donate more to charity seems like a good move that combines something you like and a way to go above and beyond in your donations. 

The question of why not more donations can always be asked, and this will lead to unrealistically high expectations, miserable lives and burnt-out EAs, all of which is not the most effective way to be. Hence, we set artificial points such as 10% of income (1% for students) as a point to no longer feel obliged to worry about donations. That you seem to have found a way to go above and beyond that point while allowing you to pursue a hobby is not weird or immoral, but rather laudable!

This was an interesting read, and it makes me more excited to recommend LEAF to young people. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

I mainly work with university students but sometimes do small work at high schools. What would you consider useful or underappreciated ways of supporting high school students that seem curious about EA related ideas, aside from LEAF? What are the kinds of advice or mentorship that you'd expect to be most needed or most useful?

I am similarly unenthused about the weird geneticism. 

Insofar as somewhat more altruism in the economy is the aim, sure, why not! I'm not opposed to that, and you may think that e.g. giving pledges or founders pledge are already steps in that direction. But that seems different from what most people think of when you say socialism, which they associate with ownership of means of production, or very heavy state interventionism and planned economy! It feels a tiny bit bailey and motte ish.

To give a bit of a hooray for the survey numbers - at the German unconference, I organized a fishbowl-style debate on economic systems. I was pretty much the only person defending a free market economy, with maybe 3-5 people silently supportive and a good 25 or so folks arguing for strong interventionism and socialism. I think this is pretty representative of the German EA community at least, so there may be country differences. 

Nikhil! I am very glad you wrote this post!
I read this post not as a we should, as EA, advocate socialism, but more as a EA should have more socialists, or people looking into socialism. I want to discuss two ways of pushing back against that particular claim.

Insofar as people decide what to look into, I think the justificatory basis for looking into socialism (as opposed to e.g. standard economic theory, market economy, trade policy) remains somewhat slim. 

You give a first-principle argument that seems neutral between real socialism and a somewhat interventionist market economy a la Europe. Insofar as the latter counts, my sense is that there is quite significant EA research on state interventions and how to support them (e.g. Lead removal projects trying to empower state actors to curb lead), as well as on broader political change (e.g. Social Change Lab is EA-affiliated IIRC) or heterodox economy (e.g. LEP). So for non-hardcore interpretations of socialism, I do see a fair amount of engagement.

You give some examples where somewhat more hardcore socialist countries had positive results - but I think that for at least some of them, e.g. Chinese poverty eradication, the orthodoxy is to understand them as having worked because of a change towards a less socialist system, rather than a more socialist system. So on a loose understanding of socialism, I feel like there's a fair amount of engagement. On a strict understanding of socialism, I feel like there's too thin an evidence base to justify focusing on it over e.g. orthodox economics. This may be because I do not know all examples well enough. 

A second way of pushing back against your claims is that I think you may be simply wrong that there is not a significant amount of socialists in EA. Left seems to be the second-most popular position in EA after center left ( https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/AJDgnPXqZ48eSCjEQ/ea-survey-2022-demographics#Politics ). While EA is often painted as libertarian, there seem to be 7 times as many leftists as libertarians doing the EA survey. I myself had many interesting and insightful conversations with socialists I met in EA (you among them!). I think the impression that EA is very libertarian or neoliberal in membership is wrong. I think it may arise from the fact that in university contexts, those positions are simply so rare that a handful of vocal neoliberal EAs give the impression that EA is hyper-neoliberal.

Anyways, these are two ways in which I'd like to push back against the central claim. I enjoy you push towards thinking more about overlap between socialist and EA thought, and find it productive. 

 

Hey there. Thanks for this post; I am sure many people can relate to your experience. I have found many EA's, especially within the first few years of encountering EA, are incredibly harsh with themselves - often to a highly unproductive degree. I think part of this may be related to moral burnout: as one starts embracing a very demanding ethical theory, there is no longer a clearly visible threshold above which one is 'safe', and can stop worrying. After all, every dollar or minute spent could be better spent elsewhere, or so our short-sighted brains tell us. Suddenly, every decision must be justified. 

I suspect a lot of this comes from a somewhat unfortunate framing. Rather than seeing EA as a way of having an outsized positive impact even with rather limited means, many people seem to see EA as an ideal of how to prioritize their every decision and see themselves as failing when not being able to optimize each and every decision. Your post sounds a bit as if you adopt the latter mindset, scolding yourself for failing to become vegetarian or hanging out with people you are related to (which no Utilitarian would object to!). But notice that there are many ways of helping animals and strangers that don't require you to be a vegetarian/ignoring those you are related to, such as via donations or volunteering. 

I have come to believe that this phenomenon is quite well-studied in other professions that frequently require tradeoffs and unfullfillable moral obligations, such as in healthcare settings. There, it is discussed under the monicker of moral burnout. I am currently working on a research project relating moral burnout and the demandingness of EA and other utilitarian theories. I have presented it to a few academic audiences (I am a philosopher), and I hope to finish the project this year. If I do, I'll post about it on the forum.

I'd also be very interested in compiling different such reports by EAs. I think an emotional first-aid kit may also make sense, but I would not be qualified to help with that.

I find Julia Wise very insightful on this topic. I recommend you check out her work, or maybe even reach out to her!

Cool article. I like the writing style a lot. I hope it helps convince others to do EtG or creates general interest in EA. I myself try to have an impact mainly through recruiting and outreach in academia, so I share much of your enthusiasm. I think encouraging future high-earners (or even low- and mid-earners!) to donate a portion of their income is a great part of that strategy, particularly with folks who would not enter direct work alternatively.

One thing that strikes me as important to add to this basic pitch is the extreme differences in effectiveness of charities. As I see it, a fair amount of people in the US do donate a ton of their money after becoming rich, but they do so in dubious ways - e.g., donating to their Alma Mater or the local hospital. 
 

I think there's some nice downstream effects of encouraging more people to do this. For one, donor diversity is always nice. I also think there may be a fair amount of folks doing this, and then at some point considering more direct involvement, be it part- or full time. 

Thanks for this response, Austin. For me, three things that made me hesitant to use Manifund: 
(1) requires an account
(2) when linking via a google account, the supabase address looks scammy as it is just 15 random characters.
(3) I have to pay money into an account before pledging. Given not all projects may end up taking place, this makes me nervous about wasting money (i.e. if the project does not take place). Compare this to, e.g., Kickstarter, where you only need to pay if the project takes place, yet you can pledge without loading money into Kickstarter.

 

I do think of Manifund as a good fundraiser option; I do think that it is good to have multiple options listed for the reasons explained above.

Thanks, much appreciated. Sent a donation via Paypal.

Based on the posts I read, EA Philippines has always struck me as a really vibrant and enthusiastic community. I hope you achieve your funding aim.

You use manifund to fundraise, and I was wondering why you chose manifund over other platforms. I initially wanted to donate but have not, because it seems it would require me to register an account, and to convert money into some manifund account, both of which seem like a hassle. Maybe others, too, are put off by this. 

Maybe you should add another way of financially supporting EA Philippines. If you do, let me know. I'll gladly make a small donation.

The Ballad of Smallpox Gone is my favourite EA song. It's a banger, with great lyrics and reasonably easy to perform. 

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