Sergei Garrison

6Joined May 2022


Correct me if I'm wrong--

I think part of what you're saying is that EA has innovated in bringing philanthropy down to a much 'lower' level. It's not just billionaires that can do it. If we look across at other societies with less developed economies, there are plenty of people with worse problems than our own. Even as a middle-class professional in the US, there is plenty of good you can do with a little bit of giving.

Maybe part of the innovation is bringing this to a (largely, I assume) secular community and taking an international perspective? I think of church communities and mutual aid organizations as having done this for many years on highly localized and personalized scales.

Also, re this: "yes, this set of self-proclaimed altruists isn’t having as much fun as they could be or other people are, that’s correct, and an intentional tradeoff they're making in pursuit of their moral goals."

Are we just talking about the survivors' guilt of being born in an advanced capitalist society, benefitting from hundreds of years of imperialist exploitation of other parts of the world?


I'm still relatively new to the large body of historic EA discussion, so I apologize in advance for retreading any ground that the community has already covered.

Recently I've been thinking more and more about the idea that individual altruism is simply not a scalable and sustainable model to improve the world. We have to achieve systemic change that re-aligns incentives across society. I sense a little bit of this between the lines of this article.

There really is nothing an individual can do alone in terms of personal sacrifice of resources that will fix the world simply with that transfer of resources. What we need is systems of government that redistribute resources at scale, taking the burden of such choice away from individuals. Besides this being the only way to alleviate human suffering at scale, it's also the only way to reliably account for externalities.

Imagine an anarchic society that relied solely on individual altruism to help the needy. Would we sit here debating how much individuals should give, or would we be advocating for some sort of government to centralize and formalize the process of resource allocation? Similarly, 10% or 20% is not the issue -- it's about fixing a society that has to rely on individual good will rather than a (better) built-in system of redistribution according to need.

Is the "final form" of EA simply radical, much-more-inclusive democracy?