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Giving Money to Poor People

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Giving Money to Poor People"

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(cc photo by LateNightTaskForce)

The concept behind the Giving Pledge, namely that rich people should not only give money to charity but should act to increase the level of social pressure on other rich people to do so as well, seems entirely laudable. But insofar as the current era of massive inequality is more-or-less destined to lead to an era of massive charitable giveaways I do think it’s worth trying to subject the whole enterprise to some scrutiny.

For starters, obviously the best thing you can do with your billions is give it to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and especially the blogging division. Alternatively, one could just give me millions of dollars to run a brand new Center for Barber Freedom and Tall Buildings.

Alternatively, one under-discussed possibility is for a guy who has a lot of money and a desire to help poor people to just identify some poor people and give them some money. It sounds banal when you say it, but one of the main obstacles to people being less poor is that they don’t have enough money. If you give them money, they’ll have more of it. Will this be optimal in all cases? Of course not. But in the vast majority of cases, you’ll do some good. It’s tempting to believe that you’re on the merge of some major conceptual breakthrough in the field of philanthropy. But give some consideration to the possibility that you’re not. Perhaps if you have a special talent for anything, it’s a talent for making money. It’s not very hard to identify some people who might need money more than you do. Maybe you should just give them some, and then go back to making money.

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