Just Giving

I was about to post this week on the subject of Mr Philip Green and pension fund deficits when my e-mail pinged that Mr Money Moustache had posted a new entry in his blog. I’ll admit I’ve not been reading MMM as much as I used to – and he doesn’t post as much as he used to either these days  – but I surfed over to see what he was on about.

I do assume that most people who read my blog have a familiarity with Mr Money Moustache as a guru of the FIRE movement, but this week he was focusing on giving money away as opposed to saving or investing it, and it’s quite a substantial amount of giveaway too. As part of his “abundance” philosophy, he’s giving 100k to various charities as a facet of trying to practice what he preaches. As a thinking “dude”, however, he has selected the most “effective” charities to receive a slice of his money (demonstrably, some charities are a LOT much more effective at spending the money than others).

Personally, I still think that I’d find giving this amount of money to charity as hard to do, even if my blog was coining in the $400k that MMM states that his is. I watched the Peter Singer video on TED that he’d posted and, I don’t know, I kind of thought I should have been more moved and motivated than I was at the end of it. I get the arguments, but somehow it leaves me a bit cold. I “understand” that the walking past a child dying in the street is no different, morally, from sitting here in the Costa Coffee shop where I’m writing this, knowing that 19,000 kids will die today around the world, albeit unseen and unheard of by me. I don’t like to think of myself as someone who couldn’t give a toss about this situation, but then again, what can I point to as evidence against it?

I’m a bit more affected by the Gates’ Foundation slogan that “All Lives Have Equal Value”, which pushes you to acknowledge that the fathers and mothers of those 19,000 kids will today feel the same grief over losing their child as those of us in the cushy West would if we lost ours. If I force myself to think about that, and the fact that I could do something to possibly alleviate some of that pain, shouldn’t I take some action?

I tell myself that I don’t give to Oxfam and the like because it’s hopeless or ineffective or because I suspect my cash will go to pay for their layers of white collar management. What’s the point of encouraging this, and what am I trying to prove anyway? I have my own financial commitments to my own family, surely that’s primary? I can’t “afford” to be charitable and anyway, I donate so much in tax I feel that my government should put their shoulder to the “international misery” wheel. I know this is a fairly ridiculous position that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny, but generally I do believe that it’s the “root cause” of the misery that needs to be tackled, not the symptoms. The corrupt leaders, the squandering of the donations, the bandwagon of International Aid and so on. I might be right on this, but the same questions arise: if I think such things are an outrage and shouldn’t be going on, what am I doing to change any of it?

These are near philosophical questions, and they’re psychological questions too. I watch Peter Singer lecture us and wonder what he’s getting out of it? Is he just “holier than thou” on an epic scale? Why just he doesn’t get on with giving his money away, if that’s what he wants to do? Why broadcast it to the world? When he puts up the picture of a young, healthy man who has donated one of his kidneys so that he can save some lives, my first thought is that this young man just isn’t thinking straight. What point is this youth trying to make, and why? I find it difficult to take at face value as a selfless act of altruism. “My arse”, is my initial response to that, followed by, “He’s getting something out if it for himself”. I don’t know what that is, exactly (actually, I don’t even know if it’s true!) but I can’t help but ask the question. That’s the utter cynic in me, clearly, but I’m sorry, I can’t help that.

I posted a comment along these lines on the MMM site, where I concluded that perhaps the most important point of Mr Singer (and of MMM telling us about the cash he’s giving away) was that maybe it will inspire others to do likewise. I’m not about to immediately sit down and start writing cheques myself, but I’m going to read Singer’s book and try to give some thought as to what might “float my boat” in terms of helping others. It might come to nothing, but that’s okay, I’ll be no worse off than I am today if that’s the case. But maybe, if I find inspiration through putting some thought and action into the subject, some other less fortunate people might find themselves slightly better off as a result.

And what would be in it for me, I hear you ask? I’ve no idea, I suppose, unless and until I try it. Plus it may be more fulfilling than just ranting cynically into the blogosphere about “Sir” Philip Green.

7 thoughts on “Just Giving

  1. I donate around 10% of my matched betting profits each month to various charities.

    Is that amount doing any good? Probably not and as you say, probably only goes towards scraping the surface of white collar administration. However, I have to believe that at least some of it is doing some good, otherwise I’d not bother at all and that can’t be any better.

    I’ve also been donating via Deki and Kiva, which are ‘loans’ to help people better their lives. Feels less like you are throwing money at a bottomless pit that isn’t providing any solution.

    I saw the tagline of MMM and his very generous donation of that large amount. Good for him but that’s all I needed to read.

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    • A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step….I was thinking that I could borrow the Peter Singer book from the library and donating the tenner saved to a local hospice! As you say, not world shaking, but better than nothing. And if thousands of people started thinking that way, well, maybe a change would start to happen?

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  2. Its a real emotional one on what to give to charity. I have a direct debit to a hardship fund for my old university, simply because I would like them to help those who need support to improve their education. What I do despise is the charities that spend so much on advertising, and use massive emotional blackmail, for want of a better expression, to try and get people to donate. I prefer to help smaller, less well known charities where a small contribution makes a huge difference.
    I am also selfish – I want to get to FI first, then I can start donating more, but I do believe in making sure I am ok first. How would you feel, knowing that you gave away a months salary over the previous year and then suddenly find you needed the money (fix the roof or something), but didnt have it?
    A tough one, but every donation, no matter how small, helps the charities, just avoid the ones who have massive advertising budgets and work force!
    London Rob

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    • I’m telling myself the important thing is to make those first small steps, but I already do give on a monthly basis to some charities. I am trying to find a way to think differently about the subject, but if I’m honest the problem seems to be that it doesn’t capture my interest and attention too much. Or, like yourself, it’s more in the critical way when I see a big, well produced charity advert on TV and wonder both about the cost of it and if the advertising has been discounted for a good cause? Which puts me off donating.

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  3. Tricky to see where MMM is going with his blog. I think he dropped a massive bollock revealing his income in that magazine article. He s become the them rather than the us which makes his message much less convincing. Maybe it will carry on pulling in 400k per annum but i find it moribund so maybe others will too? You can t write about buying brand new eco cars and giving away 100k one week then advocate fixing your own dripping tap the next, surely?

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    • I think you have a point, he will alienate al lot of his readers. But in America, money talks, and I suspect it will bring him the interest and publicity he probably needs to keep that income going. He’ll tell himself that it will allow him to spread his badassity message, but without the integrity behind it you wonder how long it can be kept up?

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      • well you’re right on the ‘money talks’ – its just like poor people voting for trump

        america’s weird like that

        of course, he doesn’t need to keep it up – which is a fundamental part of his message, but at the same time you don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?

        The $/hr return on that blog of his must be astronomical as he barely writes anything any more..

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