Re: poly: Warm-Glow, not Altruism

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Mon May 25 1998 - 13:38:12 PDT

Nick B. writes:
>I want to go even further: I claim that there is a huge inefficiency
>in the way that people spend their money altruistically. They don't
>give their donation to the organizations which they would, on a
>little reflection, think are likely to do the most good in the world.
>Instead they give money to sport clubs for handicapped children
>etc.! Sport! When they could give it to, say medical research,
>trickle-up charities, or health care& schools in Africa, or to the
>WTA [:-)] or whatever.
>I think part of the explanation is that ...
>There is no ruthless feedback system and no punishment for giving to
>the wrong charities, and I think the world suffers because of that.

Economists like myself tend to resist stupidity explanations like this,
because just about any modeling approach can explain just about any
behavior if you put stupidity in the right place.

For this case a natural explanation is that charity isn't driven by
altruism; people *aren't* altruistic. Instead, people just like the
act of giving, regardless of whether it helps or not. That was the
conclusion of the paper, if you recall.

This can make sense evolutionarily I think; potential mates want to
see that you are capable of empathy toward them, and will respond to
pleas for help. Giving to charities signals that you are this sort
of person.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Mon May 25 20:43:23 1998

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