“The last week of the year is a big one for writing checks to charities, especially for Americans who are fortunate enough to have incomes high enough to justify itemizing their deductions. There’s something bewildering about the ritual, though. On what basis do we decide who should get our money? And how much should each receive? Normally we feel good about spending as little as possible on things, but with charitable giving, we tend to think of more as better.
I began thinking about this after I received an email from a psychology professor, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, criticizing what he called “the capitalist system of charities in the U.S.A.” He wrote that charities are “competing to the death for the same 50 cents.”
“Thus,” he went on, “hundreds of organizations fight hunger locally and nationally. When it comes to illnesses, there are thousands of organizations competing. This means a terrible waste of resources.” He recommended that I look at Germany, where the government performs functions that charities perform in the United States.
My psychologist friend has a point about the waste of resources, I think, as I chuck another stack of fund-raising pitches into the recycling bin. (When I spy a nickel or a quarter through the glassine window, I take that out first, with zero guilt pangs.)”
David Lindsay wrote to Peter Coy, coy-newsletter(at)nytimes.com:
This is an interesting topic, I missed having comments after your piece.
You made excellent points. You left out people like me — climate hawks.
I have cut my normal donations down this year, when I felt I had to make a lot of political contributions, since the current Republican Party is more pro fascism than democracy, and more dirty Anthropocentric growth, than sustainable development.
Second, I usually don’t give to charities as much as I used to that mostly help people survive, since people are causing the decline of other species in dramatic terms. In a non election year, I give most of my donations to Environmental and family planning organizations.
I posted a piece other species decline this morning from 2001 in my blog: