Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Is the Market Value of a Sympathy F***?

I need to know for tax purposes. Just kidding of course - I do love my hooks. I do want to talk about charitable giving though. See look where your mind is now. Gives new meaning to "I gave at the office", doesn't it?

Anyway, my family is thinking about setting up a charitable trust. Until now we have all given independently, and we are trying to reach agreement on a theme. . We have spent a great deal of time thinking about what we want to accomplish and how to most optimally reach our goals.
There were many different opinions, but the overall consensus mission statement is "Do the most good for the most people".

Most of us believe that healthcare is not the best way to accomplish this. Helping sick people survive or preventing illness only increases the number of poor sick people. It feels and sounds good, but the long term effects are probably negative in many cases. I think people often give to charity because it makes them feel good.

For me, charity is not about feeling good, but about making the world a better place. Every dollar that I donate or help raise goes to helping to educate bright poor students who have no access to financial aid. My wife and I focus on China because we have family there so it is easy to find candidates. There are parents working 80 hours a week at dangerous and terrible jobs to pay for their kids to go to public elemenary school! Tuition is not free at any level in China.

We search for and sponsor children directly. We make sure they know that the help is not free. We expect them to use their education to help improve living conditions in their hometowns. Some want to be doctors, businesspeople, engineers - all want to give back. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think most people do give because it makes them fell better but so what. Does everything have to be so selfless. Sorry if that came out argumenitive, that was not the point of this comment. The point is to say, I think it's a great idea and giving for any reason to anyone is great. I myself think it is important to teach children to read, so i often give to those means. Reading allows children to escape thier situations in a safe and often benifical way. So that's my two cents. Do i get a receipt? =)

sevenwarlocks said...

Hey man,

Just found your blog. I decided to start one too, mostly about how Reagan sucked. Hope you and Ruobing are doing well.


Gregory A. Becerra said...

I've been thinking about the same subject of charity lately and am working up to a post about it on my blog. I've been thinking about Africa compared to China, especially after the recent American Idol charity drive to help African nations.

I do believe just giving them resources seems to increase the problem because this also increases the population and thereby the need for even more resources. My only logical conclusion after a long argument is help build a sustainable economic infrastructure where they can be self reliant. This is a major reason I support outsourcing even though it has some short term negative effects on our own country.

Focusing on education is tricky too. Everyone should be educated, but educational systems may not be up to the task or focus on things that will allow people to succeed.

If your focus is China and education, then I would recommend directing funds toward teaching English as a second language. Look for programs that might use native English language teachers. Everyone that I know from China always seems to stress how important and in demand the ability to speak English is in China at the moment.

RB said...

I believe most people appreciate other's help and in some way that changes their life. Education might be the most economic way in terms of return but by allowing other formality we experince different social effects. Make yourself happy or make this world a better place they don't conflict with each other. If everyone is happy and willing to help then we are must in heaven.

Michelle said...

What do I think? I think what charity people feel is important is very subjective and probably relates to their personal experiences. Hence the fact that most affluent first world countries have so many people willing to give big to rather vague or "fluffy" charities.

I think your work is commendable, remarkable and excellent, but I also think good health care is vital. Having a sickly population is far more debilitating to the economy than letting them die, but then that does come from my own subjective personal experiences.

You said:
"Most of us believe that healthcare is not the best way to accomplish this. Helping sick people survive or preventing illness only increases the number of poor sick people."

Not at all. I was born in Africa. I've seen campaigns against everything from Malaria to TB. Successful campaigns that have improved the economy of countries as well as the quality of life of its citizens. I've also seen the horrors that occur when the health system collapses. I've seen the results of the fact that much of Africa is way behind in trying to prevent or treat HIV/AIDS.

In the factory where my father used to workd the workers die so quickly that it can literally be a case that by the time they have been trained for the job they are already too ill to keep it. Some are predicting that many forms of industry will eventually collapse due to there being no skilled workers left.

There's also the financial, drain of there being so many AIDs orphans left behind when the parents die. Children who not only lose out on schooling, but also on any kind of stability or security. I have a friend back in South Africa who is taking care of most of her grandchildren due to the fact all her children have died of AIDS. She struggles tremendously to keep them fed. Education isn't even an issue - her first issue is keeping them alive.

So yes, for me the topic of making sure your population is healthy is subjective.

Added to that is the fact that since I have been in Scotland I have been in Emergency three times and hospital twice - all on National Health. I am indeed one of your "poor sick", in a manner of speaking. Nothing I had was terminal, so without health care I would simply be extremely ill, weak and probably in a lot of pain. I wouldn't die instantly. I'd simply erode over a long period.

While I will concede that my death will not change the earth's course in any way (except for leaving behind a few grieving loved ones)I am grateful for the chance to hang around a little longer. So I can safely say that my take on health care is extremely prejudiced in its favour.

Adam said...

Hi Michelle, thank you so much for the response. I don't think we disagree at all - it is just hard to express nunace in such a short piece. I would like to clarify my point.

If an area is lacking in fundamental sociopolitical stability, then stabilization must be the first priority. Education means nothing if the area is war torn and/or AIDS ravaged and there are no jobs or economy.

But once there is a stable sociopolitical environment, even if only in the context of a subsitence level economy, then I believe that money is better spent on education than on healthcare.

Michelle said...

Hi Adam

Ah, ok! Yes, you are right - we are on the same page. Social stability first and then everything falls into place. And yes, in a situation where the basic human needs are met - eductation then has to be the first priority. Totally agree with you.

Which reminds me.. your piece on Tigers made me think of similar problems in Africa. I'd say we're probably on the same page there as well. I do support animal charities, but only ones that think rationally. "Saving" an endangered species in an unstable country is simply throwing money away.

I know what you mean about trying to fit an entire concept into a blog post. I'm still struggling with that. On the whole I'd say you seem to be getting your ideas over fine. You write a very interesting and entertaining blog. keep it up! :-)

Michelle said...


My email just notified me of your response on my blog. Thank you.

Our ideas on health care seemed "different", but ended up the "same". I find that very amusing that it fits my blog topic. I'll be grinning all day now. :-D