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kbog comments on Where should anti-paternalists donate? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 04 May 2017 01:36:12PM *  3 points [-]

Hmm, I don't see how donating goods to individuals even counts as paternalism in the first place, since you're not preventing them from making any choices they would have otherwise made. It's not like we are forcing them to buy bed nets with their own money, for instance, or even forcing them to use the bed nets. At most you could say that by not giving cash you are failing to maximize autonomy, but that's different from paternalism, and that's not even something that people who value autonomy usually think is an obligation, as far as I can tell. The only reference you gave of anyone who has brought up this idea comes from a couple of Facebook founders (also the link is not working so I can't see it).

Comment author: Halstead 04 May 2017 06:24:20PM *  2 points [-]

Hi, thanks for the comments.

  1. As you say, and as I make a point of saying in the article, there is an important difference between deworming/bednets and other things like tobacco taxes wrt paternalism. Still, it is plausible that deworming/bednets are relatively more paternalistic than cash, for the reasons I explain in the piece. Cash theoretically gives people more options. Provided goods are available in the market, it lets them choose what good they want to consume. Offering them bednets only gives them one option. There seems a clear sense in which this is paternalistic. Indeed, doing so is often justified by appealing to the irrationality of the recipients.

  2. For those who value autonomy, the fact that an option A produces extra autonomy always counts as a reason to do A, even if that reason does not entail an obligation. In the piece, I only talk about reasons, not obligations.

  3. I acutally gave two references - one of them is to a political philosopher in a video that has been viewed 11,000 times. The other is to Dustin Moskovitz, who helped set up Good Ventures, which accounts for the vast majority of money within the EA community. His value assumptions are therefore disproportionately important. A quick google of "paternalism givedirectly" yields lots of results, and in a recent facebook thread in the EA group, paternalism was frequently raised as the reason to donate to GD. Also, the GiveWell piece Iinked to - http://blog.givewell.org/2012/05/30/giving-cash-versus-giving-bednets/ - explicitly and up front discusses paternalism as a possible justification of GD. Numerous commenters on this piece extensively discuss the paternalism angle. Moreover, paternalism is independently one of the most obvious justifications for donating to GD.

(The links work for me.)