Parenthetical Reference ends three or four undending debates in or at EA in a single stroke.


…it’s the difference between “tzedakah”, which is a mitzvah/dedication I have to making the world better and where EA analysis is really important, and “generosity”, which is about being kind to the people around me.

Generosity is when my friend’s family has a health crisis and I come over with $100 worth of takeout and frozen food. It’s also generosity when I support my local arts and/or religious communities, and when I go out of my way to financially support free media. Generosity is good and we should feel good about it. It’s one of the ways we live our values. It can be personal and subjective and can be about feelings as much as ROI. In fact, it is inherently subjective, and the right specific generous acts should be different for different people, because they are distributed like tastes, interests, friendships, communities, and other personal attachments.

Tzedakah is deciding to donate 10% of my income to saving lives in the developing world, and doing my research to make sure it’s doing as much good as possible. Tzedakah is saying BED NETS BED NETS BED NETS. Tzedakah is a sense of urgency to make the world better for people I will never meet and who will never know or care about me personally.2 Tzedakah isn’t a corner I want to cut to buy something nice for myself.3

“What about the arts?” Sure, generosity.  But don’t cut your bednet budget for it.
“Donating based on numbers ruins the make-the-donor-a-better-person function of charity.” It arguably taints generosity but not tzedakah.
“I don’t need to feel guilty not donating to help my friend’s cousin coming back from Iraq because it’s more effective to…” No, you don’t need to feel guilty because when and how to be generous is personal choice.  Stop arguing it’s objectively wrong.

I’m so glad we could clear this up