According to this piece, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh are high on the list, though not, as far as I can tell, in philosophy, no doubt due to language barriers and the Anglo-centric parochialism of the field in the Anglophone countries.
Another interestingly provocative e-mail from longtime reader S. Wallerstein, regarding the identity politics "left":
They've been very successful at imposing their hegemony on the left, especially in the U.S., so that they are the only "queer" people, so that they are always victims and that of course coincides with the rise of neoliberalism and the bourgeois offensive against the working class. It just suits Wall St. fine that the paradigm of oppression is no longer the guy or woman working for the minimum wage, but a disabled lesbian philosopher who didn't get tenure at an elite university. And most of us, myself included, feel very uncomfortable not being on the side of the victims, but there are victims and there are victims. I don't want to sound cynical, but if I were Wall St., I'd fund all leftwing identity politics groups to distract leftwing attention from class politics, just as the CIA during the cold war funded all groups defending "cultural freedom" behind the Iron Curtain.
Reader Jason Palma kindly sends along this link (which I may have posted before) which is relevant to the "Effective [sic] Altruism" movement we've been discussing; this may be the most honest thing any member of the ruling class ever published in The New York Times:
Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.
Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
...and gives money to charity and now feels good about himself. How much harm is he doing by working at the hedge fund? I guess that doesn't count. How much good would he and the hedge fund managers do if they gave all their money to Bernie Sanders? Can't be measured effectively, so doesn't count.
I first began tweeting my support of Donald Trump for the Republican nomination a few days ago and now the latest poll shows that Trump has surged to the head of the Republican pack. Well done philosophers!
UPDATE: Reader Howard Berman writes: "You know of course, if Trump actually gets elected, he’ll redo the Whitehouse into the Taj Mahal financed by a regressive tax on the middle class and poor. People I know in the business class detest him, perhaps for them he's like their reflection in a funhouse mirror. I recall the late Roman Empire had her Trumps too."
ANOTHER: I was startled that some readers think the Trump Bump in the polls was due to his rude remarks about Senator McCain, rather than my endorsement. I realize the American electorate is an appalling sewer of stupidity, but, let's be real: the idea that even Republican voters would gravitate towards a draft-dodging rich kid who insults a veteran, well that's insulting. Seriously, do you think Republican voters are that base and stupid? If you do, you probably believe in the Marxian theory of false consciousness. Jeez.
I agree with most of what Pete Mills writes here (scroll to page 4); some excerpts (sorry about the font problems):
In practice...80,000 Hours has one dominant answer to the problems of the worst-off: in most cases, it turns out the right thing to do will be to embark on a high-paying career, get rich, and donate some of the proceeds to particularly efficient charities. What 80k offers is not neutrality, but a degree of certainty. It gives you a metric, a number – of lives saved – which you can use to evaluate your career choices. In fact, this method makes the ostensibly difficult ethical decision about what to do with your life rather simple. For the vast majority, the best choice proves to be what 80k calls “professional philanthropy”: a long march through the banking institutions. That is the novelty of 80k. The problem is political. 80k’s avowed neutrality serves to conceal the political logic of its practice. Professional philanthropy does not just involve making your peace with the system – it means embracing it. The unstated imperative: don’t rock the boat. As a banker, or a corporate lawyer, or a management consultant, what enriches you is your position in a set of profoundly exploitative social relations, which we might label capitalism....
The result is a toxic political quietism. As a professional philanthropist, the size of your donations depends on the size of your company’s profits. Your interests are aligned with the interests of capital. Anything that might disrupt production – from taxes on the wealthy at home to a strike of factory workers abroad – is potentially suspect. It is no accident that 80k’s professionalised account of political change is limited to lobbying within the system....
Once the assumptions which allow the precise calculation of the benefits of professional philanthropy – 2,000 lives saved – are in place, it is difficult to see how 80k’s other career suggestions can be much more than an afterthought (save, perhaps, persuading other people to do it). The dubious precision of these calculations and the rhetoric of efficiency obscure the real uncertainty that surrounds these decisions. In practice, if people follow 80k’s logic to its conclusion, only those supremely confident in their own abilities will opt for something else....
80k makes much of replaceability: “the job will exist whatever you do.” This is stronger than the claim that someone else will become a banker; rather, it states that there will always be bankers, that there will always be exploitation. Nothing can change. This is what I mean when I say professional philanthropy is dependent on perpetuating capitalism. Capitalism is not a policy programme which you are for or against but a set of social relations; taking a low-paid job, or no job at all, does not mean you somehow live outside the system. But professional philanthropy needs exploitation in order to mitigate the effects of exploitation. That is why it cannot address the causes of the world’s problems. 80k collapses the question of what is to be done into the individualist framework of career choice....
The language of probability will always fail to capture the possibility of system change. What was the expected value of the civil rights movement, or the campaign for universal suffrage, or anti-colonial struggles for independence? As we have seen most recently with the Arab Spring, every revolution is impossible, until it is inevitable.
The Babylonian calculations that constitute 80k’s careers research exclude these possibilities by design. 80k addresses its subject as a participant in exchange, a future employee – and nothing more. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy of impotence. Without any concept of society as a collective endeavour, we cannot address problems at their root but only those symptoms which are tractable on an atomised, individual level.
There are also responses from the charity crowd; readers may judge for themselves.
(Thanks to Pablo Zendejas Medina for the pointer.)
Demand for my endorsement has come earlier than usual, but since so much is at stake, I feel I should speak out now: Trump is clearly the most qualified of the Republican Presidential candidates, in terms of intelligence, good judgment, and accomplishments. I give him my unqualified support for the Republican nomination. Please join me.
ADDENDUM: You can start by joining me on Twitter to spread the word. The philosophy vote could be crucial in this primary season.
And so defenses like this are silly. Who, besides Ayn Rand, isn't in favor of improving the well-being of others? The problem has to do with the way the EA folks interpret "effective," which guarantees that it will be both ineffective and very appealing to the capitalist media, which loves moral self-congratulation that is utterly unthreatening to capitalist relations of production and the ruling class.
I want to be clear: those philosophers giving their money to charities are not acting wrongfully in my view. They are acting wrongfully, however, in pretending that this is what one ought to do, that somehow the catastrophic harms that afflict large segments of humanity are in any meaningful way addressed by their charitable contributions.
...again at Boston Review; an excerpt, but do read the whole thing, especially if you're on the verge of falling for the "effective altruism" sales pitch:
[R]andomized controlled trial (RCT) field experiments...are designed to make the complex social world as much like a scientific laboratory as possible in order to isolate the effect of a particular intervention. The focus on impact makes RCTs appealing to effective altruists. Indeed, organizations like GiveWell and Giving What We Can rely heavily on these studies as the “best available evidence” to recommend top charities.
As in medical studies, RCT researchers randomly assign subjects to treatment and control groups to ensure that the two groups are roughly identical prior to the experiment. Then they administer the intervention—mosquito bed nets, de-worming pills, curriculum interventions, eye surgeries—only to those in the treatment group. Any differences in outcomes (malaria rates, parasite infection incidence, literacy levels, vision) between the treatment and control groups are attributed to the intervention. The clean research design makes researchers confident they have correctly identified whether a program has had the intended impact....
However, this approach to assessment has a serious downside: RCTs only capture a narrow view of impact. While they are good at measuring the proximate effects of a program on its immediate target subjects, RCTs are bad at detecting any unintended effects of a program, especially those effects that fall outside the population or timeframe that the organization or researchers had in mind. For example, an RCT might determine whether a bed net distribution program lowered the incidence of malaria among its target population. But it would be less likely to capture whether the program unintentionally demobilized political pressures on the government to build a more effective malaria eradication program, one that would ultimately affect more people....
Effective altruists are committed to evidence-based selection of charities, but in interpreting RCTs as the “best available evidence” they have prioritized certainty, narrowing the scope of impact they consider in identifying top charities.
This choice has built political and institutional blind spots into the way the effective altruism movement redistributes money. All charities exist within a broader ecosystem of service providers that includes the welfare state. NGOs that distribute bed nets and provide vaccinations operate alongside an array of public health programs run by the state. NGO-run schools operate up the road from government-run schools. While these state-run programs may be performing poorly and lack resources, they are still the core provider for the majority of the poor in many developing countries....
[U]nintended institutional effects on government welfare programs are seldom incorporated into effective altruists’ calculations about worthwhile charities to fund.
Yet any scholar of the political economy of development would be skeptical of the assumption that the welfare state in poor countries would remain unaffected by a sizeable influx of resources into a parallel set of institutions....
In the worst case, the presence of NGOs induces exit from the state sector. When relatively efficient, well-functioning NGOs enter a health or education market, for example, citizens in that market who are paying attention are likely to switch from government services to NGO services. The result is a disengagement of the most mobilized, discerning poor citizens from the state. These are the citizens most likely to have played a previous role in monitoring the quality of state services and advocating for improvements. Once they exit, the pressure on the government to maintain and improve services eases, and the quality of government provision is likely to fall.
This dynamic, sometimes called skimming, has unfortunate consequences for those most in need of services.
This case from California. Unfortunately, we'll no doubt be seeing more such cases once professional jurists with some regard for process are increasingly asked to scrutinize how universities (mis)handle these matters.
Schwitzgebel comments. I confess it's one of my favorite words--what other word, after all, can be in various forms and contexts a verb, noun, adjective and adverb?
UPDATE: Reader Henry Cohen writes: "Perhaps you are aware of the four-word sentence consisting solely of those four uses of the word. It was supposedly said by an auto mechanic to an unfortunate customer: 'Fucking fucker's fucking fucked.'"
Signatories include, besides Sarkar, John Dupre (Exeter), Paul Griffiths (Sydney), Samir Okasha (Bristol), Alex Rosenberg (Duke), and Rob Wilson (Alberta), among others. The letter offers a variety of considerations, some political, some practical/logistical. I am opening this for (substantive) discussion.
The full majority and dissenting opinions are here. A few quick observations:
1. In finding an unenumerated right of same-sex couples to marry under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution, the Supreme Court really for the first time since 1973 has found such a new right. (Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case rendering homosexual sodomy statutes unconstitutional, was decided on the basis of a "liberty interest" protected by the Due Process clause. If one treats that as part of the pantheon of "unenumerated rights" cases, it still gives a vivid sense of how rare such "discovery" of unenumerated rights has become.)
2. The dissents, especially by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, complain that the majority has, in effect, exercised a quasi-legislative power, rather than a judicial one. I believe that is correct, but it is rich with irony coming from the conservative wing of the super-legislature, which has often exercised the same power for venal, rather than laudatory, ends.
3. This part of Justice Scalia's dissent is especially entertaining:
Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South- westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.
It's good to see that mindless identity politics has arrived at the Supreme Court in the hands of a conservative Catholic from Brooklyn! But the most amusing aspect of this is the first sentence, and its parenthetical "or should not be": that parenthetical is there because even Justice Scalia knows that judges are not chosen for their legal skill but for their moral and political views. Everyone doing the selecting knows this.
This is a good takedown of the latest nonsense with numbers; there's also a post on June 24 at the same blog by my colleague David Strauss adding further commentary (the "linik" to that post isn't working, alas).
Alexander Dietz, a PhD student at the University of Southern California, kindly calls to my attention this initiative. As I told Mr. Dietz, I am a bit skeptical of undertakings like this, for the simple reason that most human misery has systemic causes, which charity never addresses, but which political change can address; ergo, all money and effort should go towards systemic and political reform. Mr. Dietz tells me that this project does not rule out donations in support of political change.
An important decision, striking a small blow for making cyberspace less of a cesspool than it presently is. See esp. page 44 of the opinion. As is so often the case, American law is an outlier here, providing the maximum protection for defamation and hate speech, including especially in cyberspace.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)