Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Principled Disinterest

I am confused. I got an email Friday from a member of the minyan asking us to "do a mitzvah" before shabbes and support his son's charity that is in the running to receive a grant through the Chase Community Giving project. My sense is, however, that there are lots of really worthy charities out there, and it is rather difficult for me to assess that one is more deserving than another. Furthermore, the money has already been allocated, so my vote won't increase the funds given to charity, only affect the recipient. What then is my ethical incentive for participating?

This seems to be a perfect instance where a specialist might well be a better arbiter than the demos.
UPDATE: If you were to, ex ante, choose between giving microloans to the developing world or find innovative ways to remind women to perform self-exams on their breasts, which would it be? I suspected as much; 14,000 for breasts and 8,000 for microloans. So this is not a question worthy-ness, breast cancer kills more than 40,000 of women every year. But it is unclear that self-exams go very far to prevent those deaths, whereas microfinance won a Nobel Prize for saving the world. I just don't think people are very good at prioritizing when there are no constraints on their decisions.