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Andrew Carnegie's golden shower, 1903.
Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad,
and the brain fart
Come to think of it
And so 'charity', to whom mammon erects super-temples finds sanctuary in the heart of the proletariat.
—George Herriman in "Krazy Kat"[1]
When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.
—Hélder Câmara, Catholic priest and liberation theologian[2]:53

Charity refers to the act of helping other people for no personal benefit, typically by donating money or other resources to those considered less fortunate than oneself.


Guilt relief[edit]

Giving a charitable donation, according to Slavoj Žižek, is a great way for more fortunate people to relieve guilt while being the least involved as possible.[3]

When, confronted with the starving child, we are told: "For the price of a couple of cappuccinos, you can save her life!", the true message is: "For the price of a couple of cappuccinos, you can continue in your ignorant and pleasurable life, not only not feeling any guilt, but even feeling good for having participated in the struggle against suffering!"

Doesn't fix the cause of the issue[edit]

According to Oscar Wilde, charity is a temporary fix to a broken system:[4]

But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it…Charity degrades and demoralizes…Charity creates a multitude of sins.

Instead of charity, Wilde suggests preventing poverty and the need for charity in the first place. A parallel argument can be made for the concern about the wage gap in the states; instead of an off-place slave analogy. Instead of promoting higher minimum wage, people should try and see the root cause of the wage gap. According to this argument, for both poverty and the wage gap, these are products of a capitalism;Wikipedia a socialist economyWikipedia strives to eliminate poverty and disease. Anyway, the views of socialism by Americans are divided to say the least, with roughly 17% having a positive view of socialism, another 16% having a positive view of capitalism, another 16% having positive views of both, 17% having negative views of both, and the rest either being undecided or refused to answer.[5]

Abuse of charity[edit]

In the United States, abusive charity tactics include donating paltry sums to those in need (as low as 3% of money raised), giving away undesirable cast-off items at inflated prices (e.g., air fresheners), hiring for-profit organizations to solicit funds (or even having the charity be a front for the fund-raising company), and paying high salaries to staff.[6] Dubious charities can even benefit the founder in the form of golf easements on land donations, and donations between charities among celebrity- and politician-based charities, that would seem mainly to serve the purpose of cementing political ties.[7]

The claim of philanthropy by the rich has been used to perpetuate personal interests of the donor that are: of minimal or negative societal benefit, as a cover for an actual agenda,[8] or as a form of image whitewashing. E.g.:

  • Donations by a coal baron Robert E. MurrayWikipedia to mining education
  • Robert F. Smith'sWikipedia paying off Morehouse College student debt while also lobbying against making it easier for low-income students to pay for college
  • Mark Zuckerberg's putting his name on a hospital[9] to try to whitewash Facebook's enabling genocide in Burma.[10]

Effective altruism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Effective altruism

Effective altruism is a utilitarian philosophy which attempts to use evidence and reason to bring about a net positive change to the word — partly by avoiding charities with limited or negative impact on the problems they are trying to address — of which there are, sadly, a large number — and focusing on more effective charities. In general, this is not a bad idea, but has been criticized for mostly the same reasons as utilitarianism has. It also suffers from one of the main drivers being Eliezer Yudkowsky's Machine Intelligence Research Institute, who want to spend the money on pseudoscientific artificial intelligence "research" (fanfic and blogs) rather than mosquito nets.

Dubious charities[edit]

External link[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Tithe
  • Ayn Rand, who believed that altruism was evil and selfishness humanity's highest calling.


  2. Helder, o Dom: Uuma Bida que Marcou os Rumos da Igreja no Brasil (2000) Editora Vozes. ISBN 8532622135.
  3. Slavoj Žižek (2010). Living in the End TimesWikipedia. Verso. p. 117. 
  4. Oscar Wilde (1891). The Soul of Man under Socialism. 
  5. "Stark partisan divisions in Americans' views of socialism and capitalism" - Pew Research
  6. Above the law: America's worst charities by Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart (Updated 7:50 AM ET, Thu June 13, 2013) CNN.
  7. Proof of Trump's charity giving elusive by Jeff Horwitz (Aug. 2, 2015 8:21 PM EDT) AP.
  8. Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas (2019) Vintage. ISBN 110197267X.
  9. See the Wikipedia article on San Francisco General Hospital.
  10. Rohingya sue Facebook for £150bn over Myanmar genocide: Victims in US and UK legal action accuse social media firm of failing to prevent incitement of violence by Dan Milmo (6 Dec 2021 12.03 EST) The Guardian.