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Maximally Effective Altruism

You may have heard of “effective altruism”. It expands on the moral imperative of altruism by adding the imperative to get the most result that you can from your good deed. Thus, ordinary altruism would have you forego spending money on a luxury and instead send that same money to a charity which saves lives. Effective altruism requires that you find the charity which makes the best use of the donation.

Large numbers of Africans have been starving since forever. “Starving”, “undernourished”, or “at risk of hunger”. Whatever. There’s an eternal food shortage or an eternal distribution problem or eternally more people than the available food can support.

There’s also an apparently eternal charity delivery of food and money. Just in my living memory, Ethiopians and Somalis have been the poster children, so to speak, of pity-tripping charity drives.

Hard numbers are surprisingly hard to come by, both for the number of starving Africans and the amount of money spent on direct food aid, farming equipment, trucks, and workers to teach them better ways to farm.

Or maybe not so surprising. In 2021, 282 million Africans were “undernourished”. That’s up from 195 million a decade earlier. (Though all counts are estimates and there’s no guarantee that the same definitions or methods were used in different years, so take it with a grain of salt.) (Salt which the starving Africans don’t need because they don’t have any food to put it on, haha.) That’s after spending billions just in that ten-year period. Again, the amount of money spent on food aid is difficult to track down because of the way numbers are split and conflated, but just the shortfall between pledges and money coughed up during a recent economic downturn was over $15 billion.

The exact numbers don’t matter because all of the trends are in the same direction: the number of underfed or starving Africans is going up even as charity continues to be provided.

Effective Altruism tells us to maximize the benefit of our charitable contributions. As we spend money, the amount of suffering increases. Our donations have a negative benefit. Obviously we must reduce the charity to Africa to zero.

Maximally Effective Altruism tells us that we can further reduce African suffering by taking money out of Africa. Colonialism, in effect.

Oddly enough, a number of Africans have said that they had it better under European colonialism: more peace, less killing, more wealth, less starvation. (Presumably they were talking about British and possibly French colonialism, not Belgian.)

It’s nice when philosophy and practicality give the same answer.

And the answer is clear: Recolonize Africa immediately.


8 thoughts on “Maximally Effective Altruism

  1. “And the answer is clear:”

    Yep. Just ask the ordinary black South African for the most recent experience. And someone older from Rhodesia for an earlier one.

  2. The powers that be have a Solution for hunger in Africa, it’s called The Camp of the Saints.

  3. I keep thinking about the excellence of this post of SteveF’s, and it dawned on me what the shorter version is:

    Feed a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

    It is clear in every corner of the earth that vast amounts of “help”:
    1) end up enslaving the helped
    2) end up enriching the corrupt
    3) are never appreciated by the recipients
    4) and is never, ever enough

    It’s just as true in the inner cities of the USA as it is in Africa.

    1. Feed a man a fish, feed him for a day.

      Worse than that. “Feed a man a fish, feed him for today. Then feed two people tomorrow. Then…”

  4. Sam Kinison nailed this one 35 years ago:

    “Stop sending them food. Send them U-haul trailers, suitcases, boxes.
    See this? This is sand. You know what grows in sand?

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