When I give money, I do it selfishly, to advance my own values. Giving money altruistically doesn’t take much thought or planning; it just has to be to someone else, preferably someone I don’t care about. Sending my money where it will accomplish things I want requires research and careful consideration. Here are a few organizations that I think are worth my money; I’ll also mention a couple that I definitely won’t support.
The Institute for Justice is one of my favorites, because it not only fights for freedom but shows concrete results. It regularly challenges laws and regulations that favor the politically connected over outsiders, giving cartels a legal advantage.
The Cato Institute provides very good libertarian analysis of issues. Take a look, for example, at “Obama’s Executive Action Is Good Policy, Bad Law, and Terrible Precedent” by Ilya Shapiro. Its articles present a variety of perspectives, not a monolithic position.
I have a special loathing of diseases that take away mental abilities, and the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research works on finding ways to prevent, slow, or cure Alzheimer’s.
Locally, I support New Horizons for New Hampshire, which helps the poor and homeless. This is the way I think the poor should be helped: by people’s voluntary choice, not by forcible transfer and welfare systems that often trap people in poverty.
I support the Humane Society for Greater Nashua. Cats. Anyone who knows me knows that’s all I have to say.
Selfish giving means avoiding causes that actually hinder what I value. I don’t support the Salvation Army. It tries hard to distract people from the fact that it’s a church which holds that everyone is “totally depraved” and only Christians will get to Heaven.
The American Lung Association is on my no-give list. As people are slowly coming to recognize the stupidity of drug prohibition, and marijuana bans are starting to go away, the American Lung Association wants to go in the other direction, applauding bans on tobacco. Thomas Carr, its director of policy, responded to a proposed ban by Westminster, Massachusetts on all tobacco sales by saying, “We commend the town for doing it.” If the ALA had its way, criminals would have a huge new market dwarfing all existing drug markets, and cops would have tons of new opportunities to smash into people’s homes at midnight.
Finally, there are cases where support seems good but turns out not to work. A couple of years ago I gave a small amount of money to Massachusetts General Hospital after Alice “Badger” Washburn spent the last month of her life there. Since then I’ve been inundated by donation requests from them; they must have spent more than I gave them asking me for more money. They aren’t a bad cause, but local hospitals have priority for me, so I’m not likely to give them more money soon. Nobody won from this.