Jeff Bezos tweets a request for charitable ideas

by on June 15, 2017 at 3:53 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Permalink

Here is the tweet link, here is the text:

This tweet is a request for ideas.  I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working for the long term.  For philanthropy, I find I’m drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now.  As one example, I’m very inspired and moved by the work done at Mary’s Place here in Seattle.  I like long-term — it’s a huge lever: Blue Origin, Amazon, Washington Post — all of these are contributing to society and civilization in their own ways.  But I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short-term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.  If you have ideas, just reply to this tweet with the idea (and if you think this approach is wrong, would love to hear that too).

Thanks!

Jeff

After I see what you all come up with, and after I edit out the most brilliant ideas, I’ll tweet back your responses to him.  I’ll come up with something of my own as well.

1 Kevin Burke June 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Work to remove the barriers to housing production in US coastal cities

2 Effem June 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm

+1

3 Ray June 15, 2017 at 4:11 pm

+1

4 Jeff R June 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm

That is most definitely long term.

5 Kevin Burke June 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg could or lobby for housing bills at the state level, or show up to local city councils tomorrow and talk about how high housing prices make them less competitive, but you don’t see them doing that.

6 Brett Bowman June 15, 2017 at 4:20 pm

+1

7 Ray Lopez June 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Yeah +1 to reclaiming land from bodies of water like they did by draining swamps in the Meadowlands (NJ), Foggy Bottom (DC, not the political swamps), most of Florida, and probably a bunch of other places on the east coast. (smirk)

A “here and now” charity is to give me money. All of it.

8 Stuart June 15, 2017 at 5:04 pm

I agree with this policy – but wouldn’t the most effective philanthropy be focused on improving the lives of people in extreme poverty? This is I believe is what the modern effective altruism movement covers a lot of: giving where it can do the most good. I don’t think if you looked around the globe at where suffering is the greatest, you’d conclude America’s coastal cities or Americans who would live in those cities if there were more housing.

9 Thomas June 16, 2017 at 10:28 am

How does effective altruism respond to the concern that assisting the global poor in removing their misery results in population growth among the global poor and therefore ambiguous results in absolute misery? If the answer is that population growth is a net good because human life is a net positive even in misery, how does effective altruism handle what seems to be the logical conclusion (to me) that population growth to the Malthusian limit is effectively effective altruism, despite what I would imagine is a visceral, negative reaction to that idea among those concerned with altruism?

Apologies for the sentence structure.

10 Stuart June 16, 2017 at 11:35 am

I don’t think there’s evidence that removing misery results in population growth. This hasn’t been the case in other countries that have drastically lowered poverty. Look at places with great affluence and security – Switzerland or Sweden – the problem isn’t that people are having tons of children, it’s the opposite.

11 The Anti-Gnostic June 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Or you could move to a less expensive city.

12 Kevin Burke June 15, 2017 at 8:00 pm

Many (most) of the jobs currently being created in the US, and entry level jobs in particular, are being created in coastal cities

13 RPLong June 16, 2017 at 10:15 am

ding ding ding ding ding…

14 The Anti-Gnostic June 15, 2017 at 11:19 pm

No. We’re talking about what the poor need, not what striver yupster consultants living in expensive cities need.

15 Kevin Burke June 16, 2017 at 5:06 am

Real wages are pretty stagnant and insofar as home prices and rents are artificially high through supply constraints it seems like we can remove them and boost real wages for everyone

16 RPLong June 16, 2017 at 10:15 am

Again, ding ding ding ding ding ding!

17 Victoria Fierce June 16, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Do you know that the same rules about building housing still apply to, delay, and often kill affordable housing as well

18 Cererean June 17, 2017 at 9:13 am

If removing housing constraints boosted the average real income in America by $1000/year, and 5% of that increase was donated to charity, then that would be ~$1 billion extra per year for charitable causes. Second order effects might make it worthwhile even if it’s not on the face of it a particularly important cause.

19 daguix June 15, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Temp housing for young gay expelled from their home by their relatives.

20 Dick the Butcher June 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm

How frequently does that happen?

21 Cooper June 15, 2017 at 6:22 pm

I’d guess thousands per year. Maybe tens of thousands.

Homeless youth are disproportionately LGBT teenagers who were rejected by their families.

It does happen and temporary housing would help alleviate a lot of suffering.

22 Cererean June 17, 2017 at 9:16 am

Maybe we could leverage existing housing wealth, in a proper sharing economy? I’m sure there are already schemes like it, but I’ve thought that linking up homeless youth with people (vetted, I imagine) who have space (perhaps a basement studio apartment?) they are willing to let them stay at for a while would be a useful tool in preventing youth homelessness.

23 Charles H H June 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm

One intervention at the intersection of urgent need and long-term benefit would be targeted diversion payments to families/households who would otherwise lose their cars, jobs, or housing due to an emergency and then fall into a web of poverty.

Take for example a single mother with two children, who works hard at her job and earns enough to meet her expenses, her family has a decent apartment, enough food and clothing, and some minor luxuries, but she doesn’t have a lot in savings. Her car breaks down, and she doesn’t have enough money to repair it. Without the car, she can’t get her kids to school or get to work, and is at risk of losing her job. If she loses her job, she obviously loses her source of income and falls well below the poverty line and it might be months or even years until her family recovers from this shock.

Targeted, timely infusions to divert this family from falling into poverty because of such a shock could be enormously important for the long-term trajectory for everyone in it, and often don’t require sums that are that substantial in the grand scheme of things. Many, many families could be helped by this catcher in the rye strategy, and really the main intervention is acting as a safeguard from them getting derailed from the upward path they are already on.

24 David June 15, 2017 at 4:20 pm
25 JWatts June 15, 2017 at 4:31 pm

An interesting idea, but how do you keep it from being abused? A max limit per household? And how do you have it not just become a one off entitlement for everyone below a certain limit?

26 y81 June 15, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I’m skeptical that there are a lot of people like this, who have their lives together but have neither institutional nor private credit available. My wife is on the diaconate of our church, and there are lots of people with problems, most of whom insist that a short-term infusion of cash will help them, but it rarely does. Once the rent is paid up, they stop going to work, or spend all their money on something stupid, and fall behind again.

Now, it may make sense to manifest God’s love even to the undeserving (that being kind of what Jesus did), but I presume Bezos is looking to accomplish something material, not something spiritual.

27 Nicholas Weininger June 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Modest Needs, modestneeds.org, is focused on exactly this case and seems like it could use some more money. Confirmation bias declaration: I give them a bunch of money, because I agree that this case is important and they seem to be doing a good job using their available funds to address it, but I have not done a detailed audit and have neither time nor expertise to do so.

28 Anon7 June 15, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Yes, let’s provide more subsidies to single mothers and their minor luxuries. What could possibly go wrong?

29 Derek June 15, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Give directly. Not sexy, but adds the most marginal utility in the shortest amount of time.

30 Carl June 15, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Is there a way that Amazon’s technology can be leveraged to make local governements more responsive and anticipate citizen needs and desires?

31 Austin Beer June 15, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Parties for senior citizens. Our seniors are plagued by isolation, stigma, and poor infrastructure. Not only that, but each incredibly impacts their longevity. Let’s just throw a ton of parties for senior citizens, make it super easy, free (btw, most seniors are below the poverty line), and awesome. Time to bring sex, drugs, and rock & roll to our elders.

32 JNolan June 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

lol

33 JWatts June 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm

“btw, most seniors are below the poverty line”

The poverty level in the US is $11,880 per year.

https://obamacare.net/2017-federal-poverty-level/

Poverty level for 65+ in the US is 9%.

http://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-age/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

34 Austin Beer June 15, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Sorry JWatts, I got caught by this (same group btw)
“Close to half (45%) of adults ages 65 and older had incomes below twice the poverty thresholds under the SPM (Supplemental Poverty Measure) in 2013, compared to 33% of older adults under the official measure.”
http://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/poverty-among-seniors-an-updated-analysis-of-national-and-state-level-poverty-rates-under-the-official-and-supplemental-poverty-measures/

35 Jay June 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm

….so you link a study that gives the number of seniors below DOUBLE the line and that number is 45% (i.e. not most).

36 Austin June 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm

You’re right. I’m sorry. Seniors obviously do not have it that hard.

37 anonymous June 15, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Only in the sense that all of us “have it that hard” since they are the wealthiest segment of society and have no need for further saving

38 Jay June 16, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Sorry Austin, but anonymous is right, they’re the wealthiest segment of society and if you’re going to make the case otherwise it helps to not make hyperbolic statements and link to irrelevant data.

39 EverExtruder June 15, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Self-finance anti-trust litigation against Amazon thus opening new physical and online niches for competition. Yes. Bezos should sue himself.

https://www.axios.com/the-growing-antitrust-concerns-about-u-s-tech-giants-2433870013.html

40 NeverNuder June 16, 2017 at 12:11 am

Yes please. Also, sue the rest of FANG. Then start a giving pledge to get Zuck, Hastings and Page/Brin to pool their money.

41 The Good Derek June 15, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Jeff Bezos should select a random U.S. county that is declining in population and offer to pay $200,000 for every third child and over born to married couples there. Being responsible for the creation of human beings makes people feel good, and it would also serve as interesting economics experiment.

42 Steve Schow June 15, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Real estate in this random county goes through the roof as it becomes the new home base of the “Quiverfull” movement (or possibly Mormons). Seems like indirectly a wealth transfer to property owners at the time of this decree and not sure how that helps them short term other than moving somewhere else? Unless you specifically prevent people who move in later from getting the bonus.

43 Crikey June 15, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Odd, my siblings and I never brought our parents anything but pain. At least that was the case by the time we were conceived. Our parents planned to have 5 children, which was common back then, but by the time they’d realized their mistake they’d already had three.

On one hand I guess it would have been nice to have parents who like us, but my self-respect says I wouldn’t want to have parents with such low standards.

44 Dangerman June 15, 2017 at 9:22 pm

+1

Pro-natalism hits the here-and-now AND the long term.

(Can iron out details later.)

45 kermit the frog June 17, 2017 at 8:21 pm

you should post that on Twitter

46 MOFO. June 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Buy semi-permanent contraceptive for every girl who wants. Heck pay girls like 100 a quarter for not being pregnant.

47 Steve Schow June 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm

+1, more babies are better but not when you get stuck in a dead-end job unable to get further education because you need to keep the bills paid with an extra kid or two in the house

48 msgkings June 15, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Interesting how within one minute The Good Derek and MOFO gave completely opposite ideas.

49 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Since Derek’s idea only applies to married couples, the ideas are more alike than different…..

50 ZPG June 15, 2017 at 7:03 pm

+1. Pay Planned Parenthood to insert IUD’s in any woman under the age of 25. Pay the woman a bonus to take the IUD if she or a child is on welfare.

Left likes it as a big revenue boost to Planned Parenthood. Right should like it as it will reduce future welfare payments.

51 Erick June 15, 2017 at 4:28 pm

A newspaper that isn’t full of lies and poorly researched articles!

52 EverExtruder June 15, 2017 at 4:35 pm

+1

53 AlanW June 15, 2017 at 10:30 pm

That’s funny, because most of the current ire at the Washington Post is because it is telling too much truth and doing too much research. But sticking your head in the sand is certainly another idea.

54 Bryce June 15, 2017 at 11:54 pm

lol ur funny

55 Edward Burke June 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Dear Jeff: If a philanthropist you must be, do what your great-great-grandfather Andrew Carnegie did and build public libraries across the country. You can then stock all the shelves with all the titles and remainders Amazon has not sold and give each library free subscriptions to WaPo forever and ever.

56 Mark Thorson June 15, 2017 at 7:23 pm

So this would actually be the first anti-library, the place with books nobody wants to read, like Battlefield Earth. I suggest it should have negative fines for overdue books.

57 Thomas June 16, 2017 at 3:01 pm

“build public libraries across the country… and give each library free subscriptions to WaPo forever and ever.”

The average WaPo reader would object to this trust.

58 Joseph Philleo June 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm

1. Free, accessible, easy-to-understand educational materials covering everything needed to graduate high school. Translate into the 20 most widely spoken languages. Use Wikipedia and other sources as basis if needed.

2. One underrated source of poverty is lack of geographic mobility. An organization that helps people move, even from state to state, could have huge impacts.

3. An expanded Thiel fellowship set up across multiple nations with looser age restrictions and more people accepted.

59 Ragged Clown June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Great ideas!

60 Cole June 15, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Give directly + a publicity campaign to shame other celebrities like Zuckerberg for their foundation-in-perpetuity philanthropy sham. Encourage civic engagement and government solutions to social problems. I don’t think we want to live in a world where eccentric billionaires are deciding land use regulations for us. Or, for a different audience, sponsoring gay conversion therapy camps.

61 Ray Lopez June 15, 2017 at 4:31 pm

You don’t believe WaPo Jim? No intelligent life thar? Dat what your bumper snicker says?

62 Jeff R June 15, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Some sort of environmental cleanup effort would have an immediate payoff, no? So for example, here in Baltimore, we have a couple appliances everyone calls the Mr. Trash Wheels installed in at points where streams flow through the city and into the harbor, often carrying lots of litter and debris with them, which the trash wheels then collects and filters out. It seems to me that there are probably about a bajillion other sites throughout the continental US where these could be of use and would have an immediate impact (maybe not huge, but still) on water quality, local pollution, etc. More details here:

http://baltimorewaterfront.com/healthy-harbor/water-wheel/

63 Iain June 15, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Direct legal representation for the poor. A recent Pennsylvania report (though admittedly from an agency that stood to benefit from the conclusion) noted an $11 return to the community on every dollar invested in legal aid service.

64 Erick June 15, 2017 at 4:35 pm

And a serious response. Boring but useful. I was always amazed at how those released from prison get tripped from a lack of very simple things like $4 for bus fare to meet a parole officer or go to a jobs program. There is a lot of aid going to those out from prison, but it’s mostly going to more high profile things. But what good is a jobs program if you can’t get there. What good is housing if you’re going to wind up back in prison for missing appointments with your PO?

Heck, there’s another thing. Housing for offenders on parole. They’re generally banned from public housing in its various forms, but frankly I’d rather have the guy just getting out of prison living near me than the guy who’s getting close to committing the crime that is going to send him there. Give those guys a chance. I know we have halfway houses, but I’m talking about something a little more independent and long-term.

You could also just give money to make buses free to encourage people to ride them in general.

65 whiskey bravo June 15, 2017 at 4:36 pm

This post by Scott Alexander on bail came to mind — the Bronx Freedom Fund or something similar could be good. Short term in that it immediately relieves a monetary burden or prevents jail time, but lasting impact in that it lowers the risk of spending any time in jail at all, the risk of having to take a plea bargain, the ultimate length of sentences, and of course the overall incarceration rate.

66 whiskey bravo June 15, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Seems my link was dropped… in case it doesn’t work this time, I am referring to the “Bail Out” post on Slate Star Codex:
http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/16/bail-out/

67 Mark Twain/Foxtrot June 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Rid the education system of standardized testing.

Eurydice and Orpheusian reading and writing. Teach actual language and use teachers to gauge children.

Rid education’s id, the false idols of test scores.

68 thfmr June 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Yes! Then we can do away with that pesky white/Asian problem once and for all.

69 Joe June 15, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Put every homeless person in an apartment rent-free with counseling on-site.

70 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Sarcasm?

71 Kevin F June 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Give to programs serving people with severe congenital disabilities, physical or intellectual. Pure charity w/o moral hazard.

72 msgkings June 15, 2017 at 5:32 pm

+1

Programs that help orphans/foster kids as well.

73 Ben K June 15, 2017 at 4:42 pm

One of the best ideas I’ve seen that could be implemented quickly is providing free housing to the homeless. If I recall correctly, there were experiments in Salt Lake City and San Francisco that were very successful in getting (some) homeless folks in to jobs by given them housing and tools to get a job (an address, access to shower, phone number) along with counseling – the net effect was many got jobs and started paying some rent, lower law enforcement costs, lower emergency room costs. It doesn’t seem like it would take too long to spin up something like this at least on a modest scale. There are large scale social benefits at relatively low costs – and probably much better than shelters.

More globally, it seems that investments that empower women in developing countries, through things like small loans, have huge knock on impacts in both the short and long run. There seems to be a ton of research on this, and it seems making a whole lot of small investments, knowing some won’t work out, is better than making a small number of big investments that will either fail big or win big.

Another would be helping to enable low cost cross-border payments for remittances. The cost immigrant/migrant workers across the globe pay to send funds home to their families can easily eat up 10%-15% of their incomes and time for no real good reason. Financial services for the poor are really quite expensive, and don’t really need to be. Amazon has taken a first step in extending some Prime benefits to SNAP users. It is really expensive to be poor, reducing transaction costs could have a huge near-term positive impact.

None of these are really new I guess, but it seems to me that they need someone pretty big to get the ball rolling in the near term, and when they work out more folks will get on board. I suppose though that all of these are about helping on the margins with the hope of a disportionate effect than would be expected.

74 Alan June 15, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Laundry and bathing facilities for homeless people. Very simple and cheap to implement, yet immediate improvement in quality of life.

75 konshtok June 15, 2017 at 5:02 pm

+1

76 Ryan June 15, 2017 at 4:49 pm

I would choose one of these four (in the US):

1. Health care: Find a way to reduce medical costs, drug costs, or insurance costs. Pick one.
2. Transportation: Getting worse in most major cities and hurting productivity. Or leave this to Uber/Waymo/Hyperloop.
3. Global Warming/Energy: Invest in new clean energy sources or improve existing efficiencies.
4. Housing: Find a way to make housing cheaper or more plentiful and better.

77 Brian June 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Public health, public health, public health — in the US! Ripped from the pages of his own paper:

1. Lead-free water
The scary story about how lead gets into drinking water http://wapo.st/2qryJYF?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.611139c98923

2. Vaccinations
Measles outbreak in Minnesota surpasses last year’s total for the entire country http://wapo.st/2rHczX5?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.b4e53b981271

3. Discourage tobacco use
America’s new tobacco crisis: The rich stopped smoking, the poor didn’t http://wapo.st/2rtsLqN?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.a102efa4c639

78 Philo June 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

The only valid reason (that I can think of) to focus on the short term is epistemic: it’s harder to know what the long term will consist in. It is true that if you achieve results in the short term you will get more expressions of gratitude from beneficiaries (distantly future people can’t thank you), and you will get more praise from by-standing observers of your efforts (most people are short-sighted); I assume these factors are to be ignored.

My suggestion: make an effort to improve your epistemic situation so that you can more reliably estimate long-term consequences; then you will have less reason to favor the short term.

79 Dominik Peters June 15, 2017 at 7:06 pm

Because Bezos likes long-term thinking in other regards, like in his amazon strategy, he can’t be uncomfortable with epistemic uncertainty. He also uses emotional language in this tweet (“drawn to”, “moved by”, “inspired”), maybe suggesting he’s mainly looking for warm glow? I don’t understand him here.

80 JWatts June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

The Dolly Parton foundation provides free children’s books to almost 1 million children. They shipped over 10 million books last year for a cost of $15 million.

Expand the program to all young children in the US.

http://usa.imaginationlibrary.com/year_in_review.php#.WULyymjyvAQ

81 aMichael June 16, 2017 at 12:20 am

My experience with this program is that it provided free books to wealthy neighborhoods. A town had to do something to set it up and the one that I knew that had it was one of the wealthiest zip codes in the state. Maybe it’s different in other states but my small experience with it was not positive.

82 Christopher Cox June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Request a strategy lead by Malcolm Gladwell.

83 Lachlan Carey June 15, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Request a strategy lead by Raj Chetty.

84 thfmr June 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm

A master stroke: have the poor spend ten thousand hours practicing being rich.

85 Dick the Butcher June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Fund psychiatric services for the violently deranged, like poor dead Hodgkinson, by the November Election.

Also, save lives. In the past ten years, violent crime declined by 50% while private gun ownership rose by 100%. Save even more lives. Donate to the NRA.

86 William Woody June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Food banks.

And more broadly, helping to feed the hungry in the United States and helping with the infrastructure of bringing otherwise wasted food to people who are in need.

87 Rob June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

My brother and I thought long and hard about this a decade ago, and couldn’t come up with anything better than helping pay for abortions for poor women who wanted them. It’s also long run too if you think about how you’d like to be born to a woman who didn’t want you, in poverty, and probably with no suitable husband in the picture (nevermind any possible physical or mental disabilities).

88 Moelicious June 16, 2017 at 12:48 pm

What’s wrong with adoption? My wife and two cousins were adopted – my life would be much worse if they were aborted by their mothers.

89 NatashaRostova June 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Virtue signaling is a great term. You diminish its status when you apply it to people who are signaling with literal cash donations.

In this case how is Bezos virtue signaling? He is literally giving money.

In any event, it is lazy to judge a person by your prediction of their intentions rather than the consequences of their intentions. The homeless or poor who benefit from Bezos money are unlikely to care too strongly whether he only did it so society likes him more.

…And for that matter, who cares if his reason for donating is if society likes him more? If we can get more people to donate based on self-interest, then isn’t that the system working as intended?

90 How jung r u June 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm

“society” in the way you used it, isn’t a real thing. You could have said people, or girls, or friends and associates. People who donate based on self-interest are not going to get the job done – I’m not mad you are slow, I’m mad you didn’t understand the third Batman. Charity is an altruistic concept, and the intent at worst should be reciprocal altruism. Do you know how corrupt charity is? Have you never read Malamud? “Society” if you are inputting facebook or twitter or some other irrational concept you have stuck up your nose, cannot like someone more or less, it has no opinion that can be rendered in any real world. “Society, man” – Chris McCandless was speaking against people like you who think the “other” jim was talking about how poor people would judge Bezos. He was talking about whether it would create a lasting permanent impact on poor people. Charity is an altruistic concept alright, despite your invocation of the anthropic principle and miserly defense.

91 William Carrington June 15, 2017 at 5:42 pm

What is the best phrase for the act of trying to convey your morality to others? Is “virtue signaling” a widely used term? I have been using “moral preening” but perhaps there are better terms out there.

92 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 9:06 pm

The problem with virtue signaling is that the signaller doesn’t care whether his donations do any real good. I don’t Bezos’s will, when he makes his decision.(It’s probably already made up, you peasesnts think he’s gonna listen to you?)

93 Jameson Penn June 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Follow the Nicki Minaj model and pay off student debt on Twitter, or any other method (e.g., lottery of amazon prime student or mommy discounts). Use “Amazon technology” to validate legitimacy and wire the money.

94 Ragged Clown June 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

After-school software classes in underprivileged areas.

95 konshtok June 15, 2017 at 4:59 pm

2 ideas

1)Sell Heroin
There are several government/charity programs around the world that give heroin addicts medical grade heroin
It helps prevent over doses in general and infections for those who inject it
Amazon getting into this would give it legitimacy and help it spread
What I would really like is if Amazon hires the Drs who’ll prescribe it (taking the legal burden on itself) and then sell Amazon Heroin (at a reasonable price) so that their medical grade quality controlled heroin becomes the market standard that the illegal junk has to compete with
2)Micro Investing
That’s like micro lending but in reverse
Provide a platform that makes it possible for poor people to invest small amounts of money in stocks or funds or other financial instruments by pooling together small amount from a lot of small investors
right now most of those things have a minimum buy in which means that for poor people the only options are either to immediately spend any small amount of spare money they have or keep it physically and lose to inflation

96 jorgensen June 15, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Tell the Republican party you will donate a billion dollars to the party if they do immigration reform that lets the Dreamers stay and has an amnesty for 90% of all illegals (including some of those guilty of minor crimes).

The impact on the well being of about 10 million residents of America would be immediate.

97 [insert here] delenda est June 16, 2017 at 4:25 am

The idea of openly buying off government is excellent, and has perhaps never been more credible.

You could extend it further: ask a committee of Tyler Cowen, Dani Rodrik, Jean Tirole, Nicholas Gruen and Raj Chetty to identify the three most valuable projects in each country with more than 50m people (other than China and Russia perhaps) and then pay the governments/current ruling parties of those countries sth like a billion over five years to implement them. If you ask a few fellow multi-billionaires you could pay them each a billion each year over five years, and the gains could be trillions.

You could “set and forget” in 4 months, as well.

98 Robert D June 15, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Why not purchase Fox News and give it to PBS?

99 Gabe Atthouse June 15, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Because then Dick the Butcher wouldn’t get any real news.

100 BC June 15, 2017 at 5:04 pm

I thought Tyler already answered this question a while ago: give one-time cash awards to randomly chosen poor people. Give cash for the well-known reason that people know best what they most need. Randomly choose recipients so that the award will be a surprise to avoid perverse incentive effects. Give Directly comes close to this prescription. They give cash to people with straw roofs, which I guess is how they identify the poor in Africa. I have no idea whether anyone in Africa has delayed upgrading their roof from straw to metal in hopes of receiving cash from Give Directly.

101 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 6:22 pm

There’s a similar thing called the lottery. See the research on what happens to the winners.

102 Pshrnk June 15, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Lottery winners are not randomly chosen. They are randomly chosen from the doofusses who play the lottery.

103 Nate June 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Helicopter drop. Literally. $50k each in 500 locations around the world (heavy Africa/Asia) all in the same day without prior notice.

104 Antika Singh June 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm

I am a teacher working with current and former teachers to create a new non-profit organization that seeks to revolutionize education. Teachers bear far too great a burden. The best teachers create lesson plans, resources, simulations, games, and more. These are things we can take off of their plate, and, in the process, make good teachers great and average teachers good. We want to provide an ever-growing library of resources to help teachers. Everything would be found in a universally-accessible, free, searchable online database. Content in dozens of languages, representing a myriad of perspectives, properly sourced and vetted, with accompanying lesson plans AND troubleshooting. The goal is not to just have some videos or some games that teachers can allow kids to view or play, but to really meet every single student where he is, make him feel valued, pique his interest, and help him connect his own experiences to the content he is studying (apologies for masculine pronoun usage–would prefer a true gender-neutral singular pronoun if one existed in English). Our primary learning objectives are not content-driven; instead, they are empathy, global competence, health, deep understanding, higher-order thinking, 21st century skill development, and cooperation. Content serves these objectives, not vice versa.

Consider a high school history class. Students say it is boring. A typical high school history teacher has five classes, three different preps, and 125 students. He has to get to know each one, grade papers by each one, and try to relate content to each one. Overworked, he turns to static resources like textbooks and worksheets. Students see the work, and therefore the class, as a waste of time. They do not devote themselves to it. They are not intrigued by it. And everyone keeps the sham alive because it is passing for education and education is “good.” Our mission is to end this cycle permanently–to never again have a teacher use a resource he deems uninteresting because it is easily accessible and sufficient, and to never have a student copy his friend’s worksheet because they both see the entire process as a waste. This cycle is already avoided by the children of wealthy and accomplished parents, who attend private schools and hire private tutors. It is time to use the power of the internet to give every teacher access to phenomenal resources, professional development, and a network of support.
Imagine if that teacher could access, for free, dozens of resources of different mediums–films, literature, documentaries, poetry, animated videos, newspaper articles, journal articles, podcasts, and more–and trust that all of it is properly sourced, vetted, and accessible by every student at any time from any location. A group of 25 students could each learn about the same event in 25 different ways, from 25 different perspectives representing different ideologies, races, genders, ethnicities, religions, geographic locations, and socioeconomic status levels. Right now, each individual teacher is responsible for finding that content and disseminating it appropriately. This is simply too much to ask.
Using the type of cloud services, learning algorithms, and database structures Amazon.com has created, we could develop a database that every teacher and school could use. Students would develop learning profiles, and the algorithms would help them find the content that speaks to them and makes them want to learn more. Amazon knows EXACTLY what products you’re going to want to buy. YouTube knows EXACTLY what videos you’re going to want to watch. We need to use that same technology to help students find the right resources for the content they “need” to learn. It’s time to stop blaming students for being lazy when they don’t do their textbook reading. We can do more for them and society will benefit when we do.
Paying teachers more will not change the fact that they are being asked to do too much. It’s time to offer every teacher in the world the kind of support he actually needs to be effective. If someone like Jeff Bezos through his money and name behind this kind of a project, we could realistically help hundreds of millions of students to get a better education.

105 Antika Singh June 15, 2017 at 5:23 pm

The last sentence should read “If someone like Jeff Bezos threw his money and name behind this kind of a project, we could realistically help hundreds of millions of students to get a better education.” Poor proofreading, sorry.

106 Massimo June 15, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I am developing a chain of for profit school for the lower class in Honduras with Professor James Tooley. Each kid is given an inexpensive computer and an Internet connection, the video of each hour (actually segments of 40 minutes) of lessons, and a set of exercises slightly intelligent (meaning it is nothing like AI, but based on the results of the exercises the relevant lesson can be given again with another set of exercises of growing difficulty for the issue the kid did not understand, until he learns). The objective is to eliminate the need of the “heroic teacher” and go to a full flipped class model, where the time at school is dedicated to exercise and tutoring, also heavily using peer-to-peer learning. This allowed us to price at 90$ per month all included, even if Honduras minimum salary is a whopping 450$ per month (consider that GDP per capita is only 2000$ per year). In Salvador, for example, where the minimum salary is 250$ (even if the GDP per capita is the double of Honduras) we could price at 70$ per month. A very back-of-the-envelope exercise made us think that an implementation in the US could be priced at 250-300$ per month.

We have been very slow, after two year we are only at grade 5, because the amount of work to develop the curriculum, the content and the exercises, plus the advanced material (good students that already dominate a issue can either go out to play soccer or watch other videos to deepen the understanding) is huge and fairly expensive: a few hundreds of thousands dollars per grade.

What is maddening to me is that what is expensive for us would actually be a drop in the ocean for a Deparment of Education of even a small country, and the material could be developed once and given out to all with zero marginal cost. With only a few millons dollars you could develop a complete, internally consistent and splendid curriculum that could be used to self-learn, homeschooling or as a base for cheap charity based or for profit schools in any part of the world, being English as a second language the most important part of the material.

Now let me try and see if I am able to post this.

107 psmith June 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Give Directly has already been mentioned.

Maybe Project Prevention?

108 Floccina June 15, 2017 at 5:11 pm

1. Work to wipe out the varieties of mosquito that bite humans.
2. Work on new antibiotics.

109 Walter June 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm

No one goes hungry in school.

110 Dave Porter June 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Promote paid high school study abroad programs by public education systems. Strategically prioritize getting students to China, India, Japan and Indonesia. Also strategically focus on making it possible for many more low income and racially varied high school students to study abroad. Promote high school graduation requirement changes that give full credit for high school years spent abroad.

111 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 6:24 pm

You forgot the part about how this is supposed to improve society.

112 Mike Andrews June 15, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Create and endow the nation’s first STEM work college in the heart of Appalachia: West Virginia. The state has one of the lowest per capita endowment assets in the U.S. In a region that has fewer charitable resources. The work college model is wholesome and efficacious in the era of the Complacent Class.

113 Derek Hopf June 15, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Glad Jeff is thinking about this! I like the here-and-now approach for a variety of reasons (though not exclusively), mostly because the expected value of a gift/project is more guaranteed than a long-term approach. The latter probably has a higher range of potential impact (e.g., preventing a future global catastrophic risk = very good for ALL future humans and their descendants), but the former is harder to mess up.

My advice is to first speak to those who have been doing this a while (Bill Gates, larger foundations) for their thoughts. Re-inventing the wheel or trying some “innovative” approach to philanthropy can be a tremendous waste of time and lead to many unintended consequences. Give Directly and the GiveWell lists are good places to start for ideas for making pretty significant differences in peoples lives immediately, in particular those in developing countries.

If he’d like to start domestically/locally, one idea I like that I first heard about was on Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast (episode title: “Carlos Doesn’t Remember”) which involved finding extremely high-aptitude and high-performing students attending bad schools (yes, there are many kids in this situation), and getting them access to a better school through relationships and funding. This immediately improves their lives short-term, as well as boosts their odds of long-term success (along with having tangential benefits for society).

114 Enrique Guerra-Pujol June 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Bezos would do more good for more people if you just started another business!

115 Enrique Guerra-Pujol June 15, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Bezos would do more good for more people if he just started another business!

116 Rich Berger June 15, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Shuttering the Post would be a philanthropic master stroke.

117 Les Cargill June 15, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Start a web-based clearinghouse for *vetted* employer reviews. Provide full context. Only allow the most egregious stories; allow employers to update with corrective actions.

118 Alex Pear June 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm

I agree with a lot of these, especially GiveDirectly or the Against Malaria Foundation.

For a more exotic, Amazon-style idea, there is http://vitalik.ca/jekyll/general/2017/03/11/a_note_on_charity.html. This is a proposal for a standard for consumer-facing organizations to offer discounts to charity donors to promote charitable causes.

119 Jamie June 15, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Others have mentioned housing and certainly policy changes are in order but I would hypothesize that a wealthy person could invest heavily in moderate income, or ‘workforce” housing and start to make a dent in our crisis of affordability in some areas. This wouldn’t be strictly philanthropy as these projects would generate revenue, which could be used to do some combination of further development or subsidized rents for poorer residents. I think that part of the political problem regarding housing development is that new development is too tilted towards luxury, since if only a few projects will be approved developers want to get the most revenue possible out of each project. More development that is geared towards lower-income residents could hopefully help move the political needle towards being more pro-development.

120 August Hurtel June 15, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Russ Roberts interviewed Rana Foroohar- who pointed out how little long term blue sky research is being done nowadays.
The businesses use what was formerly research money to manipulate stock prices.
The government use government money to get research that justifies government.

We need private sector blue sky NON-IDEOLOGICAL research. I don’t know if Bezos can pull that off, given WAPO’s atrocious record, but he should try.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2017/04/rana_foroohar_o.html

121 Mark Thorson June 15, 2017 at 5:38 pm

There is currently an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths caused by the introduction of fentanyl derivatives that can be as much as 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Nobody in the illicit opium trade is delibrately selling doses of higher than intended potency because a) that might kill the customer hence the prospect of repeat business, and b) it leaves money on the table by selling a product for less than it could fetch if properly diluted.

The cause of this problem is inadequate technology for diluting such potent drugs. When powders differing in size, shape, and mass density are mixed, then tend to segregate. This is easily demonstrated. Pour granulated sugar into a glass pickle jar until it is half full, then add a spoonful of curry powder. Tightly screw on the lid and give it a good long shaking. Curry is a blend of spices, and you’ll see it separate into its ingredients. No amount of shaking will result in a uniform mixing. There will be striped swirls of yellow and brown particles.

How do the big pharmaceutical companies handle this problem, necessary for the uniform dosing of tablets? They use V-mixers, which consist of two arms connected by a 90 degree angle. There’s no shaking or agitation. When the point of the V is up, the charge is split into portions that fall into the arms. When the point is down, the two portions fall back into the point and merge into one. The V is mounted on a motor-driven axle so it alternates between up and down.

My suggestion is to run a contest to design and fabricate V-mixers of various sizes and methods of construction. The V could be made out of HVAC ductwork, iron pipe, cardboard concrete forms, etc. The axle driver could be direct-drive, chain drive, fan belt, etc. The motor could be electric, gas, or human power (crank or pedals). Give awards to the 100 best designs, and give larger awards for the very best designs. “Best” could be measured by uniformity of dispersion, tools required, build cost, etc. with special awards in each category.

All of the paid winners would surrender complete plans and photos of their work, which would be made public on a website. This would make it possibe for anybody to build a tested design with tools and materials appropriate to their situation. Opioid deaths are being tracked very accurately by the authorities, so the quantitative impact of making good mixing technology available should become well-documented within a matter of months after its introduction.

122 konshtok June 15, 2017 at 11:31 pm

my idea is simpler

123 Mark Thorson June 16, 2017 at 12:16 am

No, it’s not. Your idea requires running a government-regulated program and employing lots of doctors. Mine is just a one-time thing, a contest followed by a website. Then it’s done. Other people do all the work, not your employees. The need for the technology drives it forward. Purveyors of opioids will want it so they have more control over the potency of their product, and customers will appreciate more predictable dosing.

Just do the hard part — create the designs — and small shops all over the world can build the hardware. Auto body shops, bicycle repair shops, backyard tinkerers — everybody would be able to build some form of the V-mixer. Heck, they’ll even show up on eBay.

This is exactly what Bezos was asking for, something that could have a big impact in a short period of time. Not only that, but the government will give us reliable month-by-month data on how well we’re doing because they already collect this data. It could save hundreds of lives every month. And it’s cheap! Mostly the cost of the contest prizes, plus a little money for the judges and a website designer. It would be nice to hire a graphic artist for a few months to do exploded diagrams of the contest winners to make things as easy to follow as possible.

124 J June 15, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Better, more interactive parent(s) produce better, more productive children who then in turn continue the trend. Focus on creating better parents through partnership with intercity hospitals and pediatricians. Can create or expand on this program: http://childrenofbellevue.org/video-interaction-project/

And/or focus on removing FDA regulations and barriers to new drug approvals.

125 bill June 15, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Best Buddies.
https://bestbuddies.org/

126 Moo cow June 15, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Good org.

127 David June 15, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Finance a private army and invade Venezuela. Clean up the mess and give the country back to the people.

128 Pshrnk June 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

+1

129 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 8:49 pm

I won’t be volunteering. And good luck with the liability insurance.

130 Ottavio June 15, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Monthly unconditional cash transfers of $2,500 for 2 years to recently released prisoners. The need is immediate, recidivism (and your gifts impact) would be easy to measure, and if it works it would be easy to scale.

131 Brian Hollar June 15, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Brilliant idea!

132 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 6:26 pm

If your sarcastic in this thread, you really need to do a /sarc tag.

133 Massimo June 15, 2017 at 10:18 pm

I don’t think Ottavio or Brian were sarcastic and I think it is a fantastic idea. Ex-cons are almost non-persons in our societies, without help they are in a near impossible position to start again, they are virtually pushed to commit crimes again. While as a libertarian I would be against the State doing it, I believe it would be a most effective way of spending charity money.

134 Brian Hollar June 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Could provide these monthly cash transfers on a lottery basis nationwide. Would have two benefits:

1) Reduce incentive to commit crimes in hope of getting cash transfers.

2) Would be like RCT allowing for study of outcomes of those who receive the cash transfers against those who don’t.

135 Ottavio June 16, 2017 at 9:40 am

Totally agree. Great improvement!

136 FE June 15, 2017 at 6:07 pm

I propose the main criterion should be that the activitiy is politically impossible, because it unglamorous or because the beneficiaries are unpopular. The suggestions above for things like lead abatement and services to parolees qualify.

137 Wash Po headline writer June 15, 2017 at 6:07 pm

“The Other Jim is a stupid hick from the Midwest and here’s why”

138 Clebo June 15, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Tell him his approach is wrong. He should have a deep concern for the future.

Ideas:

Fund a think tank or two to answer his question, both for himself and others. Make his own version of the Open Philanthropy Project.

Consider “buying” a country like Zimbabwe and running it.

139 Faze June 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm

Heck, buy Cleveland and do something interesting with it. (I like Cleveland, by the way. That’s why I want Bezos to buy it.)

140 Ali Choudhury June 15, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Start treating your warehouse employees as if they are more than disposable inputs. Charity starts at home.

141 edgar June 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Give Directly – https://www.givedirectly.org/ A givewell.org top rated charity that every month gives thousands of extremely poor people unconditional cash transfers empowering them to immediately transform their lives.

Direct Relief – https://www.directrelief.org/?gclid=CJnX3O_vwNQCFY1WDQodQ4wKHA Charity Navigator #1 rated charity is doing short term oriented work such as providing Naloxone nationwide to community health providers, delivering supplies to Yemen, etc.

142 Lachlan Carey June 15, 2017 at 9:01 pm

Or as Peter Singer would say in the vein of effective altruism: mosquito nets!

143 Cooper June 15, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Paying his own workers better would be a nice start.

He got rich by paying his warehouse workers horribly. How about he share the wealth a little with the people who made him a billionaire?

http://gawker.com/amazon-workers-will-not-be-paid-for-all-their-time-at-w-1668746439

At least Google and Facebook treat their people relatively well. It would be nice for Amazon to do the same.

144 dirk June 15, 2017 at 7:41 pm

I heard that Google and Facebook fired all their warehouse employees.

145 Kevin V June 15, 2017 at 6:41 pm

1. Find more GiveDirectly village-wide experiments, like the one they’re starting now. Do one in a developed country. 2. Help the Gates Foundation kill all mosquitos.

146 Kevin V June 15, 2017 at 6:44 pm

*Fund more. Oops.

147 James Minor June 15, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Malnutrition, especially among children, is something worth tackling RIGHT NOW that still has long term impacts. This could take the form of distributing school lunches in districts that don’t have then, or subsidizing fruit and vegetables in areas where they are expensive: the gulf between Singapore and the U.S. in fruit/vegetable prices is staggering.

148 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 8:34 pm

FAKE NEWS!

149 AW June 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm
150 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Surprised at how bad the suggestions were, there were a few good ones like GiveDirectly but most were just “let’s reward people’s irresponsible decisions.” Did cucks link to this page?

151 Barnum T. Phineas June 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Given the level of erudition apparent in your response, have you considered using all-caps in future writings?

152 Tvashtar June 15, 2017 at 7:06 pm

1) a hard fix: broken children from broken families are the root cause of most social ills listed above. So instead of throwing money at the symptoms, seek ways to incentivize stable, two parent families. It works in Singapore.

2) an easy fix: stop the Washington Post from fuelling a mind-numbing miasma of ignorance and paranoia in politics. In case no one noticed, the year-long Russia collision fable died with nary a whisper but at great cost to getting important things done in government. The Post carries a great deal of blame here.

153 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Good idea compared to most of the crap here, though there’s an obvious difference between Chicago and Singapore.

+1 to your second suggestion.

154 Ann Ominous June 15, 2017 at 7:11 pm

He could fund a free once-per-lifetime clinic for people with no health insurance. It wouldn’t cure cancer or anything, but it could cheaply cure and diagnose a variety of common health problems.

155 dirk June 15, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Set up a lottery system to aid the “working poor with children”. Give all the winners $20k a year for the next 20 years.

156 dirk June 15, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Give 2nd and 3rd prizes of $10k and $5k a year so researchers can study and compare results.

157 A Douglas June 15, 2017 at 7:14 pm

To expand on what Joseph Philleo mentioned above (suggestion 2), a service to help people move around the country for employment would provide significant benefits to those who are unable to work simply because of lack of employment opportunities in their current location and inability to pay to relocate. The philanthropy could perhaps pair the relocation service with employment services, so that it helps find people a job, regardless of their current location, and then pays to move them to wherever the new job is located.

158 Thomas June 15, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Remove lead and other heavy metal contaminants

Over 1/2 a million kids are estimated to have lead poisining in the US alone, and studies such as this suggest that no level of lead is safe(http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/380503). Lead leaves our children, mostly those in poverty, with lower IQ’s, reduced self-regulation abilities, and a host of other impairments that lower their ability to contribute to adults

The effects would not be immediate, it may even take a generation to see any benefits, but would not only improve the lives of our most vulnerable children, but would surely improve the well-being of every member of society.

159 Hazel Meade June 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm

+1. Right up my alley.

160 PRileySTL June 15, 2017 at 7:21 pm

Donate Amazon’s logistics resources and experimentation to provide fresh food to all school aged children in USA. Puts children of all incomes on the same basis. Creates a healthy and well fed america with strong kids. Then, Redistribute the processed food the kids eat today to the homeless; they get enough calories to lift themselves up and find food to supplement. Also, systematically donate all food warehoused in Amazon, 1 month before the expiration date. Ship it to the new Amazon prime poor members.

I’d welcome anyone that would help me extrapolate on this idea.
Rich kids pack fancy lunches, poor kids eat what the government and real estate taxes provide.

161 Ann Ominous June 16, 2017 at 12:19 am

“Also, systematically donate all food warehoused in Amazon, 1 month before the expiration date”

+1

162 Ted June 15, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Fund research for treatments for diseases few people have.

163 EmanuelNoriega June 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Donate to children’s charities for facial differences like this one:
http://www.aboutface.ca

Part of promoting a world not defined by lookism.

164 Brett June 15, 2017 at 7:39 pm

You want to pay for a space telescope, Jeff? Or pay for legal counsel for people who can’t afford it in civil cases.

Given his resources, he’s probably best off giving money to various lobbying outfits to lobby for policies he likes. There’s way more public resources available to do things than he’ll ever have in free cash.

165 Sergey Kurdakov June 15, 2017 at 9:35 pm

like an idea with space telescope.

say https://arxiv.org/abs/1503.07944 – looks like not very expensive project (~ hundred million cost), at the same time relatively short term (few years to develop, 4 years to complete observation ) and will have lasting impact: no worry that asteroid will hit without warning for millennia to come.

166 Bowers June 15, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Putting private dollars and initiative behind government projects to accelerate inefficient processes. Some examples may include transportation infrastructure, testing rape kit backlogs, and integrating SMS and text messages into 911 dispatch. This last one may be a possible implementation of Amazon technologies.

167 Peter Metrinko June 15, 2017 at 7:42 pm

There are many factors that lead to the high cost of U.S. healthcare. Lost in the political debates is that fact that there is a shortage of primary care doctors. (Statistics about shortages of such doctors, and other health professionals, can be explored at https://datawarehouse.hrsa.gov/topics/shortageAreas.aspx) I had hoped that any health care legislation would attempt to rectify the shortage, which is likely artificially created by the AMA. It seems to me that a private group could set up a medical academy akin to the military service academies. Free education would be provided at a large teaching hospital campus, in exchange for a contractual commitment to provide specific medical services where needed, for a specific term of years, and perhaps at a salaried basis.

Given the political climate, I see little hope of any coherent, effective health reform. Nor are our elected officials likely going to stand up to the AMA. Perhaps you, and others, could create and fund such an institution. I recognize there would be significant bureaucratic and institutional resistance to increasing physician supply, but I believe it is a wise idea.

168 Mark June 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

+1

169 Lanigram June 15, 2017 at 7:46 pm
170 Anon June 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

…..”after I edit out the most brilliant ideas.”

Hopefully, you mean the opposite.

171 Rupert June 15, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Hearing aids. So many people need these and insurance rarely covers the costs. Babies, children, teenagers, adults, seniors could all benefit. I’d also suggest some form of a minor allowance or subsidy to help with the cost of hearing aid batteries and repairs.

172 Brad p June 15, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Set up a large network of treatment centers and methadone clinics throughout underserved rural areas plagued by opioid abuse.
Aim to eliminate any wait times and have services be very affordable or free.

173 Tyler Cowen June 15, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Massimo M. wanted me to post this for him:

Create a Zede (Zona especial de desarrollo economico: Special zone of economic development) in Honduras. The Zede legislation is the result of almost 10 years of discussions and political fights since the times Paul Romer came down here to work on this project with former president Porfirio Lobo.

Both the legislation and the administrative implementation regulations have been created, and what is lacking now is the commitment of a serious private investor. I estimate that the money needed for a first meaningful Zede is between 50 and 100 M$. To put my (very limited compared to Bezos) wallet where my mouth is, If Bezos decided to do it, I would be willing to match his investment in a 1:20 relationship in case he was interested.

Three next steps: 1) Buy the land (if he wanted to consider it, many suitable places have already been identified by various people involved in this). 2) Choose the legislative framework (my suggestion is to use the ready-to-use package developed by Prof. Tom Bell). 3) obtain the approval by the special commission, which is packed by realistic classical-liberals, for example Barbara Kolm, Richard Rahm and Octavio Sanchez. Estimated time 9-12 months. Basic infrastructure construction can start in parallel, in the worst case the land improved can be resold, likely at a profit.

What is a Zede? It is basically a private city, with a lot of latitude for the owner in terms of real government and institutional innovation. Some examples: 1) Police from Honduras cannot enter a Zede, security is to be provided by the owner. 2) The legislative framework is chosen by the owner, provided it does not go against the Honduras Constitution. Most of the projects on paper chose a common-law anglosaxon system and the one of Delaware for the commercial code. 3) The judges (including penal) are chosen by the owner, althought they must be ratified by the country Supreme Court. They can be of any nationality. 4) The currency to be used is decided by the owner of the Zede, who might also decide to let the market choose what currency to use, state or private, commodity backed or not. 5) the level of public services and taxation is defined by the owner. Only 12% of the total tax take has to be given to Honduras central government, in order to pay for “national defense”. The law states that education and healthcare must be provided, but the Zede can simply decide that people wanting to leave there have to buy a health insurance and send children to a private school, and if they stop to do it thay can be kicked out. 6) The immigration policy is decided by the owner, with the only exception of Hondureans, that cannot be excluded from a Zede, provided that they follow the law of the specific Zede.

Why a Zede? In the medium term is a fantastic possibility to try and implement a system of governance that do not suffer from Public Choice problems. A zede does not have to be democratic, people decide to move there on a voluntary base, if they do not like the legislation, they can move out or not to go in the first place. If, as it is probable, more Zedes will be open, we will be able for the first time in a century to witness real governance systems in open market-based competition to attract citizen-clients.
In the short time, the Zede will be an oasis and a refuge for poor and desperate people to go to live and work in a place where they do not have to worry that a gang-member or a cop decide to rape their daughters just because they feel like it, with total impunity. It would also stem the flow of illegal immigration to the United States. Depending on the legislative framework, it could also be a place where enterpreneurs could work enencumbered by most of the regulations they suffer today. Just an example, the one I have in mind would have only one tax, a fixed amount (something like 1.000 dollars, or an ounce of gold) per person. No income, sales, property, value-added or any other type of tax. If the enterpreneur doesn’t want to keep books for his own reason, he is perfectly free not to do it.

Imagine many post-war HongKong and Singapore with completely open frontiers, competing between them in the industry “government”. No democracy, but plenty of liberty. The Holy Roman Empire at its best, with today economy and education.

To the few socialists in this blog that will accuse me of wanting to sell the poor of the third-world to heartless neo-liberarist, neo-colonial capitalists, remember that this type of zede (there are other two types in which the central government and the municipalities are involved) could only be created on private land, where nobody live today anyway. It is an additional choice for the current citizen-slave.

A final point: this is not necessarily a charity project, in my case, for example, it is a for-profit venture. Said that, Bezos might decide to subsidize some of the services, like free primary school or hospice for the elder.

174 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Looks like Tyler didnt like my critique!

175 Nick June 15, 2017 at 9:27 pm

This is literally the first time I’ve ever seen Tyler comment on one of his own posts. I’m amazed.

176 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 11:02 pm

To be clear, this is in reference to a comment he deleted, in reply to his comment.

177 Massimo June 15, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Thank you very much, Mr Cowen, it appears that whatever was the problem is now solved. I fully appreciate your help and I am amazed by the speed with which you acted.

178 Kevin F June 15, 2017 at 10:44 pm

So Massimo M. will kick in up to $5 million if some billionaires will put up 95? I’d bet Tyler has enough libertarian entrepreneurs in his Twitter feed to get that done. And if the zede needs volunteers, sign me up!

179 Daniel Weber June 15, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Experiment with wage subsidy: pick a city and announce that people who will hire someone for $4/hour and you will subsidize by $3.50/hour. (Advanced mode: take care of the hiring side and taxes so people only need to supply the person they are hiring and supply the money.)

You can try to restrict it to say that they must be providing something of social value, but I’d try for the simpler bar of saying that they can’t be actively anti-social: no telemarketers, no door-to-door salesmen, no political organizing, nothing annoying.

180 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Good research opportunity. But if it scales, the question will be: how much are you(taxpayer) willing to pay to provide artificially cheap, unhealthy food to people?

181 Daniel Weber June 16, 2017 at 11:19 am

It sounds like you think everyone will end up in fast food. But anyone can hire these people. Charities can bid up the floor.

It’s a cheaper version of a welfare state. People are providing some of most of their own way instead of the state providing all of it. And it helps people build the basic job skills (showing up on time) needed for real work.

182 Dan L June 15, 2017 at 8:29 pm

Insurance for the uncertainty of the reinsurance payments for insurers on the ACA exchange – specifically for counties with zero plans for next year. Immediate massive leveraged benefit. Plus helps stabilize against the ongoing sabotage.

183 JonB June 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Study prisoners and their high-functioning variants (politicians) with the same intensity that we currently study cancer or HIV. High-tech biology….not psychological hand-waving.

So tired of sociological excuses for mass shootings (wars) clearly executed by deranged individuals with atypical psychoses

Current regulations largely preclude studying prisoners (virtue-signaling civil liberty concerns) or at a minimum strongly discourage a sustained professional interest. University types are also afraid or embarrassed by being in a prison setting.

These are some of the sickest members of society….

184 Hazel Meade June 15, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Distribute free pre-natal vitamins in poverty stricken areas. At least the next generation won’t be stunted.

185 Ricardo June 16, 2017 at 2:41 am

Whites in the U.S. are just slightly taller than blacks on average but lack of essential vitamins is no longer a widespread problem in the U.S. It is a more serious problem in the developing world.

186 Hazel Meade June 15, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Also iron-fortified baby cereal. Make sure infants don’t get anemia.

187 Sean Kelleher June 15, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Heavily subsidize transition costs for tens of thousands of Democrats to move into states where Trump won by a narrow margin.

188 Torde June 15, 2017 at 9:25 pm

What is a medium-large barrier that prevents people from being their best self? I’d say a moon-shot for addiction treatment, disabling mental illnesses (thought and mood disorders).

What is the most morally objectionable thing that happens frequently in US and around world–maybe human trafficking?

What would help people here and now most? What if every agency or non-profit charity had the organizational capacity to do it’s job better than it does currently.

The opposite of Amazon is probably you volunteering to help people yourself, doing it for a long time and then passing it on to your kids and those close to you.

189 Vaccines June 15, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Buy vaccines in bulk and distribute to low-income countries that need them.

It’s occurred to me that a billionaire could probably nearly wipe out a smaller disease like Hepatitis C by just buying the necessary drug in bulk and working hard on distribution. But this is more of a rich-world problem.

The biggest bang for the buck (in terms of lives benefited) would probably be just giving out things like pneumococcal vaccines in developing countries. A little longer-term attack would probably be research funding for neglected tropical diseases. The Gates Foundation has done a pretty good job identifying the high-value areas.

190 Vaccines June 15, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Actually, hepatitis C is apparently not just a rich-world problem.

“Globally, an estimated 130–150 million people are living with HCV infection (chronically infected), and more than 700,000 were estimated to have died from HCV-related liver disease in 2013.”

The market cap for Gilead is 85B (https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/GILD?ltr=1), just a couple billion over Bezos’ net worth. I’m sure he could swing a lot of money from governments and other charitable foundations and buy the company outright.

Of course you don’t need to buy the whole company to get the license for the vaccine. And you probably wouldn’t want to, you’d want the company to keep working to find new vaccines as incentivized by the profit motive.

So, buy the vaccine, give it away for free. Work hard on distribution.

191 Daniel Weber June 16, 2017 at 11:38 am

This is all kinds of dumb. Wait around 10 years and the patent will be expired.

192 Sourcreamus June 15, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Give money for rehab and treatment for opiate addicts.

193 Money4DirtyJobs June 15, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Think small and biggest impact for places where big $ isn’t required. Remove opportunity for ego for the giver and receiver. This isn’t mutually exclusive with other ideas here but may lead to chances to further develop them in practice.

Step 1 – Get Mike Rowe. Give him 6 months to cross the country finding the small firehouses and schools that need repairs, struggling museums, tired little league ballparks, churches trying to replace heaters, tech schools with thin apprentice programs, food pantries, foundations using volunteer vets labor, etc. Not every project needs to be a poverty/social ills type goal. Mike has seen enough of the country, has sorted through enough BS to know right from wrong, and has good connections. Make sure not to to pick projects that suffer from an individual’s ego or mismanagement. Have him make a wish list of 100 projects to fund, but make no mention of the possibility to the potential recipients. Candidates should be spread across the country.

Step 2 – Have Mike meet with Jeff to select some or all of the candidates. Jeff would benefit from seeing the ideas which might give him other ideas.

Step 3 – Distribute, but on the condition that the money be given anonymously and used promptly. Mike could even find an intermediary to disguise his role. No photo ops or ribbon cutting ceremonies. Follow up to confirm results.

Step 4 – Use experience to see if viable to repeat the process. The process can also be used to identify and develop other discrete projects that might otherwise fly below the radar. Think small. Think of it as advance research that helps people in the process.

Would this approach necessarily hit big headline kind of social problems? Perhaps not, but it could make a material difference for people where a little bit of money would go a long way. If the objective was to have immediate impact, there would be plenty of tangible results to look at.

194 Stephen Gradijan June 15, 2017 at 10:35 pm

+1

195 Prakash June 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm

+1

196 Marty Murphy June 15, 2017 at 10:19 pm

If you give money to education, give it where it’s needed: The high schools. Every scientist and educator will tell you that is where we lose the young people. Most of the first tier colleges have too much money. We don’t need another Dean of Diversity. Help the high schools and then move down the chain to the middle schools.

197 Stephen Gradijan June 15, 2017 at 10:33 pm

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Start a bunch of non-profit (or for-profit for that matter) “Sudbury Schools” based on the Sudbury Valley School (SVS) which was founded in 1968 and is still running and seems highly successful. Set them up in the US in locations where traditional schooling is deemed wretched and do it with free tuition for the first x decades.

SVS was and is based on the concept that students only learn what they want to learn, and the traditional model of K-12 schooling “teaches” children to memorize what they don’t want to learn long enough to pass a test, after which they will promptly forget virtually all of which that they did not want to learn. “Memorize and promptly forget” isn’t learning, it is a colossal waste of money and foregone human capital masquerading as education.

SVS (and all Sudbury schools) in contrast lets students learn what they want to learn when they want to learn and skip the pretense that they will learn something they don’t want to learn; they all eventually learn what they need to know “to be an effective adult”. That last quote is what they need to demonstrate to graduate.

In effect Sudbury schools use “unschooling” at school. There are dozens of such highly successful Sudbury schools around the US and the world, but they are “under known” (radically under-rated in Tyler Cowen speak).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um2c9o25nfM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lByU373sOgk
http://www.sudval.org/01_abou_01.html

198 Stephen Gradijan June 15, 2017 at 10:36 pm

That post has three links, not two. I am not sure why they would up looking like two links. Sorry about that.

199 Tim Miano June 15, 2017 at 10:34 pm

Every startup, gov, edu, NGO, & social biz I consult for faces the same Q: How do I implement systems that track non-monetary metrics?

200 GoneWithTheWind June 15, 2017 at 10:43 pm

End the income tax deduction for charitable giving.

201 hoghoghoghoghog June 15, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Randomized policy experiments. Find out what big thing the government of Cambodia or whatever is considering, and do it for them for 3 years on a randomized basis.

202 Judah Benjamin Hur June 15, 2017 at 10:51 pm

He should invest $200 million in an important economic experiment. He should give $1 million of Amazon stock to the first 200 commenters on this thread then follow their net worths for the next 30 years.

203 Thomas Sewell June 15, 2017 at 11:27 pm

+1. I think we can all agree on this one.

204 Kyle Moore June 15, 2017 at 10:58 pm

I would suggest talking to the Open Philanthropy Project (a spinoff of GiveWell). They just spent years coming up with a methodology to donate billions of dollars. They might be able to give helpful advice on what ideas might be interesting, how to prioritize causes, and how to structure a foundation.

205 efim polenov June 15, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Each of these are low moral hazard: buy new air conditioning for city jails in poor zip codes. Pedestrian bridges in poor zip codes. Medical marijuana subsidies for geriatric patients (only traditional cannabis, not the horrible hybridized brain-melting stuff). One keg of artisan beer a week to every VFW hall. Babysitter subsidies for parents of autistic children. Pay old judges – early Baby Boomer and earlier – to retire, whatever their political beliefs. Send a 100 dollar check to every American citizen who was ever jailed for possession of minimal amounts of marijuana, with a letter saying this is not exactly reparations but it is a tax write-off to the giver, verb. sap. sufficit. (yes I know the expression is misspelled)… Buy, in groups of 10,000, the copyright to obscure books, movies, and recordings from every decade from the 20s on – give each group a name, and then release it all at once into the public domain. See what happens ….. 1,000 farms and more in each state, at least one per rural county that hosts a county fair, as retirement homes for goats, pigs, and their friends. Pay bad movie directors to retire.

206 MTC June 15, 2017 at 11:24 pm

I have been thinking lately about how free municipal recycling programs that take your cardboard provide a pretty substantial subsidy to Amazon purchases–if I couldn’t put all the boxes from the crap my spouse orders in the recycle bin, I’d have to pay for a larger trash bin. This would definitely make buying everything on Amazon less attractive on the margin (though I’d still have to spend an hour a month breaking the boxes down regardless of which bin they end up in).

Now I don’t know its necessarily any better all told to recyle cardboard versus just burying it in the ground with the rest of trash, but it seems odd to have taxpayers help fund Amazon’s destruction of local retail. Probably not the best bang for his charitable buck, but still maybe Jeff could figure what to do with all this f-nig cardboard instead of just letting taxpayers foot the bill.

207 Scott H. June 16, 2017 at 12:18 am

Fund experiments along the lines of guaranteed income/welfare that test policies and programs designed to a.) minimize human moral decay or b.) actively build human moral fortitude.

208 Ellis Green June 16, 2017 at 12:28 am

Infrastructure in places that don’t have the governance to do it.

In greater detail: I think CJ taught us in the last episode of the West Wing that one of the big problems facing parts of Africa is that they aren’t well-connected to the outside world, often because the state governments are uninterested/incapable of providing public goods (to the extent roads are that). Assuming that’s true (and I’m too lazy to fact check) this seems like an area that would pay off almost immediately upon completion and simply needs cash & organizational skill, which Bezos has.

209 Matt LaPointe June 16, 2017 at 12:32 am

Form a non-profit corporation to manufacture and distribute generic drugs in the United States.

Provide “competition” to big pharma systematically buying up smaller generic drug companies and raising prices.

210 TD June 16, 2017 at 12:41 am

How do we address the nature of philanthropy in America itself? There’s so much burnout over the giving and suspicion over the spending… The enormous scale of the problem turns it into a faceless, impersonal, going-through-the-motions chore. I wonder if it’s a new attitude that needs to be sought. To illustrate: I’ve always thought “In God We Trust” was a pretty weak motto on each greenback, so, a few years ago, I had a rubber stamp made so I could print “Love thy Neighbor. Please share these Blessings” on bills. Of course, this becomes moot as society grows more cashless, and it’s a small voice that I can only hope was heard the one time it counted. But this does speak to the two points: nothing’s more effective than cash in the hand of someone who immediately needs it, and it goes to address the long-term question of fortifying grassroots philanthropy. Can behavioral economics yield any similar strategies to combat burnout and restore charity to a one-on-one transaction?

211 Anon June 16, 2017 at 12:48 am
212 Pipsterate June 16, 2017 at 1:08 am

I believe that AIDS prevention in Africa is still probably the best short term way to avert death and suffering in the world. (Or perhaps prevention of other diseases, such as malaria.) I think that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation more or less has its priorities right, and Jeff Bezos’s charity should follow its model.

213 Dots June 16, 2017 at 1:33 am

Margins of child and elder care staffing, against malaria, give directly, scholarships for good students from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, or Russia to study in Australia, Canada etc

214 Anonymous June 16, 2017 at 1:42 am

I wasn’t expecting all those liberal suggestions, isn’t this a largely libertarian/alt-right blog? Most ignored the part about charity, recommending their favorite policy changes without any discussion of what Bezos could do to enact them. But I’m going to bookmark this page anyway, for a good reminder of why I should continue to save as much as possible now: in ten years, the liberals will be in power and I’ll be paying much higher taxes to support this kind of crap.

215 TMC June 18, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Conservatives already spend more on charity than progressives. This is nothing new. You can tell it is libertarian because these are all suggestions how to spend private money, not tax everyone to set up a bureaucracy to manage blah, blah, blah.

216 Charles Jackson June 16, 2017 at 1:57 am

A denim company that employs females rescued from sex traffic. These ladies need jobs , but have no marketable skills. Thankfully, anybody can be trained to cut and sew (ok, except amputees maybe). Just like with Tom’s shoes, many purchasers are happy to pay extra if they know their purchase is helping somebody else, and if the label helps the purchaser signal their virtue to those around them. The charity margin you can charge helps you stay competitive against the cheap labor garments imported from SE Asia.

Don’t steal my idea, Mr Bezos. I had it first.

217 Anonymous June 16, 2017 at 8:59 am

“females rescued from sex traffic”

Yet another suggestion based on fake news. Wonderful.

218 Kari June 16, 2017 at 2:03 am

Working title: “In-Kind Marketplace”
Tagline: “Where not-for-profits go to shop”

Description: My idea is to build “The In-Kind Marketplace,” which is a business to not-for-profit marketplace. Qualifying not-for-profits obtain access to goods at reduced prices or for free offered by retailers or consumer product firms. There are individual initiatives around offering diapers to nonprofits, washers and dryers for schools, and buy-one-give-one models, but no one is efficiently collecting and offering these products in a centralized location. A known marketplace with network effects would encourage other firms to participate and this would save cash-strapped not-for-profits time and resources procuring goods needed to advance their missions.

Why it fits with Bezos:
– It’s a marketplace.
– It’s a big lever.
– It would provide immediate benefits at a time when philanthropic effort from the private sector is becoming increasingly important.
– There are some similarities to Amazon’s recent announcement of offering reduced Prime membership. Both ultimately make goods more accessible to lower income households.

219 Sam Gardner June 16, 2017 at 4:44 am

Unions of course. Efficient Unions are a foolproof way to raise the working poor to the middle class.

220 Ricky Tylor June 16, 2017 at 8:26 am

It is always nice to work on such ideas, I always believe in doing charity even if it’s very minor. As a Forex trader, I always like to put away 5% of my profits to these work. I am grateful to my broker OctaFX since it’s with their help and support that enables me to be free in so many ways. I feel great with their setup that includes paying instantly and also not charging much commission for it either.

221 philip crawford June 16, 2017 at 8:30 am

The reason I would suggest GiveDirectly is:

1.) These cash transfers have an immediate positive effect on those that receive them.
2.) GiveDirectly could expand the number and scope of experiments it is running – beyond Kenya.
3.) Wealth democratization helps lead to more peace and better governance (in general), while money to governments often leads to the opposite.
4.) Some believe UBI is the future of welfare and if so, it would be good to start collecting data from these experiments.
5.) Many people would match his donations for GiveDirectly.

222 Mark June 16, 2017 at 8:57 am

I have chosen to support charities that provide rapid improvements in people’s lives and 2 I recommend are Operation Smile, which provides cleft palate and similar surgeries in Central America and other less developed areas and Helen Keller Int’l which provides eyesight aids and related medical treatment around the world. Doctors w/o Borders is another in this vein but I fear theinjury or death of the providers and that to me is a utility loss. I also support food banks.

223 peri June 16, 2017 at 9:10 am

In Bezos’ own Texas, a CCC-type program for prison labor to work on 1) invasive species removal and 2) park development/maintenance (our legislature is generally hostile to parks, so there is much to do). Give them an alternative to the prison subculture, doing work that is desperately needed.

224 Scott Sumner June 16, 2017 at 10:04 am

NGDP prediction markets funded to the tune of $2,000,000 per year, so that we have real time data on the most important macroeconomic indicator in the world—-US NGDP expectations.

Eventually, this could have a huge payoff in terms of reducing the volatility of the business cycle, worth $100s of billions in welfare gains. NGDP growth stability would also lead to more market friendly policies, as the government could no longer promote dubious projects and bailouts on the basis of “boosting demand”.

225 Philip Crawford June 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm

+1 A potentially huge lever.

226 Prakash June 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm

+1

227 John Hawley June 16, 2017 at 10:26 am

I only skimmed above comments, so apologize if someone already mentioned this.
I’d highlight GiveWell as an organization Bezos should consider. http://www.givewell.org/giving

It’s a non-profit dedicated to evaluating the efficacy of existing charities. Operates from the simple premise that all lives are equal and tries to solve for maximum lives saved per additional dollar donated to a given charity.
Right now, they advocate for the Against Malaria Foundation, an organization focused on reducing malaria cases through increased distribution of insecticide-treated nets. The GiveWell team has a whole bunch of in-depth research on their various top charities, and comes to the conclusion that a donation of ~$3.5k will (on average) save one life, if directed towards the Against Malaria Foundation (framework of how many nets per dollar, how effective nets are, how deadly malaria is, etc). If he gives a million bucks, that would equate to 286 lives saved (again, that’s an estimate and there would likely be no way to demonstrably pull out the specific lives he saved).
This is not as sexy as some other, more public, more US-focused programs that have been outlined above. And people may raise the point that this saves a life, but does not necessarily result in increased human happiness (how good will this life be? what is a good life?). I’d argue that if you can stop someone from suffering, and dying from malaria, and stop their loved ones from watching them suffer, and having to take time off from work / farming / creating utility elsewhere to care for them while they died, then you will have categorically improved a couple of lives. The potential counterpoint of “well maybe the rest of their lives were going to be bad and they would be better off dead” is easily defeated. Simply ask yourself, if before you went to sleep tonight you were faced with a choice of 1) death (and a suffering death via malaria) or 2) waking up as a child in subharan Africa, which would you choose?

To Bezos, I’d suggest he simply set up a recurring donation (maybe a million a month) to GiveWell’s Top Recommended Charity. Attrition rates decrease when you automate payments, and if he wants more excitement here he should fight to get other members of his wealth class to contribute. As someone who has set up a recurring donation to GiveWell personally, I can tell you it is not sexy, but I do find it deeply satisfying and gain some element of personal utility. In discussing GiveWell and the broader ethical underpinnings of how / why we choose to give to certain charities I’ve also gained a great deal of utility.

For anyone interested in more on GiveWell, and foreign aid in general, I’d highly recommend Doing Good Better, by William MacAskill. His interview on Waking up with Sam Harris is also well worth a listen.

228 JR in Raleigh June 16, 2017 at 11:58 am

Any excess profits earned through American customers should be returned to American people in need, and those who made the profits possible by building a country. Bezos claimed he owes everything to his mother, and now is the time for him to put his money where his mouth is by providing support to entities serving impoverished American seniors: Meals on Wheels, Nursing Home watchdogs, Consumer Protection for the Elderly, etc.

229 JC June 16, 2017 at 11:59 am

Marx meets Romney . . . self-redistribution.

Take the shit pile of money, an divide by whatever number of humans he feels would be sufficient to do charity.

If you think it would take $50,000 to change people’s live, then do the math and self-redistribute, Some will smoke rocks of crack, but a few will do something amazing. Most will probably just pay down their student loans or mortgages, but hey at least a little pain relief will be in order.

Randomize as necessary to achieve perceived fairness.

230 Seth June 16, 2017 at 12:13 pm

“I like long-term — it’s a huge lever: Blue Origin, Amazon, Washington Post — all of these are contributing to society and civilization in their own ways.”

These also contribute to society huge in the here and now, as well. I think charity sounds good, but too few consider that it may not be any better, or worse, than simply running good businesses and trying new things.

231 Ilverin Curunethir June 16, 2017 at 1:18 pm

(I think these are Bryan Caplan’s 3 cause areas)

Problems to be solved #1 Extreme poverty (less than ~2$ a day), #2 human death in general (disease, aging, etc), #3 human freedom (e.g. NK)

232 Dots June 16, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Low-interest credit line to investments-heavy company like solar city or a multifamily housing builder. Astroturf yimbyism in persuadable suburbs of important cities

Scholarships for smart Russian, venezuelan, and Chinese students in oz, nz, can, other countries that let u stay

233 Prakash June 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Lots of low hanging fruit are available in India for Charity.

Sanitiation initiatives, toilet building,
Solar lanterns, batteries and fans.
Spreading mitticool kind of fridges for medicines.

234 FlimFlam June 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Car repair/purchase.

As once having been in such a situation, i know how a unexpected repair bill can seriously wreck your life.

If you are the working poor and need to spend hundreds of dollars because your brakes went, that can lead to a cascade of problems.

So, cash for car repairs.

Or cash for a decent used car.

No longer dependent on mass transit. Number of possible jobs expands because transportation destination no longer fixed.

Maybe even good for the environment if repairs lead to fewer emissions.

235 Michael June 16, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Go into the worst Seattle schools, identify the kids with promise, then pay their tuition to a private school.

236 Yang June 17, 2017 at 11:33 am

ok. I know Bezos asked for “short term” strategy. But education is one of the most cost-effective and rewarding philanthropy strategy. It is long term of course. At each stage you could measure the improvements, so there, that’s the short term aspect.

The lack of social mobility is attributed by many reasons, and one of the main obstacles is the unprivileged children and youth do not have either the ability or aspirations to become something else other than what they could see in the community. Recruit the best graduates and offer them competitive salaries in par with the corporate world or private school to work in deprived areas. The results would be amazing: children would have a sense of purpose in life and interested in thinking what they want to do (not just allowed) in the future; this would increase the sense of taking control of the life for the family and parents, as hope would appear more realistic; and the whole community would benefit because of it. Also there is enormous commercial benefit for Bezos – if people are happier, they are more likely to spend money. Amazon offers many value for money goods and services. Obviously this is not the key focus of the strategy, yet surely it add points when considering strategies.

If Bezos would be willing to go global with the philanthropy strategy, to the poor countries and regions. Basic education will probably do. I would argue the girls should be the focus. As Christopher Hichens said and I wholehearted agree, empowering women is the best way to rid poverty. The education could lead to possibility of employment. I know in some cultures women are restricted on what they could work, if allowed at all. But when a vast female population is educated, I would think the cost of discrimination would be too big to be carried out any longer. The political and cultural changes will become inevitable due to economic interests.

237 KevinH June 17, 2017 at 2:05 pm

$25 billion fund that gives out $1mil to 1,000 people under 25 per year. With reasonable wealth management, it could do so indefinately. Try and pick the ‘best’ along basically any reasonable criteria. My personal criteria would be a mix of entrepreneurial spirit (do, not think) and collaboration (the world is a commons). After you are honored once you can’t be again. If even 10% of the money falls into the hands the right hands you’ll have enabled 3,000 of the most amazing people in the world in 30 years. After 100 years it has a shot of being as influential as anything so far in human history.

Average is over, so lets make sure that the most brilliant and collaborative among us end up on top.

238 KevinH June 17, 2017 at 2:09 pm

The framing of 100 years doesn’t fit his ‘short-term’ focus, but pitching it as ‘you change 1,000 lives a year in a deep way’ does.

239 Micheley June 19, 2017 at 10:59 pm

My son is 19 and was just diagnosed with schizophrenia. Smart, good kids 18-25 are hit with this disease at this formative stage of their life. New patient appointments are 6-12 weeks out. Insurance…maybe accepted. Prescriptions..quickly written. Functional brain testing? Uh, no. Testing for mold and other toxins…still asking. Difficult mental healthcare system unnecessarily writes-off bright futures way too quickly and makes fighting hurdle after hurdle for working parents.

My suggestion is make non-invasive investigative medical testing of americas youth (under 30?) to find and/or rule out problems a priority and easily available quickly to any who ask. Help them dig and discover and then get help with more readily available assistance FAST. Need-it-right-now services and knowledge independent of a single doctor’s initial diagnosis to change paths before time and motivation and hope is lost.
Thanks.

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