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Giving-Pledge Criminals

Here’s an interesting thought. How many of the Giving Pledge billionaires—those who have promised to donate half their wealth by the time they die—have either been convicted or accused of crimes or other misconduct?

By this analysis, it’s a lot.


  1. I investigate the rates of criminal misconduct amongst people who have taken The Giving Pledge (roughly: ~200 [non-EA] billionaires who have pledged to give most of their money to charity).
  2. I find that rates are fairly high:
    1. 25% of signatories have been accused of financial misconduct, and 10% convicted
    2. 4% of signatories have spent at least one day in prison
    3. Overall, 41% of signatories have had at least one allegation of substantial misconduct (financial, sexual, or otherwise)

Rates of Criminality Amongst Giving Pledge Signatories — EA Forum

Political Speech, Charities, and a New Johnson Amendment

Tax-exempt charities in the US are forbidden from supporting political parties or candidates because of a 1954 law called the “Johnson Amendment.” It’s been a frequent point of controversy over the years because it’s a government-imposed limit on free speech.

Defenders of the law have argued that tax-exemption is voluntary, and if charities want to engage in politics then they can just give up tax exemption. Moreover, tax-deductible political donations could open an economic can of worms. Critics of the law argue that limiting political speech is too precious of a price to demand, especially for religious nonprofits that have doubly enshrined interests (speech and religious activity) in the First Amendment.

Loyola law professor (and friend) Sam Brunson has recently written a paper proposing a moderated, middle way. It’s a novel approach and one worth considering.

This Article proposes an update and replacement for the current Johnson Amendment. The proposed new Johnson Amendment would directly target subsidies, requiring public charities to calculate the value of their political speech and requiring donors to reduce their charitable deductions by their share of such spending. It also proposes safe harbors for public charities that do not want to engage in partisan politics and do not want to have to calculate spending on politics. This new Johnson Amendment would accomplish the putative goals of the current Johnson Amendment without violating the First Amendment.

A New Johnson Amendment: Subsidy, Core Political Speech, and Tax-Exempt Organizations | Samuel D. Brunson

Happiness in spite of poverty

Overall happiness and income are very closely tied, especially at lower income levels. But a recent, large study revealed low-income exceptions to the rule.

One of the most robust findings in happiness research is the link between income, wealth, and life satisfaction. The more money someone has, the more satisfied they tend to be. The richer a country, the happier its citizens. But as scientists are now learning, some buck this broad trend. People — often indigenous — who live in small, isolated communities tend to be as satisfied with their lives as people living in the wealthiest countries. Finding out why could benefit us all.

Poor and happy: The societies that defy life satisfaction trends - Big Think

How to get more organ donors

In the US alone, there are 103,233 people on the national transplant waiting list and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. This includes organs that are donated in death, but also those than can be donated by living donors, like kidneys.

Because paying organ donors is generally off-limits, we need other ways to make organ donation more likely. This article by Hausenloy & McClements looks at what’s been tried and what’s working today. For example, we should do more to defray the costs for living donors.

Broadly defined – ​including medical costs, lost wages, and the discomfort associated with ​donation – the costs facing a living kidney donor add up to around $40,000. If these disincentives were reduced to zero, the same study estimates kidney donations would increase by 11,500 a year in the US, cutting the organ donation waiting list in half and leading to a net welfare gain of $13.7 billion and net savings for taxpayers of $1.3 billion, coming from a $1.1 million gross welfare gain per transplant via longer life expectancy and removing dialysis costs less the cost of transplantation and incentives, using data from smaller-scale schemes in New Zealand, the US, and Israel.

Compensating compassion - Works in Progress

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