Christmas Giving

by Harry on December 24, 2003

If you don’t like being guilt-tripped skip this. The rest of you get your credit cards out. Here’s the deal. Figure out how much you are spending on Christmas/Holiday cheer. Figure out how much has been spent on you. Add the two figures together. Halve that figure and plug it in to the OxfamAmerica form or the Oxfam UK form (depending where you pay taxes—for other countries you can reach your own country by negotiating from the OxfamAmerica home page). (Note: if, like me, no-one spends anything on you at Christmas the decent thing to do is to skip the adding and halving stages.) If you are a utilitarian this is the best thing you can do, if you are a Kantian it is also the best thing as long as you don’t enjoy it (that’s a joke—I know Kantianism isn’t really like that).

Next year I’ll do this early in December so you can avoid giving presents to people you don’t like and, instead, send them an email saying you’ve donated X amount to Oxfam in their name.

Donations from non-celebrators of Christmas are also, I believe, welcome.



SJS 12.24.03 at 4:53 pm

But Harry, what about the economy? Did you think of that? How selfish of you. :)


Stentor 12.25.03 at 12:17 am

Well, Oxfam eventually has to spend your donation, right? You may hurt the Tickle Me Elmo industry, but you’ll make up for it by indirectly supporting the staple food industry.


Tom K 12.26.03 at 8:43 am

So anyone recieving an Oxfam email from Harry knows he doesn’t like them.


Gil 12.28.03 at 1:58 am

It looks like Oxfam spends money fighting trade agreements that are likely to help the poor (no, they aren’t perfectly fair, but they’re better than the alternative).

That doesn’t seem like a good way to help to me.


harry 12.28.03 at 3:40 pm

In that case Gil of course you are welcome to give your money elsewhere. I’m not meaning to suggest (nor is anyone else) that Oxfam’s activities are optimal for the poor relative to some ideal. But, relative to any other outfit actually available to give money to I’d like to see an argument that they’re not the best. I suppose an outfit that devoted *all* its efforts to fighting agricultural subsidies in the rich world might do more good in the long run; but it would do no good at all in the short run — I prefer Oxfam’s diversified portfolio of short-medium term concrete benefits (and a commitment to having independent evaluations of these projects) and lobbying for longer term benefits.

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