A Bad Day For American Altruism

I have written before about selfish philanthropy and the fact that all philanthropy and altruism are selfish… and that is ok. To do something that provides no benefit to you is not rational.

Fast Company had an article today decrying American selfishness and criticizing One Laptop Per Child for giving too large an incentive for donations.

But this is really not as big a bonus as it first appears. These are normally $200 so if you donate one and get one for yourself for $399 you are basically buying one for yourself. But you can only buy if you donate.

It is a great way to get these into the hands of developers who can write new software, and is also a great way to help out local kids who cannot afford a computer. Sure America is rich but it seems like the higher percentage of kids end up in the less affluent households. And I would like to get some of these into local “children’s homes” or orphanages.

OLPC could have just sold these out-right in America. There are plenty of people who would have bought them, but this way they get a few extra donations. Also, selling them this cheep would have probably caused problems with tech companies that they are dependent on. Hmmm… that might have been a more interesting story.

The author of the Fast Company article says it is sad Americans are so greedy as to inspire such a selfish method of giving. While I agree that words like selfish and lazy aptly describe many Americans these days, I think this is a creative alternative to just selling them in the US. And that is exactly what a lot of people were asking them to do.

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