The Most Compelling Charity Causes... From A Liberal Perspective

The Washington Post published a gushing piece on Cari Tuna, trumpeting her "new" approach to philanthropy. The piece was so fawning and uncritically laudatory that it looked like the work of a ghostwriter at a public relations firm, but nonetheless, it unintentionally contains some truths about charities and liberal priorities.

The focus of the article is on Cari Tuna. Tuna, a former journalist for the Wall Street Journal, made what in retrospect turned out to be one of the shrewdest business moves in Silicon Valley: marrying Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook who is worth eight billion dollars. Having achieved one of her greatest life ambitions -- not to marry someone whose last name was "Fish" -- Tuna set out to accomplish a far more difficult goal: how to spend her husband's money in the name of improving the world.

They set up "Good Ventures" and have been doling out some of the money. Most of their actual grants seem to be in areas the left is traditionally obsessed with (gay sex, drug legalization, emptying jails), but the Post breathlessly informs us that they are big thinkers.

As Tuna and Moskovitz, now 29 and 30, respectively, began to compare one possibility with another and then another, they have become pioneers in an emerging philosophy of philanthropy known as “effective altruism” -- which applies evidence and reason over things like emotion and intuition to determine where one can do the most good.

Well, that sounds good, doesn't it? But be wary of "evidence and reason" in the hands of liberals. What do you think their rationalizing led them to?

Other contenders seem inspired by old-time science-fiction novels, though some are suddenly relevant because of technological advances: super volcanos (risk of a catastrophe appears low), nuclear security (possible substantial risk of civilization-threatening damage), artificial intelligence (whose responsibility is it to think about what happens if computers become self-aware?), antibiotic resistance (issue gets a moderate amount of attention), climate change (can we geo-engineer our way out of this crisis by manipulating our atmosphere to reflect sunlight and make things cooler -- or would that just make things worse?). Biosecurity -- the constellation of issues around pandemics, bioterrorism, biological weapons and biotech research that could be used to inflict great harm, according to the group’s definition -- may be among the most ripe for investment.

That's right. Their vaunted research focused on plots from  science fiction movies from the 1980s and 1990s. Computers that become intelligent (Terminator), erupting volcanoes (Volcano, the movie), epidemics (Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman), and global warming (not a film, but a continuing daily play, produced by people like Al Gore who run around in rubber chicken suits yelling the sky is falling).

In other words, what their brilliant, rational analysis led them to was nothing that currently exists as a major problem, but things that might, someday, be a problem, although, for most of these issues... probably not! But remember, Tuna & Moskovitz are featured in the Washington Post because they're such brilliant thinkers.

Unfortunately, their brilliant thinking did not end with stale sci-fi movies.

One of the topics they zeroed in on was criminal justice reform. Tuna and her team were struck by two statistics: The United States incarcerates a larger percentage than almost any other country in the world at great fiscal cost and it has highest rate of criminal homicides in the developed world. Clearly something wasn’t working.

The team wondered whether there was way to reduce the number of people in prison in a way that is neutral or, better yet, positive for public safety. Could the solution lie in policing practices? Or other ways of stopping people from entering the system?

We have more people in prison than other countries, and yet more crime. Since higher crime correlates with more people in prison, therefore, there must be causation, and we should have fewer people in prison. A=B=C. See what "evidence and reason" will get you... in the hands of a liberal?

Tuna never considers the possibility that we have higher crime despite a higher prison population and not because of it. Tuna never considers that the decline of the family structure, aided and abetted by state policies which make it easy, even culturally desirable for single parents to irresponsibly beget and raise children on the taxpayer's dime might be the cause of this. All her liberal wonkiness never leads her in that direction. She wants to direct her "charitable" work to releasing hardened criminals from jail.

“There is growing interest on both sides of the aisle on reducing incarceration, and you don’t have that kind of opportunity for bipartisanship on a lot of issues right now,” Tuna said.

If one goes to the Good Ventures website and sees the grants that have actually been given, there are admittedly a few good grants in the area of malaria and disease prevention, but most of it falls into three categories: (1) more illegal drugs for more people (2) fewer criminals in prison or (3) money to study things which are inherently obvious.

  • Tuna gave $350,000 to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to "research macroeconomic policy.". Who is that going to help? No one.
  • Tuna gave $150,000 to the Drug Policy Alliance (Who could be against a drug policy? Or an alliance?) But this alliance advocates for marijuana and even heroin usage. Yes, heroin.
  • Tuna gave $1,500,000 to the U.S. Association for International Migration to bring more unskilled labor to the U.S. Because we don't have enough of that already from other sources.
  • Tuna spent $3,000,000 on "criminal justice reform", to advocate putting fewer criminals in jail. I feel safer already.
  • Tuna gave $212,000 to the Brookings Institute to study "Marijuana Policy Change". Change? What kind of change? Why don't liberals ever say what they really mean? Perhaps because if they did, people wouldn't support them.
  • Tuna spent $250,000 to promote gay marriage. I didn't know gay sex required charitable support; if we don't fund it, does that mean it won't happen?
  • Tuna spent $500,000 to figure out how to measure the quality of healthcare in the developing world. Doing the obvious--looking at numbers of patients served, mortality and illness rates, etc., is not enough. Tuna needs a half million dollars just to look at how to measure the problem.

This is the much-heralded “new thinking” that Tuna has to offer.

Although I don't have eight billion dollars, let me suggest my own charitable program.

Create a business.

Creating a business creates jobs. Creating jobs means people, and families, can support themselves. People making salaries can pay for their own healthcare and be healthier, and can be stabilizing forces in their community. People who make salaries can spend their money on other businesses in the community, creating more jobs. Whatever products or services the company makes, if in demand, will fill needs that society has.

And all this just from creating a business. Perhaps Tuna would like to take a crack at that. But if she did it probably wouldn't be featured in the Post.

Pedro Gonzales is the editor of NewsMachete.com, the conservative news site.