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Essays

Couple thoughts about this video. First reaction is shame on TOMS. Second reaction is maybe not shame on them entirely. These things are complicated. With non-profit and for-profit alike, there are ways to be productive, and ways to be exploitative. When it comes to for-profit, exploitation comes in the form of profiteering (making way more than you need) and is a pretty central tenet of our capitalist model, which is super troubling. And when it comes to non-profit, the exploitation comes in many forms, and is perhaps more controversial. Giving somebody free things is on its face obviously a good thing, right? But as the old Chinese proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But then I think more deeply, because as my friend pointed out, this is in many ways like “whether to give a homeless person money on the street.” and it is a complicated question, with no correct answer, since there are so many ways to measure “productivity.” What I can confidently assert, however, is that non-profits are vastly more good than bad, if not for the hard impact of their work, then at least for providing a way for people to develop habits of good will. BUT, just as we need constant vigilance with for-profits to protect not only against anti-trust, but against more simple profiteering and exploitation, we need constant vigilance in non-profit too, because there are indeed cases where we’re fucking up local economies and hurting people more in the long term by satisfying our desire to broadcast our impressive goodness to our networks in the short term. It’s a dance either way.
PS – dope song in the background.

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