Comment by mark_nau on Fake Selfishness · 2007-11-15T13:25:26.000Z · LW · GW

J Thomas,

A non-diminishing-returns altruist would hit a point where the utility of spending a marginal resource on a "selfish" purpose dips below the best use of that resource for an "altruistic" purpose. Every single marginal resource after that should go toward altruistic purposes as well. Why? Because for anyone with non-astronomical resources, there is effectively an endless supply of altruistic options that all provide effectively the same degree of benefit to the recipient. The non-diminishing-returns altruist would increase altruistic allocation in 1:1 proportion to increases in resources.

I know of nobody like this, and it strikes me intuitively as a horrible starting point for a model of any portion of human behavior.

Goods that fall under the heading of "altruistic" are just like any other goods, with people exhibiting different personal tastes and preferences to consume them for their own benefit.

Comment by mark_nau on Fake Selfishness · 2007-11-15T11:28:07.000Z · LW · GW

When I say that I am selfish, I mean to express that I think the best model for "altruism" is that of a good consumed much like any other. I consume it for my personal enjoyment, not in proportion to the benefit received by the recipient. And, ceteris paribus, with a declining marginal utility as quantity consumed increases.

In my eyes, a "true" altruist would value the 1000th meal provided to a starving third-worlder on par with the 1st one provided, given that the beneficiaries valued the meals similarly. Nobody behaves that way. Altruism is a terrible model for human behavior.

This sort of scope insensitivity isn't a logical error for selfish people. I have every reason to value the 1000th orange I consume this week less than the 1st. It's only a conundrum for people claiming to be altruistic. And I would think it would be a killing blow.