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April 20, 2007

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Holden

You're right, I am/have been a "financial person," but for this particular decision I didn't do a side-by-side or line-by-line analysis. Instead I thought about two big principles: the value of division of labor, and the value of passion.

With a large and well-coordinated world, the most productive way you can help is generally to do one thing well. And chances are, if you can find something that keeps you up at night and gets you up in the morning, you've found not only what you'll enjoy most, but also what you can do best.

GiveWell started with me just trying to figure out where to donate. I thought of it as an annoying chore and I wanted to get back to my job. But as realized that it is a full-time endeavor, I also realized I find it more interesting than investing. There is a lot of similarity in that it involves betting on things with a lot of uncertainty ... I just personally find the path from dollars to better lives more interesting/motivating than the path from dollars to more dollars.

A lot of my coworkers share my values, but find markets more interesting. They should keep doing what they're best at (and passionate about), and donate what they can spare (in some cases to GiveWell). If the donations happen and the finances work out, the result is the right division of labor to "produce" as much good as possible - and everyone's doing only what they love to do. I think that's a much better solution than dividing the labor by stage of life, in which case the only people thinking about how to translate wealth into good are the ones who've spent their lives and made their name doing something else.

Holden

You really have quite a captcha here. If it took me 3 tries to get that comment posted, imagine what a spammer has to go through.

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