Frequently Asked Questions

Q. With all the pain and suffering in the world and people starving in [fill in location here], how can you justify spending your time on supermarket club cards?

I have to answer this question with a (true) story. A few years back I heard about a woman whose passion for animals led her to spend years rescuing abandoned cats, dogs, and horses from the streets of Calcutta. But instead of admiring this woman for her contribution, my reaction was, "Gee, with all the abandoned and crippled people in Calcutta you'd think she could spend her time a little more productively." Only later did it occur to me (with some embarrassment) that this one woman was probably doing more good in Calcutta by following her passion than the millions of inhabitants who helped no one at all --- neither dog nor child --- combined. When most people have no cause whatsoever and many actively seek to do harm, it's ironic how much time is spent attacking people who seek to do good for not being good enough.

In retrospect, I think that woman was not only good enough, but that she was doing exactly the right thing. She was probably a tremendous asset to Calcutta's animals and might have only been a mediocre asset to its poor -- if she'd been inclined to do anything for them at all. We are most effective when we follow our passions, temperament, and talents to work on the causes that stir us, not when we sacrifice ourselves in the service of causes that don't.

My passion happens to be preserving personal freedom, staving off totalitarianism, and resisting Orwellian intrusions. If this is not your passion, that's okay! It's a big, interesting world, with lots of diversity. Be grateful that other people are driven to work on projects that don't interest you -- at least they still get done. This frees you up to focus on your own to-do list and find the place where you can make a contribution.


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