Larry David and the Game Theory of Anonymous Donations

What’s intriguing about anonymous giving, and other behaviors apparently designed to obscure good traits and acts, like modesty, is that it’s “hard to reconcile with standard evolutionary accounts of pro-social behavior.”Photograph by David Hume Kennerly / Getty

n a episode from 2007, Larry David and his wife Cheryl and their friends attend a ceremony to celebrate his public donation to the National Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group. Little does he know that the actor Ted Danson, his arch-frenemy, also donated money, but anonymously. “Now it looks like I just did mine for the credit as opposed to Mr. Wonderful Anonymous,” David tells Cheryl. David feels upstaged, as if his public donation has been transformed from a generous gesture to an egotistical one. Cheryl says, about Danson, “Isn’t that great? He donated the whole wing. Didn’t want anybody to know.” “I didn’t need

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