Until recently, I thought donations to charities should be made anonymously, that I should hide my giving, not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. I thought that I should not announce or ‘advertise’ my giving, that this was ego-based, self-serving, less than altruistic. Even donation plaques in auditoriums bothered me: “This seat was donated by William A. & Susan R. Jones.” But I’ve changed my view on this. Continue reading
“Those of us who care at all may send a donation to one of the agencies trying to help: ten dollars, or fifty dollars, or perhaps even a hundred dollars. Any more would be a rare act of generosity by the standards of our society. Yet those of us fortunate enough to live in Western Europe, North America, Australia, or Japan regularly spend as much or more on holidays, new clothes, or presents for our children. If we cared about the lives and welfare of strangers in Africa as we do about our own welfare and that of our children, would we spend money on these nonessential items for ourselves instead of using it to save lives? Of course, we have lots of excuses for not sending money to Africa: we say that our contribution could only be a drop in the ocean, or that the agencies waste the money they receive, or that food handouts are no good—
My contribution cannot end a famine, but it can save the lives of several people who might otherwise starve.
what is needed is development, or a social revolution, or population control. In our more honest moments, though, we recognize that these are excuses. Continue reading
When it comes to creating wealth and thereby improving people’s material conditions, capitalism is without doubt effective, but capitalism is clearly inadequate as any kind of social ideal, since it is only motivated by profit, without any ethical principle guiding it.
One of the most significant truths brought to light by the present political crisis in the US is the overwhelming depth and pervasiveness of greed in our society. The propensity to spend and accumulate is so imbedded in the fabric of our nation that it has become nearly invisible to us; it pervades every dimension of our lives; it is the way we live. With a kind of breezy nonchalance, we spend ‘our’ money with little, if any, regard for the extreme suffering of others. Continue reading
EXTREME POVERTY IS ONE of the most important factors contributing to disease and death in the developing world. Yet, the causes of poverty are difficult to understand, and even more difficult to combat. As with Effective Altruism, anti-poverty programs and policies must be guided by accurate, specific, and robust data. For many countries, the available data is weak, non-existent, one-dimensional, or sorely outdated. We could say they are subject to ‘data deprivation.’ And ‘data deprivation’ means that people’s lives are not seen and their voices are not heard.
We believe collecting data is giving voice to the poor.
In a later post, I will take up the issue of how poverty is measured, but for now, I offer this brief, perky video presentation (5 min.) by two affable World Bank economists discussing “77 Reasons We Need Poverty Data.”
(Suggested Meditation Time: 20 minutes)
“If a single 747 crashed, it would be on the nightly news. Scenes of rescuers looking through the wreckage and doctors treating any survivors would fill our living rooms and it would – rightly – be seen as a moral emergency. Yet the much larger moral emergency of forty 747s worth of children dying each day from easily preventable diseases is left unreported – even though tomorrow’s deaths are not predetermined, even though it is part of a much more interesting and challenging story about who is responsible and how they should be brought to account. It is old news. It is an everyday emergency.” – Toby Ord, from “Global Poverty and the demands of morality” in God, The Good, and Utilitarianism: Perspectives on Peter Singer, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
- The number of people living on less than $1.25 per day has dramatically decreased in the last three decades, from half of the citizens in the developing world in 1981 to 21% in 2010. But, there are still more than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. While one might argue that $1.25 goes much further in developing countries than it does in the USA, this figure represents the amount of buying power one would have if one were living in USA. Imagine living in the USA on about $1.25 per day, $9 a week!
- The top five poorest countries in the world are India (with 33% of the world’s poor), China (13%), Nigeria (7%), Bangladesh (6%), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5%).
- Adding another five countries — Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya — would include almost 80% of the world’s extreme poor.
- About 22,000 children die each day due to conditions of poverty. This is equivalent to 40 Boeing 747s crashing each day without media coverage.
- Approximately 1.2 billion people — nearly as many as the entire population of India — still live without access to electricity.
“If I can have a benefit for myself or give the same size benefit to 1000 other people — I think that is a no-brainer.”
“Some people ask me, in response to all of this, has it been difficult? It was about four years ago that I made this pledge to give all of my income above £20,000 per annum (about $27,000 USD). And my answer is, no. I was a grad student when I decided to do this. I had less than that amount of money. I have more now than I ever had before. And so, actually, I’m living pretty well.”
“The main difference is that there are some issues that I previously thought I was running away from, and now I feel like I’m tackling them head-on and making the most of my life and really trying to help people directly and effectively.” Continue reading
As I see it, virtue ethics  is a particularly good ethical framework for the education of children and young people, for its aim is to guide and assess what kind of persons we ought to be. For example, we might want to guide our children to be, among other things, kind, generous, courageous, and honest. But as children mature and their rational capabilities develop, they should be introduced to the much more demanding world of consequentialism , an ethical framework that guides and assesses what we ought to do. Most importantly, young people should be immersed in the question, “How can I do the most good?”. Continue reading
IN THE FAR-REACHING DIALOGUE featured in this post, world renowned moral philosopher Peter Singer and physicist Lawrence Krauss meet for an intimate evening of conversation at the Origins Project Dialogue. The Origins Project at ASU (Arizona State University) is a transdisciplinary initiative exploring fundamental questions facing humankind today. This candid and unscripted conversation on ethics for the 21st century covers topics ranging from animal liberation to dying with dignity, food, global poverty and effective altruism. Of the many Peter Singer presentations available on YouTube, this is one of the best. It is both penetrating and humorous. Highly Recommended. Continue reading
In his book The Most Good You Can Do, Peter Singer says, “Effective altruists do things like the following: living modestly and donating a large part of their income—often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe—to the most effective charities; researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators; choosing a career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good; talking to others, in person or online, about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread; giving part of their body—blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney—to a stranger (p.4).”
It seems to me that the above list might be somewhat off-putting to many people. Looking at the first activity, donating a large part of one’s income, I immediately feel that Continue reading