TLYCS’s founder Peter Singer rebuts a recent essay in The Guardian in which 15 leading economists – including Nobel laureates Angus Deaton, James Heckman, and Joseph Stiglitz – criticize what they call “the ‘aid effectiveness’ craze” on the grounds that it leads us to ignore the root causes of global poverty.
Mr. Deaton omits the relative cost of making a major difference to the well-being of people in poverty in the United States versus in developing countries.
[Peter Singer] regularly asks inconvenient questions that turn heads inside out. He has spent years making the case that individuals have a moral obligation to do much more for people in faraway places. In “The Most Good You Can Do,” he challenges all of us, once again, to tilt our charitable allocations heavily toward the global and less toward the local.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, as I did: Am I "financially comfortable"? My mortgage, my credit-card bills and my other debts scream no. But the $3 coffee I’m drinking while I type this, and the Lucinda Williams concert tickets I just bought, tell me there is wiggle room in my budget.
Given the large increase in the standard deduction in the tax reform bill just passed by Congress, some Americans may be less likely to itemize for charitable deductions in the 2018 tax year — a prospect that has some nonprofits worried that donations will go down. You might want to donate more this year, before the new rules take effect. But how can you be sure you’re giving to the right cause?
We don’t have to take the word of charitable organizations that the money we give does benefit people in other countries. Technology has made it not only easier to give, but easier to give effectively. Web sites such as GiveWell or my own, The Life You Can Save, offer independent evaluations and can direct people to organizations that do not hand over money to corrupt governments but see that it gets to those who need it.
In Singer’s view, whether a child is suffering in Ohio or in Sub Saharan Africa, their lives should be viewed equally. But since the African child’s suffering is likely greater – no access to clean water, risk of dying from otherwise curable diseases, no modern medicine – then helping that child is more worthwhile. Also, the amount of money needed to help the African child is in most instances far less than helping an American one, so there’s opportunity to save more people and improve more lives.
Hopefully, I can share some of our insights about giving more effectively and generously in a way that could be helpful as you approach this “giving season.” Think about the amazing opportunity you have to not only change lives, but to change MANY lives, by putting just a little thought into how to best share a little of your literal and figurative “good fortune” with those who are not nearly so fortunate.
Christopher Olivola, assistant professor of marketing at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University recommends The Life You Can Save and GiveWell, which help “identify the charities that will make the most of each dollar donated (in terms of lives helped/saved).”
The researchers’ first study examined the behavior of people who visited the website for The Life You Can Save, an organization that promotes charities dedicated to ending extreme poverty. Website visitors were asked to participate in a survey in exchange for a complimentary book, and a total of 185 (58% female) online visitors were successfully recruited for the study. The survey asked participants to report their gender, age, ethnicity, and household income. Participants then read one of two donation appeals. Half of the participants read an “agentic” appeal that characterized The Life You Can Save as an organization that spreads “knowledge of what each person can do individually to reduce poverty.” The other participants read a “communal” appeal that said the organization spreads “knowledge of what all of us can do together to reduce poverty.
Here is the list of 18 charities dubbed “2017's Best” by The Life You Can Save, a respected site that encourages effective philanthropy—meaning that these charities accomplish the most for the people with the greatest need per dollar donated.
if you care about trying to be logical when dealing with surplus money, your research will very quickly lead you to the Effective Altruism movement, and indeed I wrote about it as far back as 2012 with a review of Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save.
Watch: Peter Singer’s moving TED Talk explaining the ideas behind Effective Altruism in about 17 minutes. Or you can read the same ideas on his The Life You Can Save website.
I read it in search of perspective on how to give to charitable causes in an efficient way. As a newcomer to any serious form of giving, I figured it would be good to learn from people who have done it for all of their lives. But I got a bit more than I bargained for. Singer not only explains in detail what type of charitable giving allows your dollars to go furthest, but he lays out a powerful logical argument for why it is worthwhile doing in the first place.
Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University and among the philosophers behind effective altruism, has his own annual list of 17 best charities. He bases his recommendations on the belief that one is better off divorcing from emotions when making ethical choices.
Here is one case he presents: Donating $7,500 to the Seva Foundation to treat common causes of blindness in developing countries can protect 100 children from losing their sight as they grow older. Make-a-Wish Foundation of America on average spends the same amount of money to execute one feel-good mission fulfilling an ailing child’s wish.
Princeton University philosophy professor Peter Singer, an advocate of “effective altruism,” says we need to use our heads as well as our hearts in choosing which charities to support.
“Simply giving to get a warm glow, giving to the person on the street who holds out a cup or giving to a charity that shows you a brochure of a smiling child, that may or may not be doing good. You really don’t know,” Singer says.
What’s needed, he argues, is a charitable means test. Most shoppers wouldn’t spend a thousand dollars for a dishwasher if they could find one for half the price that is just as effective, he points out. So why don’t they act like smart consumers when choosing a charity?
Over the last forty-plus years, Singer has nagged at the conscience, and the reason, of thousands who have encountered his ideas in their college ethics courses, where his writings are staples; in his op-eds (430 and counting); or through his appearances on The Colbert Report. Singer has written famously on animal rights and medical ethics, but his best-known philosophical essay—published when he was twenty-six—argued that the haves of the world are morally obligated to transfer most of their wealth to the have-nots.
Charlie Bresler, executive director of The Life You Can Save, has a definite opinion on that one. His nonprofit promotes the idea that all lives have equal value. It urges donors to give to causes and regions where their dollars will have the most impact.
There is an enormous amount of suffering everywhere in the world, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, Bresler acknowledges. The question is: how can you do the most good with your charitable dollars? And that’s what we are asking people to think about.
Approximately 150 people shared Silicon Valley’s comparatively modest skyline with Simon Oct. 1 at an outdoor private benefit concert for The Life You Can Save, a nonprofit advocacy and educational outreach organization that fights extreme poverty.
The effective altruists don’t feel as if they’re giving up anything; in fact, practicing effective altruism is itself a source of happiness. Singer cites studies that show having more money improves people’s lives up to a point, but after necessities are covered and a person has enough to save for the future and enjoy a few luxuries, additional money adds very little to happiness.
Sponsoring an individual child is unlikely to be the most cost-effective way of helping poor individuals. That kind of appeal plays on our empathy with identifiable individuals, but there are better things to do with your money, as indicated by www.givewell.org or www.thelifeyoucansave.org
We want to make people feel like it's easy to determine how to have an impactful gift and to have confidence of that.
Jon Behar of the Life You Can Save, a nonprofit that promotes effective altruism, says the money could have achieved more good elsewhere. That’s because of how much Harvard already has and its strong fundraising abilities. He’s also concerned about the other opportunities Mr. Paulson passed up to give to Harvard. Mr. Behar, who used to work in the hedge-fund industry, also says he understands the controversy from the donor’s viewpoint: that donors sometimes feel like they “just can't win” because of the criticism. “If you keep the money, you get blamed. If you give it away, you get blamed.”
In 2013, San Francisco transformed itself into Gotham City to raise the spirits of Miles Scott, a 5-year-old Batman fan with leukemia. Coverage of the Make-a-Wish Foundation event went viral, garnering attention around the globe. But according to ethicist Peter Singer, author of the new book "The Most Good You Can Do," the money spent on Batkid might have been better used to save the lives of children in developing countries.
Not long after stepping down as president of the Men’s Wearhouse clothing chain, Bresler read The Life You Can Save and decided to devote himself to promoting Effective Altruism. Bresler, who is 66, told me: “I had no background in serious ethics, but I've always been interested in wealth inequality. And I had always thought that, every time I spend a nickel, I could be doing something better with it.”
But since you can't afford to help every cause, how should you decide which ones to assist? In his provocative new book, 'The Most Good You Can Do,' world-renowned Australian ethicist Peter Singer offers his views about "effective altruism." ... I know he opened my eyes about when to open my wallet.
What we really want you to do is Personal Best. If last year you only gave X, try to give X-plus this year.
You see a child fall into a stream. Do you jump in and save her, even if you'll ruin your clothes? Most people would say yes. Proceeding from that premise philosopher Peter Singer argues that we should be doing much more to relieve world hunger. Should you donate 10% of your income to African famine relief?
Give to an organization that is actually saving lives or reducing suffering, and that needs your money really badly to continue that work.
Currently, 1.3 billion of the world’s neediest people live in extreme poverty, which is defined by the World Bank as living on less than the equivalent of $1.25 USD a day. The consequences of extreme poverty are serious and often fatal. Last year 6.3 million children died from poverty-related illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and measles. That’s 17,000 children dying every day, from illnesses that we know how to prevent or cure – and can do so very inexpensively.
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