…he calculated that with the money that he was likely to earn throughout his career, an academic career, he could give enough to cure 80,000 people of blindness in developing countries and still have enough left for a perfectly adequate standard of living.
he calculated that with the money that he was likely to earn throughout his career, an academic career, he could give enough to cure 80,000 people of blindness in developing countries and still have enough left for a perfectly adequate standard of living. So Toby founded an organization called Giving What We Can to spread this information, to unite people who want to share some of their income, and to ask people to pledge to give 10 percent of what they earn over their lifetime to fighting global poverty. Toby himself does better than that. He’s pledged to live on 18,000 pounds a year — that’s less than 30,000 dollars — and to give the rest to those organizations. And yes, Toby is married and he does have a mortgage.
This is a couple at a later stage of life, Charlie Bresler and Diana Schott, who, when they were young, when they met, were activists against the Vietnam War, fought for social justice, and then moved into careers, as most people do, didn’t really do anything very active about those values, although they didn’t abandon them. And then, as they got to the age at which many people start to think of retirement, they returned to them, and they’ve decided to cut back on their spending, to live modestly, and to give both money and time to helping to fight global poverty.
Now, mentioning time might lead you to think, “Well, should I abandon my career and put all of my time into saving some of these 19,000 lives that are lost every day?” One person who’s thought quite a bit about this issue of how you can have a career that will have the biggest impact for good in the world is Will Crouch. He’s a graduate student in philosophy, and he’s set up a website called 80,000 Hours, the number of hours he estimates most people spend on their career, to advise people on how to have the best, most effective career. But you might be surprised to know that one of the careers that he encourages people to consider, if they have the right abilities and character, is to go into banking or finance. Why? Because if you earn a lot of money, you can give away a lot of money, and if you’re successful in that career, you could give enough to an aid organization so that it could employ, let’s say, five aid workers in developing countries, and each one of them would probably do about as much good as you would have done. So you can quintuple the impact by leading that kind of career. Here’s one young man who’s taken this advice. His name is Matt Weiger. He was a student at Princeton in philosophy and math, actually won the prize for the best undergraduate philosophy thesis last year when he graduated. But he’s gone into finance in New York. He’s already earning enough so that he’s giving a six-figure sum to effective charities and still leaving himself with enough to live on. Matt has also helped me to set up an organization that I’m working with that has the name taken from the title of a book I wrote, “The Life You Can Save,” which is trying to change our culture so that more people think that if we’re going to live an ethical life, it’s not enough just to follow the thou-shalt-nots and not cheat, steal, maim, kill, but that if we have enough, we have to share some of that with people who have so little. And the organization draws together people of different generations, like Holly Morgan, who’s an undergraduate, who’s pledged to give 10 percent of the little amount that she has, and on the right, Ada Wan, who has worked directly for the poor, but has now gone to Yale to do an MBA to have more to give.
Many people will think, though, that charities aren’t really all that effective. So let’s talk about effectiveness. Toby Ord is very concerned about this, and he’s calculated that…