Giving Compass’ Take:
• In this story from The Spinoff, author Danyl Mclauchlan discusses the growing effective altruism movement and the moral necessity to do good.
• The author describes the effective altruism movement as “sometimes highly controversial.” Why is the movement so controversial, and what can philanthropists learn from it?
• To learn more about effective altruism, click here.
Back In 1972 the philosopher Peter Singer published an essay called Famine, Affluence and Morality. It made the following argument: you’re walking past a shallow pond while wearing an expensive suit, and you see a child drowning. Do you walk in and rescue the child, even though you’ll ruin your suit? Of course you do! But … do you? Singer argues that the residents of rich countries are faced with this decision every day and fail to act. There are children in the poorest regions in the world dying from lack of low-cost medical care and basic nutrition, and very few of us do anything about it, even though most of us can donate money to charities working in those countries and save many lives at little cost to ourselves. It shouldn’t matter, Singer argued, that the child is half a world away in, say, Bangladesh. The moral obligation is still the same.
Effective Altruism … is a rapidly growing, sometimes highly controversial global movement that takes the moral logic behind Singer’s argument and interrogates it. Charity in the developing world is a lot more complicated than the pond argument suggests: international food aid can bankrupt local farmers; medicines can be traded for guns; humanitarian interventions in wars can prolong them, killing many more people than they save; the root causes of poverty are often political and most charities are ill-equipped to deal with them. Effective Altruists believe that they can make a difference. A huge difference. It’s just a lot harder than Singer makes it sound. Different strands of the movement reach different conclusions about the best way to live up to his moral logic: some of them are challenging, some profound, some potentially life-changing, some of them not so profound and challenging.
Read the full article about effective altruism by Danyl Mclauchlan at The Spinoff.
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