Doing Good Better

August 6, 2017

Most of us think about how we can make a positive difference in the world, and effective altruists believe that they have come up with a solution. Wikipedia defines effective altruism as “a philosophy and social movement that applies evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others”. Effective altruists believe that there is more to doing good than just benefiting someone else. To do the most good, you ought to benefit others in the most effective way possible. In general, when considering options, people should compare outcomes and choose the one that brings about the greatest good.


 Photo Credit: Nathan Lemon on Unsplash


Effective altruists compare causes quantitatively in order to determine where the most good can be done. An example of this is their belief with regards to charities. Effective altruists claim that not all charities are equally effective, so to do the most good with your money, you should donate to the charity that will use your money to help the greatest number of people in the most meaningful way. They prioritize charities that are cost-effective, which is essentially the concept that they can make the same amount of money go further in doing good. Effective altruists even go so far as to consider the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALY) that are saved per dollar. Since we have limited resources, we ought to use the ones we do have to do the most possible good. This moral logic has led to the movement gaining a considerable following, and effective altruists have spoken all over the world about their views.


One important aspect of effective altruism is equality. Effective altruists tend to believe that all lives are of equal value. Whether a person lives in a developing country or in one’s own country should not affect how valuable that person’s life is. Peter Singer, a prominent proponent of effective altruism, writes that “it makes no difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor’s child ten yards away from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away”. Singer encourages people to go beyond helping those around them, and he believes we have the same responsibility to help those near us as those who are far away.


Additionally, effective altruism strongly encourages donating money to effective charities. Most followers of the movement believe that people ought to donate as much as they can without suffering significant costs, and many have taken this to heart and lived off of less in order to be able to give more. All the members of the Giving What We Can organization have pledged to donate a minimum of 10% of their income to important causes. As of now, over 2,500 people have taken this very pledge.


Effective altruists are people who see the suffering in the world and believe that we all have a moral responsibility to alleviate it if we are able to do so. Solving the issues of famine, disease, animal mistreatment, and global warming are hardly simple, but effective altruists believe that applying reason and logic is the best way to find solutions to these problems. For those who are looking to make a positive difference in the world, effective altruism just may turn out to be quite a good path.



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