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Archive for the ‘Applied Ethics’ Category

Three Kinds of People

Posted by Michael Dickens on November 20, 2012

Note: Today’s post is shorter than usual and formatted more roughly. If you particularly like or dislike this format, let me know in the comments.

When it comes to charity, there are three kinds of people:

  • People who think every charity is good and give to whatever charity they want.
  • People who think a lot of charities are bad, and therefore don’t give money to charity.
  • People who think a lot of charities are bad, and therefore put some effort into finding the good ones.

Unfortunately, not too many people seem to fall into the third category. If only more people cared about being effective.

Category one is forgivable, because it often seems intuitively true that charity must do good, and it is considered taboo to criticize charities. But I don’t get category two.

Okay, that’s not true. I do get category two. It’s a fake justification. People do not arrive at this position by thinking, “I want to do as much good as possible, but I don’t know which charities are effective. I suppose I should just not give any money to charity and not look into it any further.” Instead, they usually think, “I don’t want to give to charity. And, you know, they’re probably not that effective anyway.”

While we are right to be skeptical of charities’ claims, I think it’s unfortunate that most skeptics are driven not by the desire to find the truth (i.e. which organizations are most effective) but by the need to justify their actions [1]. To put it another way, most people who are thinking in the right direction are doing so for the wrong reasons, and therefore will never reach the proper conclusion of their skepticism—i.e., that we should put care into finding which charities do the most good instead of simply picking our personal favorite cause.

Notes

[1] I don’t know for sure that most skeptics are motivated in this way, but anecdotally, it appears to be true.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics, Rant | 2 Comments »

Article of the Day: The Meat Eaters

Posted by Michael Dickens on August 18, 2012

Rutgers professor Jeff McMahan wrote an intriguing essay for the New York Times about the ethics of how we treat animals.

At the start of the essay, he determines that we have a moral obligation not to eat meat: “Our factory farms, which supply most of the meat and eggs consumed in developed societies, inflict a lifetime of misery and torment on our prey[.]” I would make a small amendment here: although he is technically correct that most of our meat and eggs come from factory farms, he understates the true proportion, which in fact exceeds 99% (according to data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture).

Having established this fact, McMahan moves on to discuss the subject of wild-animal suffering. He explains why it is a problem and why we should do something about it, and addresses a number of objections to his argument. His main thesis is that we should work toward the extinction of all carnivorous species once we gain the capacity to do so without serious environmental disruption.

McMahan also wrote a response to critics. It is well worth a read if you find yourself skeptical of his ideas after reading “The Meat Eaters.” McMahan makes a number of excellent points in this essay, but one thing he says is especially worth quoting:

The commentators’ gesture toward the alleged suffering of plants seemed no more than a rhetorical move in their attack on my argument. But if one became convinced, as some of the commentators appear to be, that plants are conscious, feel pain, and experience suffering, that ought to prompt serious reconsideration of the permissibility of countless practices that we have always assumed to be benign. If you really believed that plants suffer, would you continue to think that it’s perfectly acceptable to mow your grass? . . . Shouldn’t that elicit serious moral reflection rather than being deployed as a mere debating point?

This sort of thing happens all the time in arguments over ethics: someone makes an ostensibly-outlandish claim merely for the purpose of refuting an argument, and does not carry it to its logical conclusion. If plants really do suffer, for example, then we ought to consider the moral implications of that fact.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics, Utilitarianism | 8 Comments »

Voting to Do the Most Good

Posted by Michael Dickens on August 4, 2012

If you are a United States citizen and you want to do as much good as possible with your vote, then how should you use it? (These principles apply outside the US as well, but my analysis focuses on US elections.)

Expected Value of Voting

For those who care about maximizing the welfare of society, the importance of voting increases as the population increases. Below is the mathematical justification for this claim. These calculations assume that you know the correct person to vote for. If you wish to avoid math, you can skip to the next section.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics, Utilitarianism | 1 Comment »

Animal Suffering

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 18, 2012

Ethical Background

We have an obligation not to cause suffering. Furthermore, we have no reason to limit this obligation to members of the human species—any sort of suffering is morally relevant, and the importance of the suffering derives not from who experiences it but from how severe it is [1]. If animals can suffer then their suffering deserves equal consideration.

Many non-human animals (including most vertebrates) are definitely capable of suffering—physically, and often emotionally. True, most animals cannot know the range of suffering that humans can, but they still feel pain, discomfort, and distress, and they experience such feelings as acutely (or at least approximately as acutely) as humans do. (For those who doubt that mammals and other vertebrates feel pain to the extent that humans do, see Do Animals Feel Pain?.) We owe it to all animals—human and non-human—not to inflict painful experiences upon them. Furthermore, we have an obligation to prevent the suffering of animals in the wild.

Practical Considerations

If we grant that the suffering of all beings holds equal value, then what must we do to remain consistent with our morals?

It has been well-established that factory farms—through which nearly all domesticated animals (excluding pets [2]) are raised—cause animals a great deal of suffering. This essay will not go into details, as facts about such animals’ treatment are readily available (in many books as well as on the web; I recommend Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, an excerpt of which may be found here). All that need be said here is that animals on factory farms experience an enormous, almost incomprehensible amount of suffering for their entire lives.

So-called “free range” or “cage-free” farms, while they often improve conditions, still create considerable suffering. It is difficult to find farms that raise animals humanely, and even certified “humane” farms create conditions that I would not wish for any sentient being to endure (for example, castrating animals without anesthetic). It may be possible to find happily-raised animals in stores, but I warn the reader to be skeptical of any products that claim to be humane. For more information, see “The Truth Behind Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labeling Practices.

In light of these considerations, we hold an obligation to avoid animal products, especially food. Of course, reducing the quantity of meat one eats—while not as good as removing it entirely from one’s diet—does a great deal of good. For those who wish to prevent animal suffering but find it difficult to do so, there are a lot of resources out there that can help you. I recommend The 99-Cent Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus, which you can purchase online for 99 cents.

Of all the animal products we consume, chicken and fish suffer the greatest total harm. A cow or a pig can feed many more people than a chicken or fish, so not as many have to be raised and killed in cruel conditions. And when industrial fishing boats capture fish, they end up killing many times more fish than they actually intend to harvest, simply by accident (Foer 49). Together, chicken, eggs, and fish probably account for over 95% of the suffering that the food industry creates. For more information on this subject, see “How Much Direct Suffering Is Caused by Various Animal Foods?”

One should avoid animal products not only to reduce suffering, but to make a statement. We will make serious progress toward reducing animal suffering when caring seriously about animals becomes a widely-accepted position. As it is, people who concern themselves with the suffering of non-human animals are considered radicals and often looked down upon—many consider it rude to even bring up the fact that you’re vegan. Every person who joins this “radical” position helps push it toward the mainstream; and the more mainstream the position becomes, the easier it will be to reduce animal suffering. Similarly, it is important to behave respectably when it comes to animal welfare issues; if you behave respectably, your position will get more respect. Incendiary organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals can hurt the credibility of the animal welfare movement.

Other actions we can take include political action (such as lobbying for stricter legal standards for factory farms) and donating to charities that support animal welfare. Effective Animal Activism continually invests effort into identifying the most effective animal welfare charities, and they publish their recommendations on the front page of their website.

I frequently hear people give reasons why they cannot be vegetarian or vegan. It goes beyond the scope of this essay to address them all, but it is worth saying this: (a) extensive research has shown that a vegan diet can be healthy for humans in every stage of their lives (see this report by the American Dietetic Association); (b) I have never heard someone raise a problem that could not be solved by searching online for five minutes or less. (For example, a common complaint goes, “I can’t get enough protein.” Myriad sources in bookstores and on the Web explain how to eat adequate protein with a plant-based diet.) I recommend Vegan Health as a quick source on how to maintain a healthy diet.

The Importance of Animal Suffering

Given the sheer volume of factory-farmed animals, the meat industry represents one of the most serious problems facing the world today. Most people—including many vegetarians—grossly underestimate the importance of this issue.

Non-human animals clearly have many differences from humans: they cannot vote, they cannot attend school, and they cannot in most ways participate in human society. However, many species can suffer just as we can, and as such deserve moral consideration.

As Jeremy Bentham put it in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation:

The day has been, I am sad to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing, as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Any fair-minded ethical theory must grant that suffering is equally significant no matter who experiences it, and that includes non-human animals.

Humans living in factory farm-like conditions would probably suffer worse than other animals because out higher reasoning capacities would create additional forms of suffering. However, the great majority of human suffering in such a situation would arise in the very same manner in which animal suffering arises: continual physical pain and discomfort, inability to form social connections, and severely limited emotional freedom. Considering the tens of billions of animals raised in such conditions for their entire lives, it should be no surprise when I claim that factory farming represents one of the greatest evils in existence.

Wild-Animal Suffering

That said, the single most important source of suffering that we know of must be wild-animal suffering. Due to the sheer number of wild animals, they experience far more suffering than animals in factory farms.

Unfortunately, it does not look like we can do much about it right now, as we are not very good at predicting the impact of our actions. It is likely that our efforts to help will only make the situation worse. So consider this an open problem. We ought to spend time considering what we can do to alleviate the suffering of wild animals without inadvertently creating more. Perhaps we do not yet know what to do, but we have not spent much time considering the problem.

For now, we should stop using animal products, help promote moral sentiments that give consideration to animal suffering, and consider donating to effective animal-welfare charities.

 

 

Notes

[1] When I spoke to a friend of mine about the subject of this essay, he argued that human well-being is necessarily more important because humans have a greater impact on the global well-being than other species. If this is true, it does not give greater inherent value to human happiness, but rather gives them greater value because they create more significant side effects.

If a single human becomes more happy, his happiness spreads to other people—and hence, increasing a human’s happiness by X amount generally does more good than increasing a non-social animal’s happiness by X amount. But the added impact from a human’s happiness still does not compare to the extraordinary amount of suffering a human can prevent by taking on a few minor inconveniences (as described later in this essay).

[2] Factory farms represent the biggest source of suffering that humans inflict upon animals. This essay does not address the exploitation of animals for clothing, experiments, zoos, etc., because the sheer number of animals in factory farms far exceeds the number of animals in zoos and laboratories. And this essay excludes pets because we treat pets much better than most animals.

References

Foer, Jonathan S. Eating Animals. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group USA, 2010. Print.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics, Utilitarianism | 7 Comments »

Doing the Most Good

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 14, 2011

The field of charity assessment is growing in popularity. Sites like Charity Navigator evaluate the efficiency of charities by examining what percentage of their funds go directly to where they’re needed. These sorts of resources can tell you which charities are the most efficient in a monetary sense, but can’t tell you which do the most good.

Other sources such as the Copenhagen Consensus determine the most important global challenges. The Copenhagen Consensus tells which global problems are the most impactful and which are the cheapest to solve; what it does not say is how an individual like you or I can go about solving these problems. From the website, “Imagine you had $75bn to donate to worthwhile causes. What would you do, and where should we start?” I certainly do not have $75 billion, and no direct access to many parts of the world where these problems are most prominent. Usually, the best thing an individual can do is donate to a charity that does have direct access.

The Copenhagen Consensus says nothing about which charities are the most effective at solving the world’s most significant challenges. An individual therefore has to do some independent research. One can combine the findings of a source like the Copenhagen Consensus with a site like Charity Navigator in order to find the best charities for the best causes.

This process, however, is still imperfect. Charity Navigator only evaluates how efficiently charities use their funds, not how well they use them. Two charities could both be working for the same cause—say, providing immunization for children—but one could be working in a more disease-prone area, or one could be using cheaper methods of vaccination.

That’s where GiveWell comes in. GiveWell is a website that evaluates charities more deeply by finding ones that fit four primary criteria: demonstrated impact, cost-effectiveness, scalability (“able to use more funds productively”), and transparency. These criteria quickly eliminate charities that are difficult to judge (i.e. not demonstrably impactful) or not transparent. The two more important criteria (in my opinion) are cost-effectiveness and scalability, which are discussed in depth on the GiveWell website.

The single most important criterion appears to be cost-effectiveness: “changing lives as much as possible for as little money as possible.” (They do point out that this criterion has its limitations, and it is not the only thing they consider.) They have sturdy estimates of what this means, and use it to determine which charities are actually doing the greatest good. Their charity assessments, while imperfect, appear to be about as good as a charity assessment can get.

GiveWell provides a list of its top recommended charities and gives a detailed description of why each is recommended. For the “Gold Medal” charity, VillageReach, GiveWell explains what it does, why it works, and how cost-effective it is (they estimate that it costs about $200 per life saved through VillageReach).

Unlike Charity Navigator, GiveWell says more about a charity than its efficiency. Unlike the Copenhagen Consensus, GiveWell recommends specific charities rather than general causes. Their conclusions are well-researched, although perhaps not as well-researched as the Copenhagen Consensus; therefore, I recommend looking at the Copenhagen Consensus to determine which causes are the most important and then using GiveWell to find the best organization that contributes to that cause.

More and better resources are being developed to help donors decide how to use their money. GiveWell is not perfect, but it is the best resource out there right now and everyone who is thinking about using their money to do some good should take a look at it.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics | 1 Comment »

Taking Charity Assessment to the Next Level

Posted by Michael Dickens on October 23, 2010

I recently wrote a couple of posts assessing the good done by various charities. Unfortunately, these assessments left out a crucial element.

For a charity to do as much good as possible, it must be making a sustainable investment. It’s like that old saying: “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” Which charities are giving men fish, and which are teaching men to fish?

This isn’t always an easy question to answer. In my first essay on this subject I discussed microloans, which may seem like they should promote economic growth and sustainability, but often they don’t. This is just one example of a type of charity that does not always have the results you might expect.

It is absolutely important that an investment be sustainable. If you give a man a fish, he’ll be hungry again tomorrow. Sure, you could keep giving him fish every day for the rest of your life, but there are much better ways to go about things. You could teach him to fish, and as the saying goes, he’ll eat for the rest of his life. Or, you could find an organization that will teach him to fish.

Many charities claim to place emphasis on teaching people to continue on their own. The extreme cases are organizations that provide scholarships for people who can’t afford an education. These organizations (and the people behind them) claim that with education, these newly-educated people will be able to go on to help others.

This sort of sustainable and self-propagating charity is very helpful and very important, but the downside is that it’s much more difficult to measure. This is the point where some serious subjectivity leaks in. As far as I can tell, the best way to handle the lack of information is simply to make your best guess as to which investments will have the greatest long-term benefits.

To measure the benefit of an education, you could look at the expected probability that the newly-educated person will go on to help others. This computation gets more difficult once you realize that everyone helps others at least to some extent, often too small an extent to measure. But a well-educated person can contribute much more to the world than an uneducated one. A well-educated person could go on to directly help others, or even indirectly help others. It’s possible she would help simply by working a job, contributing to the wealth of the world.

Measuring the benefit of an education, as well as any long-term sustainable gift, is extremely difficult. I certainly don’t have all the answers. Given that the subject of this essay is unresolved, I leave you with a question: How can we measure the long-term sustainable benefits of a charity? If you think you have an answer, or even just an idea of where to start, please leave a comment and let the world know.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics | 2 Comments »

Make-A-Wish Foundation Makes the World a Worse Place

Posted by Michael Dickens on October 10, 2010

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an organization that grants wishes to critically ill children. These wishes are often heartwarming and even entertaining. And that’s a problem.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is one of the more glorified charities. Children are granted extravagant wishes in order to make them happy. And yes, these wishes do make the children happy. But for how long? A kid gets a gift and becomes very happy, but will soon become bored with it. A kid gets an experience, which he will hold in his memory, but that first burst of happiness will never be reclaimed and the memory will slowly fade. What the Make-A-Wish Foundation is really doing is providing short-term pleasure.

But this short-term pleasure for the child often also means a big publicity stunt for the Foundation. It’s quite an entertaining charity, really. But the problem is, the purpose of a charity isn’t to be entertaining. It’s to help people.

Does the Make-A-Wish Foundation help people? Well, strictly speaking, yes. But they’re doing a pretty bad job of it. They claim that they “grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” How about you enrich the human experience with medical research, or by helping to treat children who have preventable diseases? It seems to me that that would be far better than what the Foundation is currently doing.

By campaigning for their own cause, MAW draws funding away from causes that do much more good for the world. In this sense, it makes the world worse in a very concrete way. Donors have a limited amount of money that they are willing to give to charity, and by giving it to MAW, they fail to give it to another, more beneficial cause.

According to their website, they spend on average $7362 per wish. In 2009, they spent $135 million on granting wishes. While these wishes did provide temporary happiness for suffering children, that’s just about all they did. They didn’t solve any real problems or alleviate any long-term suffering. [1]

What could have been done with that money? The money spent on one wish could pay for the educations of dozens of children in India. It could provide mosquito nets for 1400 people and prevent approximately seven deaths. That means with their annual budget, the Foundation could save the lives of over 100,000 children who endure just as much suffering as—if not more than—the kids who get wishes from MAW. But all that is thrown away, because the people at Make-A-Wish Foundation decided that granting fleeting wishes to a few select children is worth more than all that.

Notes

[1] A number of commenters have corrected me on this statement. While I may have underestimated the amount of good that MAW does, it is inconceivable that they do anywhere close to as much good as an organization such as the Against Malaria Foundation (linked in the previous paragraph); and MAW directs funds away from other charities that do a great deal more good.

[2] Many commenters have expressed that the children who work with MAW experience a great deal of joy. I understand this. It somewhat saddens me when they fail to see that an organization such as the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) produces comparable or greater effects many times over, and they willingly give preference to the option that leaves so much unnecessary suffering in the world. For every one American child with leukemia AMF fails to serve, MAW misses thousands of children who are likely to die from malaria.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics, Rant | 90 Comments »

Charity Assessment: MediSend International, Miracle Foundation, Direct Relief International, Invisible Children

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 20, 2010

Edit: My charity assessments are grossly inaccurate. See Doing the Most Good for more information, and see http://www.givewell.org/ for accurate charity evaluations.

When deciding how best to help people, it is important that we consider our priorities. It is because of this that I will be assessing several charities and trying to determine which one does the most good. There are thousands of charities out there, and this is only a short list, so further research will of course be necessary.

Charity Navigator, a site that evaluates charities based on organizational efficiency and organizational capacity, placed MediSend International as one of its top-rated charities. It works as a “humanitarian organization that supports under resourced hospitals in developing countries with a multi-dimensional approach to improving community health.” The organization primarily works by taking donations of medical supplies and distributing them to where necessary. They didn’t have any information (that I saw) about where the monetary donations were going, but if you donate medical supplies then you know exactly how much the supplies cost.

The Miracle Foundation provides humanitarian aid to impoverished children living in orphanages by providing them with food, water, medical, care, more comfortable living conditions, and more. It appears that the most direct measure of the benefit of this charity is their Sponsor a Child program. For $1200 a year, you can provide a children with everything he or she needs. This is considerably more than the costs associated with some other charities out there (such as last month’s winner, Charity: Water). However, unlike Charity: Water, this organization provides a full range of benefits. Also, one must consider that the contributions go to orphaned children; children require more sustenance than adults, and have a greater capacity for suffering. It’s worth spending a little more on them.

According to Forbes, Direct Relief International has 100% fundraising efficiency, and scores very well financially on nearly every benchmark. Donations help supply medical care to those in need. I haven’t found anything about the cost of this medical care, although I would think it tends to be pretty high.

Invisible Children is an organization dedicated to ending the use of child soldiers in Northern Uganda. This cause is more emotionally wrenching than the others, and indeed it is the most extraordinary. They have several programs, including a scholarship program ($420/year) and this thing called Tri which they are really vague about.

The contributions of these organizations are less clear-cut than those from last time around, but the results are interesting nonetheless. I’ll probably tackle some more in the future; but until then, think about it.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics | 1 Comment »

Global Priorities

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 15, 2010

Edit: My charity assessments are grossly inaccurate. See Doing the Most Good for more information, and see http://www.givewell.org/ for accurate charity evaluations.

I just watched a TED talk about setting global priorities. The idea was, given $50 billion, how can we spend it such that we will help as many people as possible? The talk is based on the findings of the Copenhagen Consensus. In 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus published a list of global problems in order of priority — those at the top do the most good for the least effort, while those at the bottom do the least good for the most effort. Although the process has been criticized, the concept of prioritizing investments is a very important one.

This reminds me of something I undertook recently. I am often bombarded with charities and causes, and usually never donate to any of them. It’s not that I don’t want to help people; but I have a limited amount of money, and I wanted to make sure that my money was going to do as much good as possible. So one day I sat down and researched various charities to determine which one would be the best investment. I saw the TED talk today, and it reminded me of my list. While the Copenhagen Consensus’ list is more oriented towards government action, mine is more oriented to personal action. How can you as a citizen do as much good as possible?

This list is not by any means comprehensive. I just threw it together during lunch one day. But it still gives a pretty decent idea of how to prioritize.

(There are a few other causes that I left off of this list, either because they are not as important or because they are too difficult to examine.)

The first problem I looked at was global warming. The current biggest human contribution to CO2 emissions is electricity production, so I looked into what it would cost to build solar panels, and what the benefits would be. I found that in the US, per capita emissions is 19 metric tons per year. For you to build enough solar panels to supply your house with all the energy it will ever need costs on average $20,000, and reduces your emissions by 8 metric tons per year. (These figures aren’t necessarily true for you, but they are averages). That’s pretty expensive, and the benefits are relatively small (although very important in the long term).

Next I looked at microloans. The idea here is that you provide a small loan to a business owner in a third-world country. It stimulates the economy and helps lift people out of poverty. The cost of loans vary, but it is generally around $300. But since it is a loan, it’s not as if your money simply goes away. Unless the borrower defaults, you eventually get your money back. This is very helpful, and could cost you nothing more than the money you lose through inflation.

The third potential source of investment was Charity: Water (they have a colon in their name, don’t ask me why). In addition to having a very well-run campaign, Charity: Water is actually a really good cause. According to their website, $20 towards building a well can give one person clean water for 20 years. That’s only about a dollar per year. For just one dollar per year, about $70 per lifetime, you can provide someone with clean drinking water; this not only makes life much easier, but actually helps prevent millions of diseases per year.

The last investment on my list is the Central Asia Institute, which supports education programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One person’s school supplies costs $20, a teacher’s salary is $30 per year per student, and constructing a school building costs $30 per student. This is a total of $80 per student per year, estimated based on the numbers on the Central Asia Institute’s website. Although this is considerably more expensive than Charity: Water, it is still very cheap.

Given these choices, how should one invest? Global warming is very important, but it is not so immediately pressing. Additionally, I think much of the focus on global warming is due to the fact that it will affect the middle and upper class nearly as much as it will affect the lower class, whereas nearly all other major global problems primarily affect the lower class. Global warming could get really bad, but there are other immediate problems that are nearly as bad. This is why it is not a top priority.

The remaining three choices are all very different. Charity: Water provides the greatest immediate benefit for the smallest cost. Microloans are not quite so short-term, but are also renewable. Your money comes back to you. The benefits of the Central Asia Institute are more difficult to measure; it is more expensive than Charity: Water, and doesn’t save any lives, but education could have benefits of propagation. When people are educated, they see more freedom in their lives. They are now more equipped to help others. Education affects not just the person who is educated, but all the people who that person can now go on to help. This makes the benefits of education harder to measure.

To sum up, it looks like the best investment is Charity: Water, followed by the Central Asia Institute. Microloans, while not as important as the other two, can potentially cost you virtually nothing.

There are many serious problems not dealt with here; the Copenhagen Consensus found that malnutrition was the biggest problem, and none of these investments cover that. This list is far from complete, which is why I encourage that you make your own list. Write down all your favorite charities, do a little research, and figure out which one will end up doing the most good.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics | Leave a Comment »

 
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