Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference

Reviewed on , book by William MacAskill

Upon closing this book, I immediately changed the charities I support and increased my donations. It left me with the empowering feeling that donating can be a very real alternative to doing good in the ‘traditional ways’, e.g. working directly for those in need or humanitarian organizations. For every 3,600donatedtoprotectpeoplefrommalariawithbednets,you(statistically)savealife.Forevery3,600 donated to protect people from malaria with bed nets, you (statistically) save a life. For every 100 you donate to the rainforest, you save an acre or 260 tons of CO2 (the average North American is responsible for about 20 tons per year, so if you donate 8rightnowtoCoolEarthyoure,statistically,CO2neutral).Ifyouvebeenhesitanttodonateduetoconcernswithwhereyourmoneyendsup,theEffectiveAltruismmovementthoroughlyanalyzescharitiestomaximizeimpact.Theauthoristhehyperrationaleconomisttype,layingoute.g.whydonatingconsistentlywillsavemorelivesthanbecomingadoctorinafirstworldcountry.Thatdonating<i>now</i>willcompoundatmuchhigherratesthananindex.Ivesignificantlyreducedmymeatintakeoverthepasttwoyearsforenvironmentalreasons,butthe(again,hyperrational)authorlaysouthowdonating8 right now to Cool Earth you're, statistically, CO2 neutral). If you've been hesitant to donate due to concerns with where your money ends up, the Effective Altruism movement thoroughly analyzes charities to maximize impact. The author is the hyper-rational economist type, laying out e.g. why donating consistently will save more lives than becoming a doctor in a first world country. That donating <i>now</i> will compound at much higher rates than an index. I've significantly reduced my meat intake over the past two years for environmental reasons, but the (again, hyper-rational) author lays out how donating 5 to the right charity to save rainforest (Cool Earth) will offset your meat intake if the environment is your primary concern (donate more, and you can go carbon negative to offset air travel, too). It gets a little too quantitative at times which I’m sure will set off some people.

You need to read this.