It’s great that many people are engaged in the kind of political activity that the institutional critics support. I should be clear that the aim of my paper is certainly not to discourage people from getting involved in politics and working for the kinds of institutional changes that would make the world more just. I think that’s an important thing for people to be doing. I just think it’s also important that people take seriously the good that can be done by directing some of their disposable income to organizations that more directly help people who are in need.
Effective altruism is concerned primarily with beneficence, with the reasons that we have to help people in need. And you don’t have to be a utilitarian to think that we have strong reasons to help people who are suffering or victims of injustice or disadvantaged in some other way.
One of the takeaways of the paper is that both of these things are valuable and both might even be morally required. I encourage people to look at the websites of effective altruist organizations like GiveWell and Giving What We Can for recommendations on places to direct charitable donations that the evidence suggests are especially effective at helping people in need.
Read the full interview with Brian Berkey on effective altruism at Knowledge@Wharton
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