Written by Colby Itkowitz.
A severely malnourished Somali child receives Oral Rehydration Salts (O.R.S.) at Mogadishu’s Banadir hospital on July 28, 2011, where an estimated 3.7 million people– around a third of the population — are on the brink of starvation. Photo credit: MUSTAFA ABDI/AFP/Getty Images)
When deciding where to contribute on this Giving Tuesday, or any day, most Americans are drawn to causes they connect with personally or that provoke an emotional response.
They give to charities seeking cures for illnesses that have impacted loved ones. They’re drawn to stories of individuals in crisis. And they respond more frequently to needs in this country.
But a growing social movement called “effective altruism” challenges the notion that letting your heart direct your charitable giving is the best way to make a difference, or that giving in your own country is as virtuous as helping people abroad.
Enter Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher and Princeton professor, who has for decades advocated that it’s a moral responsibility for the citizens of the developed world to give a significant portion of their income to combating extreme global poverty.
He argued in an essay, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” which is being released Tuesday in book form with a new foreword by Bill and Melinda Gates, that the Western world should prioritize ending human suffering where it can.
So while tithing to the church every week, or donating to a child’s elementary school booster club, or even giving to a larger campaign to pay for someone’s cancer treatment may be admirable, it’s not good enough. It is, in Singer’s view, a moral failing.
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