Bioethics Blogs

The Millennium Development Goals and Peter Singer’s new book on Effective Altruism

Written by William Isdale,

of The University of Queensland

 As many readers will be aware, this year will mark the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals. For some of these goals, expectations have been exceeded; for instance, the goal of halving global poverty (defined as living on less then US$1.25 a day) was achieved back in 2010.

There are good grounds for believing that extreme poverty can be almost entirely eradicated within our lifetimes. But, for now, a lot of work remains to be done; the average life expectancy among the ‘bottom billion’ remains a miserable fifty years, and the most recent UNICEF estimate of poverty-related deaths among children is 6.3 million each year.

What new development goals should guide us in the future? And how can we be sure we’re doing the most good with the money we currently give, as individuals or through our governments?

I won’t attempt to answer those questions here. But I do entirely endorse Professor Peter Singer’s new book, The Most Good You Can Do, as well worth the read for anyone interested in such questions.

The Most Good You Can Do demonstrates how the ‘effective altruism’ movement is changing how people think about our moral obligations to the least well-off, and how we can best assist them. Effective altruism is about applying a rational framework to deciding how we should spend our money, and what we should do with our time. Effective altruists take issue, for instance, with giving only to the causes we ‘connect’ with (say, cancer charities in developed countries), rather than those that demonstrably save the most lives, or ease the greatest suffering (like de-worming efforts in African countries).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.