Bioethics Blogs

If you want to do the most good, maybe you shouldn’t work for Wall Street

Suppose you are an altruistically minded person who is adamant about doing the most good you possibly can. If you are lucky enough to have a wide range of options, what career should you choose?

Two years ago, William MacAskill, President of 80,000 hours, a non-profit organisation focused on “enabling people to make a bigger difference with their career,” suggested you steer clear of charity work and aim for Wall Street. He called this approach earning to give. A couple of days ago, MacAskill has published a blog post where he admits that heavily pushing for the idea of earning to give was “a marketing strategy,” and that, although 80,000 hours did believe that “at least a large proportion of people” should become high-earners in order to donate more money, placing so much emphasis on this idea may have been mistaken. The 80,000 hours page on earning to give now reads: “This page was last updated in 2012 and no-longer fully reflects our views.” MacAskill’s current point of view is that only a “small proportion” of people should strive to earn to give.

Importantly, MacAskill’s post was followed by a further 80,000 hours blog post written by Robert Wiblin, which affirms that effective altruists are not against systemic change. For people who were concerned about effective altruists’ apparent enthusiasm for the financial sector, both pieces of writing are reassuring and welcome. Moreover, regarding the first post, my hat is off to anyone who, having publicly defended a stance, is willing to revise his views and acknowledge a change of mind (or heart)—particularly if the shift is a result of exposure to reasons and/or evidence.

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.