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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Can generosity go too far?

By Julian Baggini
The New Statesman
Originally published on August 21, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

We have heard so many stories of misguided projects and misspent money over the years that surely the time has come to demand evidence that the charities we ­support are effective. But how do you measure whether a charity is effective? One answer would be to apply two tests: does it achieve its stated goal and does it do so as cost-efficiently as it can? A charity such as Guide Dogs might pass this test. But for effective altruists, in deciding whether to give to Guide Dogs, you ought to ask another question: could you get more altruistic bang for your buck by giving to something completely different instead?

They say you can. Guide Dogs UK says it costs £32,400 to train a guide dog and its owner and then another £12,800 “to support the working partnership”. In contrast, Singer says you can save someone from going blind in the developing world for between $20 and $100. “If you do the maths,” he writes, “you will see that the choice we face is to provide one person with a guide dog or prevent anywhere between 400 and 2,000 cases of blindness.”

The entire article is here.