You have two eyes. Would you give one of your eyes so someone in a developing nation without sight could become seeing? You have two kidneys. Would you give one up so a stranger could live a longer life? What is it that drives some of us to look beyond our own interests and the interests of the ones we love to the interests of strangers, future generations, or animals?
Odd Fellows is an august, important, and distinguished organization commanded to help the distressed, but others are working just as hard as we are.
There is a silent almost unknown group of people in our society who are givers. These people aren’t billionaires who give money away “because they have it.” In fact, many make less than $50,000.00 (40,710 Euro) a year and give as much as half of their earnings to charities. And yes, some have given up kidneys to strangers. Some of them hope to make this type of giving a movement throughout the world’s prosperous nations.
For these people, the usual rules about not stealing, hurting, cheating and killing are not enough to create a world of harmony and good-will. For those of us who live in material comfort and can feed, clothe, and house our families, these givers or philanthropists believe we should all do more with our spare resources to make the world a better place.
Effective Altruism is the idea that for us to live a good life means doing the absolute utmost good we can. It is a social movement that applies evidence and reason to work out the most effective ways to improve the world. These philanthropists use evidence driven research, data, records, science, and accounting techniques to pinpoint with precision those charities that produce the most benefit for the causes they serve. For an effective altruist, there is no such thing as choosing a random charity.
Most effective altruists are not saints, they are like you and me. Effective altruists don’t focus on feeling guilty because they aren’t doing enough. Instead they focus on the actual good they are doing. Some of them are content to know they are making the world a better place. Others like to focus on doing more good this year than last year, and increasing their good works each year.
Effective altruists believe in living modestly and donating a large part of their income, often considerably more than ten percent, to the most effective charities. They research and discuss with others which charities are most effective based upon independent evaluations. Some have chosen or will choose a career where they can earn the most money; not for themselves but so they can do more good. They also invest their energy talking to others on the web and in person about giving, so the idea of philanthropy will spread.
The phrase, “doing the most good” does raise some issues. What things count as “the most good?” We could say that a world with less suffering and more happiness, is good. We can also agree that a world where people live longer is better than a world where people don’t live as long. These examples show why helping people in extreme poverty is a popular cause among altruists. “Does everyone’s suffering count equally?” Effective altruists don’t ignore suffering because it happens far away or in another country or afflicts another race or another religion. Also, they are aware of the suffering of animals, but may have different views on how to balance the suffering of animals against the suffering of humans.
Here are two websites associated with Effective Altruism. The first is an organization’s website that can explain more.
The second is a website that Effective Altruists use to evaluate charities.
I have had little interaction with both websites. But as Odd Fellows, we need to stay updated on other ways of giving and other approaches to relieving the distressed so perhaps we can pull ideas from elsewhere and use them to help others.
Scott Moye is an award-winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folklore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas, and a founder of Heart In Hand Blog. Email him at email@example.com