Saturday, January 13, 2007

What Should a Billionaire Give?

My friend, Jared, recently forwarded a New York Times article, titled: What Should a Billionaire Give -- and What Should You?

Below are my key takeaways from the article:

  • Bill Gates says that one reason for his philanthropic efforts is that he and his wife “couldn’t escape the brutal conclusion that — in our world today — some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not.” Thus vaccines are one key area of his social investment.
  • Article author Peter Singer shared a parable of "walking by a shallow pond and seeing a small child who has fallen in and appears to be in danger of drowning. Even though we did nothing to cause the child to fall into the pond, almost everyone agrees that if we can save the child at minimal inconvenience or trouble to ourselves, we ought to do so. Anything else would be callous, indecent and, in a word, wrong. The fact that in rescuing the child we may, for example, ruin a new pair of shoes is not a good reason for allowing the child to drown. Similarly if for the cost of a pair of shoes we can contribute to a health program in a developing country that stands a good chance of saving the life of a child, we ought to do so."
  • Much of US official develop aid goes to areas of US strategic or diplomatic interest, rather than to the poorest countries. According to the author, less than 1/4 of USAID goes to the world's poorest countries.
  • Even when private donations are included in US numbers, Nordic countries still give substantially more aid to poor nations.
  • "Measured against our capacity, the Millennium Development Goals are indecently, shockingly modest. If we fail to achieve them — as on present indications we well might — we have no excuses. The target we should be setting for ourselves is not halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and without enough to eat, but ensuring that no one, or virtually no one, needs to live in such degrading conditions. That is a worthy goal, and it is well within our reach."

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