(…) There is both a broad and a narrow sense of self-interest. The long-running debate about whether humans are capable of genuine altruism is, in practical terms, less significant than the question of how we understand our own interests. Will we understand them narrowly, concentrating on acquiring wealth and power for ourselves? Do we think that our interests are best fulfilled by a lifestyle that displays our economic success by our ostentatious consumption of as many expensive items as possible? Or do we include among our interests the satisfactions that come from helping others? Members of the 50% League* found that their gifts gave meaning, fulfillment, and even “kicks” to what would otherwise be less-rewarding lives. Does this make their giving self-interested? If so, we need more people who are self-interested like that.
The basic argument. (…)
First premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad.
Second premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.
Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.
Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.
We tend to assume that if people do not harm others, keep their promises, do not lie or cheat, support their children and their elderly parents, and perhaps contribute a little to needier members of their local community, they’ve done well. If we have money left over after meeting our needs and those of our dependents, we may spend it as we please. Giving to strangers, especially those beyond one’s community, may be good, but we don’t think of it as something we have to do. But if the basic argument presented above is right, then what many of us consider acceptable behaviour must be viewed in a new, more ominous light.
Most of us prefer harmony to discord, whether between ourselves and others or within our own minds. That inner harmony is threatened by any glaring discrepancy between the way you live and and the way you think you ought to live. Your reasoning may tell you that you ought to be doing something substantial to help the world’s poorest people, but your emotions may not move you to act in accordance with this view. If you are persuaded by the moral argument, but are not sufficiently motivated to act accordingly, I recommend that instead of worrying about how much you would have to do in order to live a fully ethical life, you do something that is significantly more than you have been so far. Then see how that feels. You may find it more rewarding than you imagined possible.
Les mer om boka og organisasjonen The life you can save her.
1. S.78, 2. S.15, 3. S.18, 4. S.173.
*50% League er en gruppe hvor alle medlemmene har gitt bort minst halvparten av sin formue, eller, for hvert av de 3 siste årene, gitt bort halve inntekten sin.